News

Zach Montes

Last November, President Obama announced a major executive action on immigration—a plan that would offer temporary legal status and deportation relief to millions of immigrants who live in the country without documents. That’s big news for residents of Jackson. In the past few decades, the town’s Latino immigrant population has skyrocketed from basically zero—to about 30 percent of the community. As Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank reports, these changes to immigration law could bring new opportunities to Jackson’s working class immigrants—and the employers who hire them.

Senate Energy GOP

A bill sponsored by Wyoming Senator John Barrasso that would speed up processing of applications to export natural gas internationally/to international markets is making its way through Congress.

Flickr Creative Commons, User Ron Cogswell

Republicans now control the gavels on Capitol Hill, but last week they were given a stark reminder of how limited their power is here in the nation’s capital when President Obama delivered his State of the Union address where he touted recent economic gains.  

"So the verdict is clear. Middle class economics works," Obama said. "Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work as long as politics don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns."

Stephanie Joyce

 

A hundred years after it embroiled the Harding administration in scandal, the government has sold Wyoming’s Teapot Dome oilfield to a private company.

Teapot Dome was set aside by Congress in 1915 as a strategic petroleum reserve for the Navy, but in the 1920s, Interior Secretary Albert Fall secretly sold parts of the field to private oil companies in exchange for bribes, earning the dubious distinction of being the first Cabinet-level official to be jailed for corruption. In the decades since, the oilfield has mostly been used for government testing.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Media

The State Senate has started debate on legislation that expands Medicaid to more people in the state. The bill is based on the SHARE plan that was developed by the State Department of Health. It provides health care services to participants who pay into the program like typical health insurance. 

The Senate rejected a plan by Casper Republican Charles Scott to require Health Savings Accounts. Bill Sponsor Michael Von Flatern of Gillette says he supports an amendment that requires the expansion be paid for mostly with federal money.

Wikimedia Commons

The budgets of oil states are going to be hard hit by the recent slide in oil prices. Measured in dollars, Texas is the clear loser, but in terms of actual on-the-ground impacts, it isn't quite so simple. In the country’s number two oil-producing state, North Dakota, falling prices have barely caused a ripple, while in Alaska (ranked fourth), lawmakers are calling it a “fiscal apocalypse.” In Wyoming (ranked eighth), reaction has been subdued, but that may not last.

Emily Guerin

The pipeline that burst earlier this month and spewed oil into the Yellowstone River in Montana made headlines. But just across the border in North Dakota another pipeline was quietly leaking a potentially more disastrous substance: wastewater from oil wells.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

The experimental Microsoft Data Plant in Cheyenne, Wyoming is the first data center in the country to be powered solely by the wastewater treatment plant next door. Or more specifically, off of the methane that is emitted when what goes down our toilets and sinks is processed.

creativesurfaces.com

1 in 4 Native Americans lives under the poverty level--it’s the worst poverty rates in the U.S. of any racial group. But one group is improving its economic outlook on the reservation: Native women. They’re taking managerial jobs and pursuing higher education more than ever before and are often the primary family breadwinners. In fact, at the Wind River Casino--the largest employer in Fremont County--the female workforce is now almost 60 percent.

Bob Beck

For the last few years Wyoming has considered taking advantage of part of the Federal Affordable Care Act which pays states to expand Medicaid services to the so called working poor. While states have some up-front costs, the federal government pays for 100  initially and 90 percent after that. In Wyoming it would pay for close to 18,000 additional low income people to get health care coverage. Despite the federal money, lawmakers have consistently refused to adopt expansion. Why? The answer is varied.

Wikimedia Commons

Wyoming has long had issues with substance abuse. Alcoholism has always been a problem here, and in the 1990s and early 2000s methamphetamine took hold across the state. But one drug you didn’t hear much about was heroin. That is changing. Easy access to prescription pain pills in recent years has helped make heroin a small but growing problem in Wyoming.

University Press of Colorado

A new book chronicles changes in Wyoming over the past century. Historian and photographer Michael Amundson has retaken hundreds of photos from the early 20th century. His photos, shot in 1987-88 (while he was a student at the University of Wyoming) and again in 2007-08 are studies of pictures taken by Joseph E Stimson, a commercial photographer for the state and various railroads. The book is called “Wyoming Revisted: Rephotographing the Scenes of Joseph E.

The American public lost out on $850 million dollars in potential coal royalty revenue between 2008 and 2012, according to a new study from Headwaters Economics. 

The study says the federal coal royalty system is in need of reform. The group's analysis shows that coal companies pay a much lower royalty rate on public lands than other extractive industries -- roughly five percent of market price. By comparison, oil and gas companies pay roughly 12 percent. Mark Haggerty says that's partly because of the complex marketing system for coal. 

A bill that would allow those with concealed carry permits to have guns at schools, colleges, athletic events, and government meetings has received initial support from the Wyoming House of Representatives.

The House has approved a similar bill in the past and Thursday the bill passed with no debate. Evansville Republican says that’s because it’s been debated before. 

Yoga and competition are not two words people tend to put together. But in Pinedale this weekend, Wyoming will host its first regional yoga competition. 25 competitors of all ages are scheduled to demonstrate a three-minute silent routine with five poses. Darcie Peck is the event’s organizer and the owner of Wind River Yoga and Bodyworks. She says yoga competitions have been held for centuries and were especially popular in India in the 1930’s.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has fired back at a federal provision banning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from placing the sage grouse on the endangered species list for one year. The provision was a rider in the omnibus spending bill, passed last month.

