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  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.

Senate Committee Approves Medicaid Expansion

12 minutes ago

    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."You know I think it’s a very, very expensive program adding more people to the government doles.  For the past several years I’ve just not been on board with expa

Ucross Resident Karen Skolfield Reads Poem

5 hours ago

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.

The State Senate is continuing work on a Constitutional Amendment that allows the State Treasurer to invest various state funds in common stocks. The state currently invests permanent funds in common stocks, but the state constitution does not allow such investment of other state funds.

Senator Chris Rothfuss says the return on those state funds is very low. He says this change would do a lot for the state savings.

The State Senate has reversed itself and passed a bill that includes a requirement that Wyoming public high school students must take four years of math. Last week the Senate voted to keep the math requirement at three years.

Cody Republican Hank Coe successfully amended the bill to allow a student to take a math related elective in their senior year. Many had argued that students who aren’t going to college don’t need an extra year of math, but Casper Republican Charlie Scott says a math elective would be valuable for that group of students.

The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill Monday that removes a controversial budget footnote keeping the State Board of Education from considering the Next Generation Science Standards. Gillette Republican Scott Clem called the Next Generation Standards junk science, mainly because they require the study of climate change.

“We want something that is unique for Wyoming, we don’t want cookie cutter standards. We are committed to the success of our children when it comes to their education and if we do anything less than that then we are contributing to their failure.”

Stephanie Joyce

A coalition of environmental and landowner groups have reached a settlement with the State of Wyoming and Halliburton in a lawsuit over fracking chemical disclosure.

Wyoming was the first state in the nation to require public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing or fracking, but the state has also granted more than a hundred exemptions to that rule to companies concerned that disclosure would reveal trade secrets.

 In his supplemental budget request, Governor Matt Mead asked for $15 million dollars to help school districts cover inflation. But lawmakers voted Thursday not to follow that recommendation.

Casper Representative Tim Stubson proposed the cut to the Joint Appropriations Committee. With it, the state would allocate just $6 million to cover school districts’ rising costs.

USPS

The U.S. Postal Service is shutting down nearly 40% of its processing centers around the country this year. A center in Rock Springs is scheduled to be closed, leaving just two of these facilities in Wyoming.

Post Service spokesman for Wyoming, David Rupert says the U.S.P.S. is ceasing overnight local letter delivery as well. But Rupert says most postal customers won’t notice these changes.

A bill that would have allowed the use of medical marijuana was killed in a Wyoming House Committee on a 5 to 4 vote.  The bill was sponsored by Casper Republican Gerald Gay. 

He said cannabis use would have been regulated by medical providers and the goal was to help address a number of pain issues.  A Doctor testified that it has a number of pain benefits. Gillette Republican Bill Pownall says Wyoming is not ready for this yet.

The Wyoming House of Representatives took the first step towards removing a controversial budget footnote that kept the State Board of Education from considering the Next Generation Science Standards.  Speaker of the House Kermit Brown says that legislating via a budget footnote is improper.  Thermopolis Republican Nathan Winters challenged that statement.  Winters says that many publications rated the Next Generation standards as average at best.  He says the State Board of Education was moving too quickly towards adopting those science standards.

The Wyoming Senate has rejected an attempt to require four years of math in public high schools.  The debate came during a discussion on a bill addressing education accountability and assessment.  Currently the state requires three years of math and Senator Hank Coe says increasing it to four years will help improve education.       

“You know this is a global economy…big time.  And the United States is not getting it done and honestly we aren’t getting it done in Wyoming either.  Rigor is what we need.”

The second week of Wyoming's state legislature is wrapping up today. Wyoming Public Radio News Director Bob Beck speaks with Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard about what we've seen so far this session.

The University of Wyoming has appointed a new dean for its College of Engineering. Dr. Michael Pishko, a biomedical engineering professor at Texas A&M University, will take over the job on March 1st.

The engineering school has been without a permanent dean for more than a year. Pishko takes the reigns amid a legislatively-mandated push to become a “top-tier” engineering program. That effort is backed by more than $130 million in state funds and private donations.

Ohio Governor John Kasich was at the Wyoming’s Capitol Building Thursday as part of a national tour promoting a federal balanced budget amendment.

Kasich spoke to a full house of Wyoming legislators, but he directed his remarks to two 11-year-old boys in the audience as a way to make a point about leaving federal debt for the next generation.

“What would you think if we all went to lunch and we spent 40 dollars and gave you the bill. Would that be very good?,” Kasich asked the boys. “Yeah, we gave you the shaft right? Well that is what we are doing [with the deficit].

Watch Wyoming Bands' Entries For NPR's Tiny Desk Contest

Jan 22, 2015
NPR Music

As you may know, NPR put out the call for undiscovered bands to enter a contest to play a Tiny Desk Concert in Washington, D.C. A number of Wyoming musicians have filmed themselves behind—and in front of—their own ‘desks’.

The winner will be announced on February 12th.

Here are their contest entries:

A board of former politicians, business leaders, and law enforcement is looking to push for employment protections for LGBT people in Wyoming.

Currently the state has no workplace protections for LGBT people, which means workers can be fired simply for being gay.

Former U.S. Senator Al Simpson is a member of the new board, put together by the advocacy group Compete Wyoming. He says he wants to emphasize this is not about gay marriage. 

The Director of the Wyoming Department of Health says if the state approves Medicaid expansion it could be awhile before it gets implemented.  

Tom Forslund told the Joint Labor, Health, and Social Services Committee last night that he predicts that it wouldn’t take effect in Wyoming until January 1st of 2016. Co-Chairman Elaine Harvey said she was told that if Wyoming adopted a simple plan that it could be approved by the Spring. Forslund said a simple plan would help.

Wyoming Senators had a lot of debate over how stiff penalties should be for those who trespass on private land while collecting data for research purposes. 

Wyoming agriculture interests are supporting the bill to thwart environmental researchers, who, they claim, often collect environmental data to support their legal efforts. The penalties for conviction would include heavy penalties and time in jail. 

A bill that would have decriminalized marijuana in Wyoming was soundly defeated by the Wyoming House of Representatives Wednesday. 

Representative Jim Byrd of Cheyenne had proposed legislation to punish those in possession of small amounts of marijuana with fines, instead of criminal convictions. But a majority of Representatives feared that the change would encouraging marijuana use. Lovell Republican Elaine Harvey had strong concerns.

When Rancher Frank Robbins had his cattle leases revoked a few years back, he decided to run sheep on his property instead. But now his animals are trespassing into the habitat of the state’s largest bighorn sheep herd, exposing them to pneumonia which is deadly in bighorns. Advocates on both sides say that while Robbins may be using the situation to pressure the Bureau of Land Management to return his cattle leases, the agency is also at fault. Kevin Hurley is director of the Wild Sheep Foundation.

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