Cheyenne, WY – The Wyoming Senate rejected to amendments in giving second reading approval to a bill that would set the stage for the state to cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. Senator Jayne Mockler sponsored an amendment that attempted to require "truth in advertising" if the issue goes before voters. Senator Charlie Scott vehemently objected to the amendment, saying it chills free speech. Longtime newspaper publisher, Senator Bob Peck, says Mockler should trust the public.
Cheyenne, WY – The Wyoming Senate Wednesday debated how involved the state should be in the lives of families. The discussion was around a study the Department of Family Services has proposed. The president of the senate, April Brimmer Kunz condemned it saying the intent may be good but the government should not tell people how to run their families. A supporter of the proposed study, Senator Charlie Scott says it will not tell people how to do that, rather it will look at the way the public and private sector provide services to families and children.
Cheyenne, WY – Wyoming may lose 70 million dollars in federal funding if it doesn't comply with President Bush's centerpiece education law. The No Child Left Behind Act spells out tougher standards for student testing and teacher credentials. It also penalizes schools that don't meet the standards. Federal officials are meeting with state lawmakers Tuesday to discuss the law. That's after several challenges to it were introduced in this year's budget session.
Cheyenne, WY – The luck of Wyoming may have just changed. The state House passed a bill to join a multi state Powerball lottery Tuesday. Supporters of the proposal say it could bring millions of dollars of revenue to Wyoming. But, Representative Pete Anderson says it sets a bad precedent. Anderson told other representatives that the constitution says legislators must protect the health and morality of the people of the state. Anderson is specifically worried that this would be state sponsored and advertised gambling.
Casper, WY – The Vice President of the National Education Association is impressed with how Natrona county's school district is using a process to meet federal No Child Left Behind requirements. Dennis Van Roekel says the Casper district is one of the few in the nation to use the Interest Based Agreement Process. Van Roekel says that process allows the district to have more flexibility to meet the federal mandates. He says allowing other school districts to use similar approaches may alleviate some of the concerns educators have with No Child Left Behind.
Cheyenne, WY – The State Supreme Court disbarred the former Casper District Attorney Tuesday. The disbarment stems from Kevin Meenan's guilty plea in December to two felonies and a misdemeanor in a fraud and forgery case involving his stepchildren. Meenan hoped to only receive a three-year suspension of his legal license. But Wyoming State Bar Chief Council Becky Lewis says the five-year disbarment was appropriate because it shows the Supreme Court and State Bar can police themselves. Lewis says a five-year disbarment is as stiff a penalty as Wyoming rules allow for.
Cheyenne – The Wyoming House and Senate have wrapped up their budget work. Now the budgets switch houses before the bills head into a conference committee to iron out differences. Final discussion of the budget featured cuts of last week's increases and some last day fine tuning. Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck reports that both sides seem satisfied with their work.
Cheyenne, WY – The airport manager in Casper is upset by last week's decision not to spend any of the state's three million dollar air service enhancement fund. One proposal that was passed on by the Wyoming Business Council's Board of Directors was one that would start jet service on Northwest Airlines between Casper and Minneapolis. Natrona County International Airport Manager Dan Mann says the council walked away from its responsibilities.
Cheyenne – Today the Wyoming legislature will continue its debate on what to do about the high cost of medical malpractice insurance. A key solution favored by the Wyoming Health Care Commission, Doctors and many interest groups in the stat, would be to cap damages in medical malpractice cases. Insurance companies have told them that without caps, malpractice rates will rise and more doctors will be forced to leave the state. To do that requires the state to change the constitution and that would start with a vote of the people in November
Washington, DC – Dave Fruedenthal is attending the National Governors' Association meeting in Washington, DC and got a chance to sit down and talk with President Bush Monday morning. Freudenthal isn't sure much new ground was broken, but says it was a useful meeting. The Governor did not use the opportunity to question the President on Wyoming's big federal issue right now, the dispute over wolf management. He says the wolf issue probably isn't on President Bush's radar screen and he thinks a regional topic probably wasn't appropriate in that venue.
Cheyenne – A year ago, the Wyoming Legislature set aside three million dollars to use as a way to improve air service. The goals were to increase ridership and bring down airfares; and to do it statewide. Meetings were held in all ten towns with airports, proposals were made by airlines, and possibilities were studied. But in the end, as Wyoming Public Radio's Aaron Alpern reports the Business Council decided not to spend any of the money.
Casper, WY – Jury selection is scheduled to begin in Casper Monday for the rape and murder trial of Dale Wayne Eaton. Eaton is accused of raping and murdering 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell in 1988. Kimmell disappeared while she was headed from Colorado to her parents' home in Billings, Montana. Her body was found in the North Platte River. Kimmel's relatives are planning to be in Casper for the length of the trial. Opening arguments are scheduled for March 1st in Natrona County District Court.
Cheyenne, WY – The Wyoming House has voted to toughen up the state's drinking and driving law. Last year the legislature made a DUI Felony Law for people who had four convictions in five years. The bill the House approved Monday would make it a felony if someone is convicted three times in seven years. Representative Beckett Hinckley says this makes a statement that the state is not going to tolerate this kind of behavior anymore by attaching a felony charge to these types of violations.
