The Wyoming legislative session wrapped up this week and three issues dominated. One was the state budget. Another was the legislature’s decision to reject federal dollars to expand Medicaid, and the final issue was the Supreme Court Decision that said that it was unconstitutional for the legislature to demote State Superintendent Cindy Hill. Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck asked lawmakers about some of those issues and has this report.
We just heard legislators discussing some of the issues of the past session, but we also chatted with some who attended the session. Wyoming Public Radio intern Erin Jones got some reaction from a variety of onlookers.
Outgoing Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau says he is wrapping up his legislative career. The Gillette Republican is a fierce advocate for coal and the extractive industries.
Speaker Lubnau also has had some strong views recently about the University of Wyoming and got national attention over his reaction to the infamous Carbon Sink sculpture that was placed near old main. He speaks with Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck
Wyoming has some of the longest wildlife migration routes in the U.S. Animals travel in some cases over 100 miles from summer ranges to winter habitats. Protecting the migration routes is important for maintaining healthy populations. But land managers and other decision makers often don’t actually know where the animals travel. Now, scientists are tracking their routes. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.
The Lincoln Highway is 100 years old this year, and Wyoming PBS will be screening a new documentary about it this weekend. Much of what was the Lincoln Highway in Wyoming is now Interstate 80, but parts of the original route are still separate. The film tells the story of the highway in Wyoming. Producer Tom Manning joins us now. He says the Lincoln Highway holds an important place in Wyoming’s history and in the history of the U.S. as a whole.
Wyoming writer CJ Box and his daughter, Molly Donnell, talk about one of their favorite pastimes: fly fishing. Box is a self-taught, avid fly-fisherman and from the time his daughters were very young he was intent on teaching them about the sport, too. He remembers the first time he handed his daughters fishing rods.
Eminent Artist in Residence Bently Spang is spending the spring semester at the University of Wyoming. His exhibition 'Bently Spang: On Fire' is on display through March 22 at the UW Art Museum, and he'll host the multi-media Tekcno Pow Wow III April 2 at the Wyoming Union Ballroom.
The crisis in Ukraine has rekindled calls for the US to export more of its newfound glut of natural gas overseas, but not everyone thinks that’s a good idea.
In recent days a number of Congressmen, including Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, have called for the Department of Energy to expedite its approval of natural gas export terminals. Barrasso says it would give the US more foreign policy leverage.
After considerable discussion, the Wyoming legislature approved a bill that would let the state and the federal government move forward with finalizing a deal to swap state owned land in Grand Teton National Park with the federal government. Some senators expressed concern that the federal mineral land won't match the estimated $100 million value of the state's park land, but Jackson Senator Leland Christensen says the bill was changed to ensure the trade will be fair.
Members of Wyoming's Republican leadership raved about the legislative session that wrapped up Thursday, praising the state budget and lawmakers' support of business. The GOP leaders said the budget will do a lot for the state, but they noted that they were also able to put a lot into savings. Although the Senate Appropriations Committee was criticized for focusing too much on saving, Chairman Eli Bebout says in fact they probably spent too much. He says the energy industry could face tough times in Wyoming and it's important to be prepared.
Our Engineers Shane Toven, Reid Fletcher and Ben Slater were hard at work replacing our transmitter and antenna to upgrade the 89.9 signal in Torrington. It's now running at 6000 watts, up from 250 watts.
For all our listeners in the Torrington area, 89.9 should be much stronger in the region.
Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill says she intends to resume her job leading the state department of education on Monday.
Lawmakers stripped Hill of many of her duties last year and removed her as the head of the department, but the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that the move was unconstitutional. A District Court still must certify the ruling, but Hill told reporters today she’s ready to go back to work.
A bill that would set up a land swap with the federal government for state-owned lands inside Grand Teton National Park is still a ways from being resolved. Senators are leery that the state may not get fair value for state trust lands inside the park.
A conference committee is trying to resolve differences between House and Senate versions of a bill that compensates people wrongly convicted of a crime. The House version of the bill says that someone exonerated of a crime via DNA, still has to return to court and prove their innocence in order to get compensation.
