News

Wyoming’s economy is growing, but the state has not made up for job losses from 2009 and 2010. And that’s hit Wyoming’s young adults especially hard.

A report from Wyoming’s Department of Workforce Services found that the number of young adults working in the state has declined 22 percent over the past decade.

The State of Wyoming may be getting into the coal export business.

Last month’s visit to Wyoming by former world chess champion Garry Kasparov wasn’t just about global politics (listen to his interview here)—it was also about chess.

Stefan Heinz and his 13-year-old son Jakob had a chance to chat with Kasparov during his visit. “It was really extraordinary to meet him,” says Jakob. “He’s probably the smartest person I’ve ever met. Actually, definitely [the smartest].” (Did Kasparov show him how to win a game in three moves? Unfortunately, “no.”)

Diana Denison

Laramie-based jazz guitarist and vocalist Peter Queal visited on November 19th with Grady Kirkpatrick on Morning Music. They talked about the Queal’s new CD Humility and played a few tracks.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

A hire made three years ago by the Albany County Sheriff’s department is now coming under increased scrutiny. Deputy Derek Colling was fired by the Las Vegas Police three years ago for beating an unarmed man.

The victim was videotaping Colling during the incident. He was later awarded 100-thousand dollars in a settlement with the Las Vegas Police. Albany County Sheriff Dave O’Malley says that did not affect his decision to hire Colling.

Administrators at Central Wyoming College’s culinary and hospitality program in Jackson are considering a new class schedule to allow students to continue working at hotels and resorts during the region’s busy seasons.

Students working towards associates degrees at CWC Jackson currently attend classes on a typical semester schedule. Program Director Amy Madera says the new schedule would be condensed into the tourism off-season—October and November—and April and May.

Representative John Patton of Sheridan says he will sponsor a bill that would eliminate a budget footnote that barred the State Board of Education from spending money on reviewing or adopting the Next Generation Science Standards.

The controversial standards were blocked by lawmakers in March. They took issue with how the role of humans in global climate change was presented in the science standards for K-12 education. Patton says education standards are the responsibility of the State Board, not lawmakers.

A legislative committee has rejected the Wyoming Department of Health's proposed Medicaid Expansion plan in favor of a bill crafted by the committee.  The Share plan was also endorsed by the governor.

The bill  approved by the committee would provide participants with a Medicaid-funded health savings account that they could use to purchase private insurance.  Senator Charles Scott said that he believes that will encourage participants to be careful with their health care spending.

Gillette Representative Eric Barlow said that remains to be seen.

Associated Press

For the first time, Wyoming employers could face stiff fines if their workers die on the job.   

The state does not currently distinguish workplace fatalities from other kinds of safety violation, but under a bill endorsed by the Joint Health, Labor, and Social Services Committee large employers could be fined up to $250-thousand dollars and those who employ fewer than 250 employees could face fines up to 50-thousand dollars.

Senator Charles Scott says Wyoming’s workplace safety record is among the worst in the country and it’s time to send a message.

Stephanie Joyce

As oil prices continue to plummet, energy-producing states are starting to feel the squeeze. Wyoming crude is selling for half what it was in June. That price drop means companies are making less money -- and so is the state.

This year, for the first time in decades, severance taxes from oil surpassed coal and came close to knocking natural gas out of its number one spot, but now, with oil prices falling, Governor Matt Mead says the state is losing out on a lot of money.

Bob Beck

Members of a legislative committee say they plan to support at least one bill that would expand Medicaid services in the state to provide Health Insurance to a low income population that can’t afford health insurance.

The committee is looking at two bills and there is a chance they may be combined into one piece of legislation.   The state has proposed a plan where it would use federal dollars to provide health insurance.  Senator Charles Scott has crafted a plan that uses Medicaid dollars to fund a health savings account that participants would use to purchase private insurance.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead presented his 156-million dollar budget to the Joint Appropriations Committee and said that he wants to focus on a number of building projects in an effort to invest in Wyoming.

Mead argued that the state has enough money to pay for his budget, but Casper Representative Tim Stubson says he’s not so sure.

“The governor’s focus on one time spending is appropriate.  I don’t think there will be enough to cover all of his requests as well as legislative priorities, so there’s going to have to be some trimming along the way.”

A proposed measure in Wyoming’s legislature would give terminally ill patients access to drugs not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Patients would be able to access drugs and devices that have already successfully completed clinical trials and shown promise to be effective, but are not yet approved by the FDA. The drug’s manufacturer would then work with patients and doctors to provide the experimental drug.Republican State Senator Bruce Burns is sponsoring the bill. He says this bill could offer hope to patients who have run out of options.

The United Health Foundation says Wyoming has fallen 8 in spots in the organization’s annual health rankings.

Wyoming ranks 25th for overall health in 2014.  Foundation spokeswoman Kristin Hellmer says Wyoming lost ground in the number of people who consider themselves physically active and the numbers of people who are obese.  She says obesity can lead to chronic illness.  Hellmer urges health officials to be proactive.

