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The official child poverty rate in Wyoming—and around the country—may be too high. That’s according to a report released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The report says the measure created 50 years ago fails to account for the impacts of social programs and tax policy on poverty. It says a newer index—the Supplemental Poverty Measure—better measures the success of anti-poverty programs.

The fate of the Next Generation Science Standards will soon be back in the hands of the State Board of Education.

Last year, the Legislature, through a budget amendment, blocked the state board from adopting the standards because of concerns about how they addressed climate change. 

A bill removing the budget footnote passed the House easily this year, but got hung up when Senator Eli Bebout added a last second amendment that instructed the board to adopt standards unique to Wyoming. 

Bebout says after a conference committee they came up with new language.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

A bill that would have removed gun free zones from Wyoming schools, athletic events, and government meetings has been substantially changed by the Senate Education Committee. 

The committee voted 3 to 2 to approve an amended bill that lets local school boards, college boards of trustees, and local government officials to decide if guns will be allowed within their facilities. 

Senator Hank Coe of Cody says local officials can better decide whether guns should be allowed in their jurisdiction.

A bill that was opposed by food safety officials has passed the Wyoming Senate. The Food Freedom Act allows Ag producers to sell such things as unregulated eggs and raw milk locally.  

Supporters say the Food Freedom Act will help Ag Producers make more money by allowing them to sell products locally. Senator Ogden Driskill says it legalizes a practice that has been going on for years. 

Casper Republican Charles Scott tried one last time to warn the Senate that selling raw milk is a bad idea because it could lead to disease outbreaks. 

outdoorcentral.com

The invasive species Quagga  mussels have been discovered in Deer Creek Reservoir in Utah. That poses a special risk to Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which is only 200 miles away.

Quagga mussels are an invasive aquatic species which have been spreading across the United States since 1989. They can clog power-plant intakes and starve  local species of food.

Wes Gordon is an Aquatic Invasive Species specialist with the Wyoming’s  Game and Fish Department, and says while Wyoming is currently mussel free, the risk of infestation is growing.

Jose Gonzalez-Latino Outdoors

 

This Thursday, the University of Wyoming Haub School will host a talk by Jose Gonzalez, founder of the national group, “Latinos Outdoors.” Gonzalez says Latinos have a growing passion for conservation issues like climate change and wilderness preservation. But he says, right now, there are still major obstacles to getting Latinos access to the great outdoors.

        

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

A huge effort by business coalitions to pass a bill to provide workplace protections to gay and transgender people came to an end Tuesday.  The Wyoming House of Representatives defeated Senate File 115, a much talked about anti-discrimination measure, 33 to 24. 

Floor debate was between those who say that workplace protections for gay and transgender people would make Wyoming’s business climate more welcoming versus those who say it provided unnecessary special protections. 

A bill that would have banned the sale of powdered alcohol in the state has failed. 

 The Wyoming House of Representatives defeated the bill by one vote after several members said the legislature shouldn’t ban just one form of alcohol.  Riverton Republican David Miller says there appeared to be no reason to ban it. 

"It’s regulated, you have to be 21 to buy this stuff. I don’t know why we’re doing this, I can think of a lot of other things we probably shouldn’t be doing either, but we are not going out and making them illegal." 

Wisconsinwatch.org

The Wyoming Senate has rejected an amendment that would ban the sale of un-pasteurized milk during second reading debate over the Food Freedom Act. The legislation would allow farmers and ranchers to sell unregulated food products to consumers. Casper Senator Charles Scott attempted to remove milk from the bill. Scott says a number of diseases can come from unpasteurized milk sold on a widespread scale.

After several amendments the House Education Committee approved a bill that is intended to move forward with Wyoming’s education accountability system. 

After a series of amendments by Pinedale Republican Albert Sommers the committee pushed back the next phase of the accountability process. 

Sommers says he wanted to take another look at the accountability model and give the committee addressing accountability more time.  

UW Photo

Concert goers have their choice of two unusual concerts coming up this week at the University of Wyoming. One is a biennial concerto competition for students. The other brings together musicians from three continents for the Wyoming premier of a Brazilian piece. 

Stephanie Joyce

A year ago, a petroleum engineering degree seemed like the ticket to a bright and well-paid future. With six-figure starting salaries for a bachelor’s degree and endless optimism about the shale revolution, enrollment climbed rapidly in petroleum engineering programs across the country. But now that the oil price slide has turned to an oil price slump, the luster is wearing off.

When Evan Lowry first enrolled at the University of Wyoming, his plan was to be a chemical engineer, like his dad, but the oil industry was booming and he quickly changed his mind.

Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons

  

Republicans in the U.S. House have created a new position charged with overseeing the Interior of the United States, which includes the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis is being tapped to head up the new investigative subcommittee. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is famous for dragging in Major League Baseball players during the steroid scandal.

A bill that would allow the sale of unregulated milk, eggs, and canned goods has received initial support by the Wyoming Senate. 

Senator Ogden Driskill says it will help agriculture producers generate income. Driskill says these goods exchange hands all the time anyway.

“What this bill does is makes a lot of what’s happening already legal and encourages farm to ranch markets in our cities and towns and throughout the country.”

The Wyoming Senate has given final approval to a bill allowing the state to partner with private business to convert Wyoming minerals to value-added products like ammonia and plastics.

