Investment amendment passes, allowing older judges fails

Brian Martin with the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, via the Wyoming News Exchange

CHEYENNE — The majority of Wyoming voters opted to let local governments invest money in the stock market, but they don’t want judges to stay on the bench past age 70. 

Going against the wishes of the state’s county treasurer’s association, 103,366 voters supported Constitutional Amendment A during Tuesday’s general election, according to data posted on the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office website. 

There were 78,697 votes against the amendment. 

In Laramie County, 16,942 voters were in favor of the amendment, while 12,126 were against. Laramie County Treasurer Trudy Eisele had come out against the amendment in a letter to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, saying it would go against what she believed was the primary objective of her office, which is safeguarding the public’s money. 

“It’s true that the state of Wyoming invests a portion of the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund in stocks and equities, where in the first half of 2022 they experienced a loss of 8%,” she wrote. “Of course, the stock market will eventually recover, and those losses will be regained, as long as the funds remain invested in the stock market. The state of Wyoming can take this approach to seek higher yields because they are managing a Permanent Fund.” 

Supporters of the change, however, said cities, towns and counties need another way to earn money, since state lawmakers have limited their options for generating revenue. 

The Wyoming Association of Municipalities came out in support of Amendment A, noting the city of Casper and Natrona County spearheaded the effort to remove the constitutional restrictions on such investments because they wanted a greater rate of return from the millions of dollars they received from the sale of their hospital. 

Wyoming lawmakers voted in 2021 to put the issue before the voters during this year’s general election. 

WAM Member Services Manager Justin Schilling told the WTE before the election that just because the amendment passes, it doesn’t mean every local government will take advantage of the opportunity. He said they may not have the necessary reserves or the time to manage them in this way.

He also said these investments would not be done irresponsibly, or without safeguards: “This isn’t meant to be a gloves off, Wild West, anybody can invest in anything” situation. 

Constitutional Amendment B let voters decide whether to raise the mandatory retirement age for Wyoming Supreme Court justices and district court judges from 70 to 75. 

The majority of Wyoming voters didn’t like the idea, however, with 115,812 voting against Amendment B, compared with 74,633 supporting it. 

In Laramie County, 18,796 voters were against the change, while 10,895 were in favor. 

Before the election, Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, co-chairman of the Joint Judiciary Committee, said it is becoming more common for district judges to have spent a significant amount of their careers as circuit judges or practicing lawyers. He said by the time they become a district judge or receive an appointment to the Supreme Court, he’s noticed they don’t have much time left on the bench. 

The Judiciary Committee voted to support the proposal during the 2021 interim, and it was approved by both the state Senate and House of Representatives during the budget session earlier this year. 

Opponents argued that health and acuity issues increase with age, and the risk of an incompetent judge may increase if the measure passed.


This story was published on Nov. 10, 2022.


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