Caroline Ballard

Protesters filled Simpson Plaza in front of the University of Wyoming last Thursday. They were calling for an end to police brutality and racism, following grand jury decisions to not indict police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York. Protesters and observers had a variety of viewpoints:

Stephanie Joyce

Oil prices continued their months-long freefall this week. The US benchmark crude price dropped below $60 a barrel for the first time in five years on Thursday. In Wyoming and other oil producing states, those lower prices are starting to take a toll on companies. 

Cyclone Drilling is one of Wyoming's largest drilling contractors. Manager Patrick Hladky says if prices don’t rebound quickly, he’s expecting to idle at least two of the company’s 27 rigs by the end of the month and even more in the first quarter of next year.

Meeteetse School Wins Science Award

Dec 12, 2014
Wyoming game and fish department

A tiny school in northwest Wyoming is a huge winner in a national science award.  In September, Meeteetse was one of four thousand schools that applied for the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest. Now, they’ve won the state contest. And are one of only 55 competitors for a $120,000 grand prize.

The tiny district has only 111 students in the entire K-12 program. 

Yet, the high school science class won the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow state contest by winning $20,000 in technology.

The National Park Service has released a report that summarizes public comments on Grand Teton’s Moose-Wilson Corridor management strategies.

The corridor is a heavily traveled, single lane road, in the southern area of the park, from Moose toward Teton Village. The management plan would include road alignment, trailhead location, and access, among other considerations. During a 30-day period, the park received over 25-hundred comments.

Park official Andrew White says many of the comments will affect the next draft of the alternatives. One example, he says, is horses.

The Legislature’s Joint Education Interim Committee produced a number of noteworthy bills for lawmakers to consider when they return to Cheyenne next month. 

They include a bill to fund School Resource Officers and launch a school safety tip line—as well as a constitutional amendment that would ask voters if they’d like to see the state’s schools chief appointed instead of elected.

Kim Via Flickr

The Legislature’s Joint Education Committee voted 7 to 5 Wednesday in favor of a constitutional amendment that would ask voters to change Wyoming’s schools chief from an elected position to an appointed one.

The vote technically remains open until two absent legislators cast proxy votes. If the Committee passes it on to the full Legislature, the bill will need two-thirds of both the House and Senate to approve it before the amendment would land on the 2016 ballot for voters to decide.

Superintendent Elect Jillian Balow has announced the leadership team who will work with her at the Wyoming Department of Education.

Balow named Cheyenne attorney Dicky Shanor her Chief of Staff. Laramie County School District 1’s Brent Young will serve as Balow’s Chief Policy Officer, Laramie County 2’s Brent Bacon was named Chief Academic Officer, and Dianne Bailey will be promoted from within the Department to the role of Chief Financial Officer.

Caroline Ballard

 

A protest organized by University of Wyoming Students called for an end to police brutality, following grand jury decisions to not indict police officers in the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner.

Protesters chanted slogans like “hands up, don’t shoot”, “no justice no peace” and “I can’t breathe.” Black armbands dotted the arms of attendees and neon and cardboard signs were dispersed throughout the crowd.

Wyoming received a D-minus for its new teacher preparation in a new report by the National Council on Teacher Quality. The state ranked 49th in the nation for its education of teachers to make sure students are prepared for higher education.

Sandi Jacobs is the Council’s Vice President and Director for State Policy and says Wyoming is making some progress, but still lags behind much of the nation.

Every four years, the University of Wyoming stages the classic holiday ballet, The Nutcracker. It’s a major undertaking involving the Department of Theatre and Dance, the UW Symphony Orchestra, and the Lab School Treble Choir, as well as numerous community members. In all, it takes 200 people to put on the show. Director Marsha Knight says the production is set at the Ivinson Mansion, in Old West Laramie, as it has been since 2006.

Wyoming Legislature

A legislative committee is looking at how to improve the state’s Tribal Liaison program. Liaisons represent both tribes—the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho-- but there have been disputes over their roles and over the cost sharing nature of the program.  

USDA photo by Scott Bauer

A great deal of research is happening right now on why mule deer populations are declining so fast in the state… and now the University of Wyoming and Wyoming Game and Fish are offering a week-long Tweet Event to let the public participate in the capture and collaring of mule deer. 

Keenan Montgomery is a native of Minnesota. He moved to Laramie to study English and play football at the University of Wyoming. In his poem "My Black Experience" he recounts several anecdotes about race, living in Laramie, and what these experiences mean in the larger context of American race relations.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Working in the oil and gas industry is dangerous. Inside Energy reported earlier this year that these jobs are in fact six times more dangerous than the average American job. A new training center opening up in central Wyoming in 2015 is designed to address those risks by training students as young as 16 on the heavy equipment used in oil and gas production.

This week, the state of Wyoming filed suit against the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of the Interior in hopes of further reducing the size of the wild horse herds in the state. The lawsuit contends that wild horse populations are growing and exceeding their management levels.

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