Glenrock Senator Jim Anderson says with the downturn in energy prices business leaders in Converse County are excited about the possibilities.

“But we see this downturn as opportunity, not only as opportunity, but it necessitates that we go out and find other ways to market those products that we have in hand.”

Bob Beck

From time to time there are political issues that lead to questions about how much of impact religion has on the Wyoming legislature. The state is heavily dominated by Republicans and many outsiders figure that makes Wyoming’s politicians religiously conservative too. But while many lawmakers say their value systems were influenced by their religious beliefs. How they vote tends to depend on the issue. 

To be clear, religion does play a role on the floor of the legislature. For instance, every day the Wyoming Senate and House of Representatives begins with a prayer.

Over the past year, The Next Generation Science Standards have stirred debate in Wyoming—which continues today. Lawmakers have taken issue with what the standards say about climate change. Laramie Democrat Pete Gosar has something of a front row seat for this discussion. He’s recently been named chairman of the State Board of Education—after serving for four years on that body, which is responsible for reviewing and adopting education standards. I spoke with Pete Gosar to get his take on the standards—and the controversy around them.​ 

amazon.com

    

Devastating pine beetle and wild fire epidemics have ravaged our national forests for years. But for the most part, everyone—environmentalists, the timber industry, government agencies—have been in agreement about how to manage such problems…as wild places, not as tree farms in which forests are a crop that’s been wiped out.

Caroline Ballard

Southeastern Wyoming may be seeing heavy snow this weekend, but if you have tried skiing there over the past month or so, you may have run into a problem: dirt. With temperatures consistently in the 40s and 50s and little precipitation, snowpack in this part of the state is well below average. 

Cross country skiing on the icy slush isn't fun. Just ask Matthew Klump, a sophomore at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He’s just finished  skiing a Valentine’s Day weekend race at Happy Jack, and is recounting the race with some of his teammates.

  

A new film follows the journey of a snowboarder Brolin Mawejje on his quest to become the first African Olympic snowboarder. Born in Uganda, he saw snow for the first time when he came to the U.S. at age 12. Snowboarding helped Mawejje escape a difficult home life and bond with a family who brought him to Jackson Hole.

Miles Bryan

When you hear “law enforcement” what do you picture? A police officer, a sheriff’s deputy, maybe a highway patrol trooper--but probably not a prison guard. That is a problem for Wyoming’s Department of Corrections recruiting division. Right now they’re 20 percent short of guards system wide. A lot of that shortage is due to recent growth in high paying energy jobs, but Corrections has struggled for many years with recruitment and retention, in Wyoming and across the country.

uwyo.edu

Every two years, student musicians at the University of Wyoming compete in the Jacoby Competition. Six students will perform as soloists with the UW Symphony Orchestra on Thursday, February 26. The winner will be named the university’s finest student musician and will win a cash award. Wyoming Public Radio’s Micah Schweizer asked UW Symphony directory Michael Griffith to explain the judging process.

Miles Bryan

A bill that would protect gay, lesbian, and transgender people from being discriminated against in the workplace and in other locations was approved by the House Health, Labor, and Social Services Committee on Friday.

 

It was standing room only for the entire two hour hearing as people lined up to give testimony. The Wyoming Pastor’s Network came out in force against the bill.

 

The Bureau of Land Management will reopen the wild horse facility in Rock Springs at the end of this month with an adoption event.

The agency is looking for people able to give wild horses a good home. The horses range from weanlings to geldings and mares.

The agency manages wild horses and burros on public lands. The animals don’t have any natural predators and are illegal to hunt. So if the number of horses and burros for a grazing area becomes too high, the BLM rounds them up for holding facilities or adoption.

The Wyoming Senate has voted to give teachers a pay increase. The external cost adjustment will be the first that teachers have received since 2009. Senator Stan Cooper says a lack of cost of living adjustments has caused problems for rural school districts who are trying to hire new teachers. 

Glenrock Republican Jim Anderson adds that the energy boom in Converse County has driven up local rent and other costs. He says that has forced teachers to relocate.

    

Medicaid expansion has been defeated again. 

The Wyoming House of Representatives soundly voted down an amendment to the state supplemental budget that would have provided federally funded Medicaid services to nearly 18-thousand low income Wyomingites. 

Cheyenne Republican Sue Wilson said the people who would qualify are working, but cannot afford insurance.

After being told that the Wyoming Department of Transportation has plans to improve safety on Highways 59 near Gillette and 20/26 between Shoshoni and Casper, the Senate decided to put that into law. 

The Senate adopted a budget amendment that requires WYDOT to hold public hearings, study the issue, and come up with a plan on how to make and pay for safety improvements this summer. Gillette Senator Michael Von Flatern  says the public meetings must take place next month.

A group of Casper parents is looking to launch a new charter school for high-achieving kids. They're planning to submit their application to the Natrona County School District on Monday.

The proposed K-8 school is called The Guild Charter School. Backers say the school would offer individualized learning plans for each student and be more academically rigorous.

Bob Beck / Natrona County High School

This year, a University of Wyoming program that helps low-income high school students plan for college will run out of funding, but backers hope to keep it going.

The Wyoming College Advising Corps is funded by a federal grant. Last year, the program provided resources to about 400 Wyoming students.

Project Director Teresa Nealon says there are 10 full-time advisors in schools around the state, counseling students about how to prepare for college.

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