News

TYRA OLSTAD- Fossil Butte National Monument

A controversial constitutional amendment that would have allowed the state to take over management of federal lands was killed late Friday afternoon by legislators who realized they did not have enough votes to pass it. 

The Select Committee on Federal Natural Resources said they drafted the proposed amendment as a way to protect public access to federal lands. House Majority Floor Leader David Miller said legal actions by other states could force Wyoming to take over public lands.

Stephanie Joyce

 

The House Revenue Committee killed a bill Friday that would have lowered the coal industry’s severance tax from seven to six percent.

The Coal industry has struggled over the last couple of years and Gillette Representative Tim Hallinan said he hoped that the decrease would spur industry and prevent further bankruptcies, but he said it’s unknown whether or not it would create jobs. For Laramie Representative Dan Furphy that was a deal breaker.

pixabay

The Wyoming Legislature’s House Education Committee moved a bill forward to end the foreign language requirement for kindergarten through second grade students.

The requirement is currently an unfunded mandate. Evanston Representative Garry Piiparinen said the best approach to foreign language is a dual-immersion system where students are exposed consistently, and that the current requirement forces teachers to give up time they could use more productively. 

Visit Pinedale

 

In 2015, the town of Pinedale turned off its sodium silicate water treatment--a type of corrosion control that helps prevent lead contamination from old plumbing. The next year, dangerous levels of lead were found in one residence and at the town’s high school. The treatment has been turned back on, but residents want to know why it was shut off in the first place. 

Melodie Edwards

A bill drafted for the legislature that proposed to revise Wyoming's constitution to allow the state to take over management of federal lands, has died. The idea was intensely controversial and today Senator Eli Bebout withdrew the legislation. 

Droves of hunters, anglers and hikers turned out for anti-land transfer rallies in recent months wearing stickers that read, “Keep It Public, Wyoming!” 

Liz Cheney

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is a known entity at the Capitol – there’s even a bust of him on the second floor. But what do members of Congress know of his daughter, the former cable news talking head and short lived U.S. Senate candidate?

Arizona Democrat Raul Grijava said “I don’t watch Fox much. I remember when she was running for office at her daddy’s behest.”

Courtesy Wyoming Humanities Council

For the past few years, the Wyoming Humanities Council has put on a series of events called “Ignite” where locals gave short multimedia presentations in a format similar to TED-talks. This year, the council is kicking off another series of presentations in Cheyenne, Casper, and Laramie with a name change and a shift in focus to storytelling. Jason Burge joined Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard to talk about some of these changes.

Bob Beck

  

After a historic downturn in revenue, the Wyoming legislature has started this year’s session with a number of concerns. They still have a $150 million shortfall in revenue to fund their current budget and K-12 education funding has a $400 million deficit and they have no money for school construction. While legislative committees have been focused on other issues, there will soon come a point where lawmakers need to figure out how to move forward. 

Tennessee Watson

Senate File 35 - the Virtual Education Bill - would help improve virtual learning in Wyoming schools, especially in rural areas where hiring teachers in specialized fields can be hard. Districts across the state are already experimenting with online courses, but the Department of Education wants to bring this opportunity to all students. In Rock Springs, Black Butte High School has been blazing ahead.

Wyoming Legislature

 

Wyoming’s revenue downturn has forced lawmakers to take a look at cutting a lot of money from education. K-12 education has a $400 million shortfall. Speaker of the House Steve Harshman joins Bob Beck to discuss the problem and how they plan to fix it.

 

University of Wyoming Cultural Programs

  

As the University of Wyoming begins another semester, a new line-up of cultural programming at the school is on the horizon. Janelle Fletcher is the director of Fine Arts Outreach and Cultural Programs at the University of Wyoming, and she joined Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard to talk about what Spring 2017 has in store for students and the public.

 

Wikipedia

As part of NPR’s A Nation Engaged series, Wyoming Public Radio set out to hear what Jackson residents are hoping to see from the new Trump Administration. Rebecca Huntington brings us the voices.

Wyoming lawmakers have introduced a bill that would bar utilities from using solar or wind power to generate electricity, but since the open of the legislative session the measure hasn’t made it to committee.

The proposed measure draws a line around “eligible resources”: coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear, and hydropower, and asks electricity providers to use those industries to meet 95 percent of demand by 2018. By 2019, they’ll be expected to phase out wind and solar, purchase energy credits, or pay a fee.

Wyoming Department of Education

School districts that temporarily borrow funds from the state may no longer face high interest rates. A bill to remove a 6 percent interest rate on money borrowed from the state’s Common School Fund passed the Wyoming House and is now before the Senate.  

The Modern West #19: Women Run The West, Part 2

Jan 18, 2017
Caroline Ballard

In the final part of this series, we ask why Western women still lag in political power even though they got the right to vote almost 150 years ago?

https://pixabay.com/en/chemistry-chemical-flask-glass-155121/

After accepting a $15 million dollar loan from the State of Wyoming, Standard Alcohol Inc. is continuing plans for a new facility at Swan Ranch, outside of Cheyenne. The loan is set to be paid back in twenty years, while the rest of the funding for the $76 million dollar plant will come from private investments.

