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On Monday, Governor Matt Mead signed a bill that reopens the debate over teaching climate change science in schools.  The Next Generation Science Standards, known as NGSS, include the concept that climate change is real and largely caused by man.  In Wyoming, and a handful of other states, that’s controversial. So last year, the state legislature banned discussion to adopt them.  

Pete Gosar, Chairman of the Wyoming Board of Education, says the board now plans to begin debating the standards at their March meeting.  

The Wyoming Senate continues working on a bill that would let school boards, college trustees, and local governments decide whether guns will be allows in their facilities. 

The Senate rejected several amendments, including one by Gillette Republican Jeff Wasserburger to add number of safety measures to the bill. Those measures included 20 hours of safety training for school employees and giving local entities the ability to revoke concealed carry permits.

Wasserburger is a school principal with mixed emotions about the bill.

 

An amendment that would have added gay and transgender people to a bill intended to protect Wyoming residents from housing discrimination—failed Tuesday.

Openly gay Laramie Democrat Cathy Connolly tried to add the two groups of people to the list of protected classes. Connolly, who is also a University of Wyoming Professor, says it’s a serious concern.

“I can tell you that at least once a year, a student comes to talk to me about the fear of losing his or her apartment or trailer, simply because they are gay.”

Credit Raif via Flickr

A bill that would provide funding to help hospitals pay for charity care has been reduced. The bill started at ten million dollars in the Senate, but the House on Tuesday voted to cut funding down to one million dollars.

The money will now be targeted for small hospitals with under 25 beds. Several Representatives say all hospitals need help, but Cheyenne Republican Bob Nicholas countered that, without a study, it’s impossible to say what amount of help larger hospitals really need.

An attempt to Wyoming to the list of states pushing for a balanced budget constitutional amendment has failed. 

The Senate handily rejected the measure due to fears that Wyoming with only three congressional members, would not have equal footing with other states.

Senator Phil Nicholas also had grave concerns that a balanced budget amendment could entice Congress to balance the federal budget by stealing Wyoming’s mineral wealth. 

Baggs Republican Larry Hicks says that was no reason to vote the measure down.

Billings Gazette

Tuesday, the Wyoming house passed two bills that would lay out a strategy for keeping domestic sheep and bighorn sheep separated. Domestic sheep carry a bacteria that can spread pneumonia to bighorns, wiping out whole herds. But Wild Sheep Foundation Director Kevin Hurley has problems with the bills, especially Senate File 133, which sets aside funds to remove a herd of transplanted bighorns from the Wyoming Range    

The State of Wyoming is moving forward with plans to take over regulation of the uranium industry from the federal government. Governor Matt Mead signed legislation on Friday that starts the process of transferring oversight from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality. The transfer is expected to cost the state $4.2 million, which industry will pay back over the course of roughly 12 years by taking on the expense of several positions currently paid for out of the general fund.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

The Wyoming Senate has voted to change a bill that was intended to allow guns in schools, colleges, athletic events, and government meetings.

The Senate adopted a revised bill that would leave the question of allowing firearms up to local governmental entities such as school boards.  Senator Hank Coe said that such decisions are best left to local governing bodies. 

Senator Curt Meier disagreed with the change.

Asher Jay

A wildlife advocacy group in Jackson wants to convince the public that the use of traps for hunting is inhumane, and they’re using art to convey their message.

The group, Wyoming Untrapped, has commissioned an internationally renowned environmental artist to show the value of free-roaming wild animals such as bob cats and coyotes that traditionally are some of trapper’s favorite targets.

Star Valley Chamber of Commerce

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will break ground on its first Wyoming temple this April. The new Star Valley Mormon Temple will be built just south of Afton near the Idaho border.

Unlike other church buildings, temples perform special services for members of the Mormon faith, like marriage and baptism ceremonies.

Jerry Hansen is an LDS spokesman for the Afton area. He says the temple is highly anticipated by local members.

A bill that would help hospitals pay for charity care is making its way through the House of Representatives. It would give hospitals 5 million dollars to help cover the cost of unpaid medical bills.