The Senate rejected that notion. Bill Sponsor Keith Gingery says he doesn't like the House version, but that the bill is important and he doesn't want to lose it.
A bill that establishes a new large state loan program and also benefits a Cody business has passed the legislature.
The House made final touches to the bill that will give a $24-million state loan to Lannett Co. Inc., which is considering a nearly $100 million expansion of its Cody lab. In final debate, some in the House questioned the state giving such loans. Evansville Representative Kendall Kroeker says all businesses need loans.
Rocky Mountain Power is asking regulators for permission to raise rates by an average of 5.3 percent starting in January 2015. That would translate to an extra $4.50 a month for average residential customers. Company spokesman Jeff Hymas says the rate increase is necessary for a number of reasons, but mostly because of recent infrastructure investments totaling over $2 billion. Those include projects in Wyoming and out of state, but Wyoming’s growing electricity use factors into how much it has to pay.
A new video-dance premiers at the University of Wyoming this week. To make the five-minute video, three dancers improvised in front of the camera at Curt Gowdy State Park and Lake Hattie, near Laramie. The video-dance explores what it means for the dancers to be fully present in and influenced by nature—hence the title, ‘by and in.’ Wyoming Public Radio’s Micah Schweizer spoke with the film’s director, Rachael Shaw.
On Thursday, March 6, the University of Wyoming Symphony is collaborating with two guest artists: jazz harmonica virtuoso Gregoire Maret and visiting conductor Tonu Kalam. Kalam has directed professional orchestras around the world, and for more than two decades, he’s directed the University of North Carolina Symphony Orchestra. Wyoming Public Radio’s Micah Schweizer asked Kalam what he most enjoys about conducting student orchestras.
The University of Wyoming is getting a major donation for its new energy and engineering research complex. Halliburton is giving $2 million to be applied towards a 'high bay' research facility.
The facility's size will allow for large scale experiments. Halliburton is also giving UW an additional $1 million for research into unconventional oil and gas reservoirs. The gift will be matched by the state. Governor Matt Mead says it was an exciting discussion with Halliburton.
Grizzly bear management and Wyoming Game and Fish employee health insurance will be covered out of the state’s general fund in future budget cycles. The Legislature passed a bill that sidesteps their refusal to raise hunting and fishing licenses fees by allowing the agency to request state funding for those programs. Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott says it will free up about $7 million.
The Wyoming Senate has given final approval to a bill that will allow people to drive 80 miles per hour legally on certain sections of the state’s highways. Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau said the idea came to him from a constituent who noticed similar laws had been approved in Texas and in Utah.
“And I started looking at the statistics and found that the statistics show that the fatalities have either not increased or they decreased both in Utah or Texas," Lubnau says. "And it just allows people to go 80 miles an hour in those places where it’s safe to do that.”
The Wyoming House of Representatives will not debate a bill that was supposed to resolve issues arising from a Supreme Court ruling concerning the duties of Superintendent Cindy Hill.
House Floor Leader Kermit Brown decided to let the bill die, saying it was premature and would take too long to debate.
"The courts are not done with the process, the audit's not done, there are a lot of things not done. The bill's premature and it was gonna take a lot of time we didn't have, so I just stopped where I stopped."
The Wyoming Senate gave final approval to a bill that sets aside $5 million for school districts to place cameras on school buses to catch motorists who illegally pass stopped buses.
Several senators opposed the bill saying the focus should be on prevention. One idea was to add more lights to the buses, so that motorists can't ignore them, but Sheridan Senator Bruce Burns says that won't do much.
The Wyoming House of Representatives has given initial approval to a bill that sets up a state loan program and also helps fund the expansion of a Cody business.
The bill allows loans to be used for large economic development projects. It would also provides $24 million in state money for a company to expand its operation in Cody. Officials say it will create over 100 jobs. Cody Representative Sam Krone says these types of loans will help diversify Wyoming's economy.