The company will use natural gas, coal, and CO2 to create a gasoline additive that company vice president Robert Johns says is high value.

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Johansen Laurel

Teton County’s Habitat for Humanity has released design plans for twenty-four low income homes that will help address the housing shortfall in the area.  

Many of the people who work in the Jackson area can’t afford to live there, and a recent study found that a third of the county's residents spend more than thirty percent of their income on housing.

A local group hopes to build the three bedroom units over the next four years, and sell them to people who make less than eighty percent of the county’s average.

Wyoming Department of Education

High school graduation rates in Wyoming have crept upward since 2012, according to a press release from the education department.

In 2016, 80 percent of students graduated within four years. That’s higher than the state’s rate has been in a while, but still falls short of last year’s national average of eighty-three percent.

State Superintendent Jillian Balow says that although the state has more work to do, these incremental gains are worth celebrating.

Wikipedia

The Wyoming Constitution mandates that the legislature provide for public schools and present a balanced state budget, which puts legislators in a tight position this session as they contend with a $400 million shortfall in the education budget.

To help address the funding crisis and keep the state out of court, the House Education Committee invited Michael O’Donnell, the State’s Council for School Finance, to present at a special information session.

Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails

The tight economic times have prompted many Wyoming agencies to look at where they can raise more money and Wyoming State Parks is no different.

The legislature’s Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee is proposing to give the parks program more flexibility to set daily pass and campground fees as they see fit, rather than keeping a cap on fees as it is currently.

Jackson Representative Mike Gierau sits on the committee and says Wyoming State Park Fees are cheaper than other states. 

The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill Monday that clarifies the scope of Wyoming’s relationship with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in hopes of speeding up the process of approving in situ uranium mining projects.

House Floor Leader David Miller said Wyoming has a long history of uranium mining and much of the current technology used to extract it was developed in the state.

Grizzly bear on Swan Lake Flats, Yellowstone National Park; Jim Peaco

A delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear was expected by the first of the year but has been pushed back at least six months after a public comment period brought in thousands of letters of opposition. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Regional Director Michael Thabault says over 650,000 comments poured in, and it's going to take them longer than expected to respond. 

Wyoming has seen a higher rig count and more coal production in the last few months, but that doesn’t change much for its financial picture, according to the latest Consensus Revenue Estimating Group or CREG report. It shows that the general fund was up by $900,000 but that isn’t nearly enough to fill the gaping $156 million hole in the two year $3 billion budget.

CREG Co-Chairman Don Richards said while there are signs of a rebounding economy, the numbers still aren’t great.

Senator Mike Enzi (R)

Wyoming's two senators are set to play a key role in the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Senate Republicans, led by Senator Mike Enzi took their first steps towards repealing the Affordable Care Act in a late night session.

  

Over the past few months, we’ve been looking at the housing crisis on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The shortage of homes there—and the lack of funding to build more--has led to overcrowding and homelessness. Many Native Americans are often forced to find rentals in border communities off the reservation. Even there they still struggle to find places to live because of racial discrimination.

Photo Courtesy of University of Wyoming

Wyoming is facing big questions about how to sustain the current education funding model, and that may cause uncertainty for educators entering the workforce. Almost half of Wyoming teachers graduate from the University of Wyoming, and a new partnership with the Daniels Fund will shed light on how well the College of Education prepares those teachers. Wyoming Public Radio’s Tennessee Watson spoke with Rebecca Watts, the executive director of The Trustees Education Initiative, about what this partnership means for learning in Wyoming.

Bob Beck

The Wyoming legislative session is underway and 24 new legislators enjoyed their first week in office. With such high turnover it wouldn’t be a surprise if some veteran lawmakers weren’t just a bit leery having so many freshmen joining the ranks, but House Majority Leader David Miller said it’s a good time for new ideas.

  

On Monday, January 16 at 9 p.m., Wyoming PBS will air a new documentary set in Wyoming called What Was Ours, directed by Mat Hames. It’s about three Native Americans on the Wind River Indian Reservation and their relationship to artifacts and ceremonial objects and how hard it can be to keep such things within the tribe. Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards spoke with two people who appear in the film, Northern Arapaho members Jordan Dresser and former Powwow Princess Mikala Sunrhodes.

Coal State Considers Carbon Future Under Trump

Jan 13, 2017
Amy Sisk/Inside Energy

The coal industry is breathing a sigh of relief with Donald Trump about to enter the White House.

He campaigned on an energy platform that would strip away Obama administration regulations on the fossil fuel industry. Chief among them: the Clean Power Plan.

Photo Courtesy of Wyoming Supreme Court

This week the Wyoming Supreme Court unveiled its much anticipated Judicial Learning Center. It features a movie, interactive exhibits, including an area where visitors can be the judge in a case. Retired Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kite says the idea came from the Colorado legislature that developed a way for citizens to better understand the rule of law. After getting legislative and private money to develop the center even Kite is surprised with what they came up with. 

Pages