 The Wyoming Senate voted not to override Governor Matt Mead’s veto of a bill dealing with when law enforcement can seize property in a drug case. 

Currently, money or property can be seized without someone being charged with a crime. The bill would have required someone to be convicted of a felony before property could be seized.

Senator Leland Christensen says it was about protecting personal property. He added that the current standard is too low.

Mark Jenkins

Adventurer Mark Jenkins of Laramie gets assignments all over the world for National Geographic, the magazine he writes for. He’s climbed Mount Everest, bicycled across Siberia, and even skied in Central Asia with the world’s oldest ski culture. Now, he’s one-upped himself.

To find out more about his expedition to the caves of Vietnam, I met with Jenkins in his gear room, a very orderly nook in the basement of his house, stacked with well-labeled bins full of outdoor equipment. It’s here that all of his adventures begin.

Creative Energies

    

With its big blue skies and high altitude, Wyoming's solar potential is among the best in the nation, but even as residential rooftop solar has boomed recently in places like California, Colorado and New Jersey, it's barely made any inroads in the state. Economics and politics both play a role, but with the price of photovoltaics continuing to drop, some people are starting to ask whether momentum is building for solar in nation's largest coal-producing state. 

facebook.com/markgordon4wyoming

 

The Wyoming legislature is putting finishing touches on a proposed constitutional amendment that will allow the State Treasurer to invest money in equities or common stock. The idea is to enhance non-permanent state savings accounts. State Treasurer Mark Gordon joins Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck to explain why this is a good idea.

Caroline Ballard

Latino influence is growing in America across the board, including in conservation issues and outdoor recreation. One of the people leading this charge is Jose Gonzalez, the founder of Latino Outdoors, an organization that aims to increase the Hispanic community’s contact with the outdoors.

Aaron Schrank

There’s a nationwide push to get more students involved in STEM education. That’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. But, despite enthusiasm—and Wyoming’s above average school funding— few K-12 schools in the state have been able to build the STEM programs they’d like. Many of those that have—have done so not with funding and support from the state—but from the energy industry. Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank reports.

Bob Beck

The Wyoming legislative session is coming up on its last week. It’s a session that’s seen the defeat of Medicaid Expansion and some other key issues. Because of that, critics say they really haven’t accomplished much, and some legislators agree.

After each legislative session lawmakers return home to speak to service groups about their accomplishments. Gillette Senator Michael Von Flatern isn’t sure what they did.

“You know some days I really wonder (laughs), because I spent a whole week, at least a week on Medicaid expansion that didn’t go anywhere.”

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

The American landscape is dotted with over 100,000 deep injection wells. They’re a key part of our energy infrastructure. Without them, you probably wouldn't be able to fill up your tank. Because for every barrel of oil that comes out of the ground, salty and sometimes chemically-laced fluid comes up with it. This so-called produced water has to go somewhere - and much of it injected back into the earth. In the first of a 2 part series, Inside Energy’s Leigh Paterson reports on one company’s bid to get in the game.

INSIDE ENERGY: Residents Worry About Wastewater Disposal Well In Western Nebraska

Feb 27, 2015
NET News

A Colorado based oil company has applied for a permit to operate a wastewater injection well in Western Nebraska. In today’s story, Bill Kelly of NET News in Nebraska reports that a deeper look into the finances of the company behind the application is causing concern.

This Saturday, February 28th, Trampled By Turtles will be playing at the Arts and Science auditorium on the University of Wyoming campus. The band has been one of the hottest bluegrass acts in the last decade. Their most recent album, "Wild Animals," was released last July. Mandolin player Erik Berry spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Ryan Oberhelman about "Wild Animals" and how the band and its sound has grown over the last decade.

uwyo.edu

Four Shakespeare plays open next week in Laramie as part of the University of Wyoming's Shakespeare Project. Then, they’ll all fan out across the state on tour. (See below for locations.) The plays are staged in the signature style of Actors From The London Stage—just five actors and minimal props. One of the plays coming to Wyoming is a professional production. The other three are University of Wyoming student productions, directed by Actors From The London Stage.

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. 

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