Bob Beck

The Wyoming House of Representatives began debate Thursday on a bill that could allow people in Wyoming to deny services to individuals when they have a religious conflict with their behavior or actions. 

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is modeled after legislation approved in other states, but opponents say it allows discrimination.

Wyoming Legislature

 The State Senate has given initial support to a bill that aims to fix Wyoming’s Tribal Liaison program. 

The two liaisons work with the tribes and state government, but there’s been disputes over funding and other matters.  The legislation provides 200 thousand dollars for the liaisons and makes them an appointee of the governor.

Republican Cale Case of Lander says the bill empowers them to be a more important part of state and tribal government. 

Patricia Lavin

Scientists at the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center are analyzing 250 tissue samples of elk, wild bison, and livestock in an effort to better understand how the disease brucellosis spreads.

Brucellosis sickens large mammals like elk and cattle, and can cause them to abort their young.  U.S. Geological Survey ecologist Pauline Kamath says a commonly held theory has been that Yellowstone’s wild animals have been infected with brucellosis by elk on Wyoming feed grounds. But her data shows that may not be as common as previously thought.

Concealed guns would be allowed in schools, on college campuses, and in government meetings under a bill that will be considered by the Wyoming House of Representatives. 

The bill would repeal gun free zones and was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on an 8-1 vote. Gun supporters say the legislation could keep schools safe, but education organizations and State Superintendent Jillian Balow oppose the measure. Chris Boswell of the University of Wyoming says the bill is problematic.

The Senate Labor and Health Committee has approved a Medicaid Expansion bill on a 4 to 1 vote.

The bill models the Wyoming Department of Health’s Share plan, but also includes a Health and Wellness account that participants would use for medical co-pays. Despite the vote, the bill continues to have lukewarm support. 

Casper Republican Bill Landen voted for the bill in committee, but he may not support it on the Senate floor.

Ucross Resident Karen Skolfield Reads Poem

Jan 28, 2015

Karen Skolfield recently spent two weeks in Ucross, Wyoming, on a writing fellowship. When she’s not tracking Wyoming wildlife, she teaches writing to engineers at the University of Massachusetts. Her book Frost in the Low Areas won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry; new poems appear in Indiana Review, MIRAMAR, Pleiades, Rattle, Southword Journal, Structo, and others.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Media

A legislative committee considering legislation to expand Medicaid will now consider a second expansion proposal. 

This proposal is one favored by Governor Matt Mead and crafted by the Wyoming Department of Health with help from federal health officials. The so-called Share plan legislation is sponsored by Gillette Republican Michael Von Flatern and three other Republicans.

"To show those in the legislature as well as the rest of the public that the Republicans, there is actually quite a few of us that consider this the way to go, and we need to expand Medicaid.”

Aaron Schrank/WPR

All day Wednesday, volunteers will be canvassing Wyoming’s homeless shelters and streets in an effort to come up with a sort of homeless census.  

The annual effort is what’s called a homeless ‘point-in-time’ count. The results are used by agencies like the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine how much funding and assistance is needed in the state.

Brenda Lyttle with the Department of Family Services is Wyoming’s homeless coordinator. She says last year, Wyoming’s count of homeless residents was about one-thousand.

Bob Beck

A controversial piece of legislation intended to let people practice their religious beliefs in daily life received approval from the House Judiciary committee. House Bill 83 is called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

Republican Nathan Winters of Thermopolis wants to keep the government from forcing people to do things that are contrary to their religious beliefs. 

Linda Burt of the American Civil Liberties Union fears it could go too far.

Bob Beck

For years Wyoming has had one of the lowest Beer taxes in the nation and soon it may not be taxed at all. The Wyoming House of Representatives has given initial approval to a bill that removes the beer tax that’s been around since the 1930’s.

For several years local governments have tried to increase the tax to get more money to pay for substance abuse issues in their communities, but those bills rarely go anywhere.

Studio Sessions: Ian McFeron Band

Jan 27, 2015
Anna Rader

Seattle singer-songwriter Ian McFeron has dust on his boots from many tours across the country (including quite a few stops in Wyoming), reflected in the stories he weaves through his songs. Here are a couple of favorites from his albums Summer Nights and Time Will Take You; we’re hoping the as yet unreleased ‘Moses’ makes it onto McFeron’s third Nashville studio album, which is currently in the works.

Back to the Farm (Life is Good)

This week’s mild temperatures will set the stage for a night of music called the Midwinter Meltdown. Six bands (including an unannounced surprise act) will play Saturday night in the tiny town of Medicine Bow, between Laramie and Rawlins.

The event is the brainchild of Laramie musician Jeff Duloz. Last fall, he poured his energy into a day-long event with ten bands. Afterward, someone asked the exhausted Duloz, ‘When’s the next concert?’

“Immediately, my answer was never. Like, never. I’m never doing this again,” he says with a laugh.

The Wyoming House Education Committee has voted down a proposed Constitutional Amendment that could have led to an appointed State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The 7-2 vote to kill the bill likely ends a two year effort to remove the Superintendent as an elected state official.

Noting heavy public opposition to the bill, Encampment Republican Jerry Paxton said it’s time to stop the discussion.

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