Cheyenne, WY – The Governor's proposal to buy a large chunk of land in northeastern Wyoming is getting support, but no funding. The Senate approved the plan to buy 32 thousand acres called the Moskee Tract, but didn't include the money needed to purchase it. That will have to be put back in later. Marlene Simons of Beulah says she and most of her neighbors want this done because the land is home to a lot of elk and deer. Simons says if the property isn't purchased now, it's going to be developed. She says if that happens, it will displace all the wildlife.
Cheyenne, WY – The state started the legislative session with $1.2 Billion in surplus. After putting a significant amount of that away into savings the House realized they have spent the rest plus some. That meant Representatives needed to spend Monday cutting back on proposed plans for spending. Plans that were cut included money to pay for preschool for kids with developmental disabilities and paying for dental needs of people on Medicaid.
Cheyenne, WY – The Wyoming legislature will address the state budget for the final time on Monday. Key issues addressed on Friday included additional money for U-W athletics, but the Senate said no to several other proposals including one to save new surplus money next year. Senator Jayne Mockler admits she's concerned about this year's spending. Mockler says the legislature has spent all the money so there's none left to fix the Capitol or Supreme Court or even to build a new prison. She says it's kind of amazing the legislature could spend a billion dollars in ten days.
Cheyenne, WY – Wyoming continues to move towards a legal battle with the federal government over wolf management. Friday, the House gave initial approval to a bill that will clean up the state's plan but maintains the stance that Wyoming should classify wolves as both trophy game and predators, which has caused the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service concern.
Cheyenne, WY – Wyoming Healthcare Commission Director Diane Harrop says her group is hoping to expand the medical liability debate beyond damage caps or a medical review panel. Harrop says Monday's meeting will feature a discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of the current system. She says the keynote speaker is the Director of the Washington, D.C.-based group Common Good. Harrop says that group's members believe the medical tort system is not doing a good job of compensating injured people in a timely and efficient manner.
Cheyenne, WY – There's a new Chief Operating Officer at the Wyoming Business Council. Bob Jensen comes to the position from the Plains Hotel in Cheyenne, where he was the general manager and is still a partner. Jensen's resume also includes work as a management and marketing consultant. Jensen says he's excited to have this opportunity and thinks economic development is primed fo meaningful growth in the state. As Chief Operating Officer, Jensen will manage the day-to-day operations at the Business Council headquarters in Cheyenne.
Cheyenne – Over the next 2 years the state will spend about $1.1 Billion on education. That's up from just less then $725 million. Much of the increase is due to the legislature's effort to create a system that funds schools equally and adequately. Yesterday, the house gave first round approval to a bill that would try to put an end to the court fights that have surrounded Wyoming education in recent years. Wyoming Public Radio's Renny MacKay reports
Cheyenne, WY – The Wyoming Business Council Board of Directors decided Thursday not to spend any of the three million dollar fund to improve air service. The fund was created by the legislature a year ago to help communities statewide. But the board was reluctant to take a risk on revenue guarantees to lure airlines and wasn't convinced this was an appropriate way to use state money. Board Chairman John Kauchich says the program's statewide approach may have to be amended. He says much like other Wyoming economic development programs, you start at the local community.
Cheyenne, WY – Manufacturing machinery would be exempt from excise tases if a bill the Wyoming House has approved gets approval in the Senate. Supporters of House Bill 44 say it will help attract new companies to Wyoming and others may expand, which means more jobs. Representative Roy Cohee says little is known about economic development. Cohee says what is known is is what the state has been doing isn't working. He says Wyoming's entire economic development budget is smaller than that of Detroit, Michigan. Cohee says something bold need to happen and this tax break may be the answer.
Cheyenne, WY – The state would not be able to put people under the age of 18 to death if the State House has its way. On Friday, 45 of 60 representatives in the House voted in favor of changing Wyoming's law and moving the minimum age for receiving the death penalty up from 16 to 18. The head of the state's County and Prosecuting Attorney's Association Steve Weichman says his group has not officially taken a stance on this bill, but says he thinks it's probably appropriate to move the age by two years. House Bill 5 now moves to the Senate.
Cheyenne – The state legislature's main task this year is passing a budget. Yesterday, the House took a first look at the $2.4 Billion budget. Wyoming Public Radio's Renny MacKay reports on what representative put in and took out.
Cheyenne, WY – The Wyoming Business Council Board of Directors are expected to make decisions on the state's three million dollar air service enhancement fund Thursday. The board will received a presentation on the proposals made by six airlines to improve Wyoming air passenger service and decide which airlines will receive grants. Great Lakes C-E-O Chuck Howell will be watching the meeting closely since his airline is one of the six to make proposals.
Cheyenne – A bill voiding same sex marriages in Wyoming that were granted in other states was defeated by the Senate Judiciary Committee following a spirited debate. Senate File 85 was filed in response to the legalization of same sex marriages in other states. Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck has more.
Cheyenne, WY – The Wyoming House continues to support ending the practice of executing juveniles. The bill passed out of committee Monday and the entire House approved it Wednesday. Cody Representative Colin Simpson says he feels the move is driven by new science. He says it's more than just the House objecting to executing kids. Simpson says there is great justification for acknowledging there are a lot of reasons why a juvenile would act in a crazy manner. There wasn't unanimous support for the bill.