Bob Beck

News Director

Phone: 307-766-6626
Email: btwo@uwyo.edu 

Bob Beck has been News Director of Wyoming Public Radio since 1988.  During his time as News Director WPR has won 94 national, regional and state news awards.  Bob has received the WEA School Bell Award for education reporting and was honored by the Governor’s Council on Impaired Driving for his reporting.  He was also the voice of an Emmy award winning documentary on memory.  He has covered the Wyoming Legislature longer than any broadcaster in the state and is a frequent political guest and host on Wyoming PBS.   

Bob also taught broadcast news at the University of Wyoming for 20 years and his 1998 television reporting class won a regional Emmy for reporting excellence.  He also was twice given a Top Prof award by the UW Mortar Board.   Bob is also active in community events and co-chaired the 2009 Albany County United Way Campaign with his wife Debra. 

Prior to coming to WPR, Bob worked as a News and Sportscaster at stations in Wyoming and Illinois.  He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Radio-Television from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and is a native of Wheaton, Illinois in suburban Chicago.  When he is not working he is running, mountain biking, doing CrossFit, walking his dog, or cheering on his beloved Packers, Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs and Salukis.

Ways To Connect

The Boom: Short Term Gain, Long Term Pain

In case you hadn’t heard, the United States has been experiencing an oil boom for the last five years. The boom has helped the country’s economic recovery and created thousands of jobs for people in states like North Dakota, Wyoming and Texas. But although booms are often heralded for the economic opportunities they provide…they also have a darker side.

In Wyoming the energy industry accounts for nearly 70 to 80 percent of the state’s wealth. Wyoming builds its budget around energy prices and sales taxes that are connected to energy. When commodity prices fall, it’s difficult to fund government services.

After the oil downturn of the 1980’s funding the government was a challenge and Wyoming’s incoming Speaker of the House Kermit Brown remembers that it got especially bad in the late 90’s. 

Few people have had a more intimate experience with a boom and bust economy than former Governor Jim Geringer. The Republican took office in 1995 and left in 2002 as the state was enjoying a natural gas boom.  Geringer also chaired the Senate Appropriations committee in the early 1990’s when budget cutting was the norm. Geringer says to prepare for a bust, the state should prioritize programs.

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.

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.”

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.

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.  

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Relationships 101: Oil And Gas Looks For A Social License To Operate

A month ago, something happened that many never imagined possible: Voters in Denton, Texas passed a ban on fracking.

INSIDE ENERGY: Energy Job Corps Focus On Safety

ultimatecheapskate.com

While financial planners will discuss how to properly invest to plan for your future, Jeff Yeager says you should watch your spending right now. He holds the title as the "Ultimate Cheapskate" and is a regular on Public Radio across the country. During a recent stop in Laramie on behalf of Wyoming AARP,  he told Bob Beck that everyone can spend less.

Wikimedia Commons

The federal government has provided millions of dollars to states to offer Medicaid Health Insurance to what’s known as the working poor. Last week, after months of discussion, the Wyoming Department of Health unveiled its plan for expanding Medicaid in the state. 

Low income people who do not currently qualify for Medicaid and do not make enough money to be able to get insurance via the Affordable Care Act would be eligible. Governor Matt Mead and several health care organizations support the plan, but it still has the difficult task of getting through the legislature.

Diana Denison

Wyoming Public Radio is accepting applications for student interns in the News Department for Spring, 2015.

Interns would assist with newsroom operations. Excellent writing skills and knowledge of Public Radio is essential. Experience with audio editing systems is preferred. Send a resume and cover letter to News Director Bob Beck: btwo@uwyo.edu.

Check out past Wyoming Public Radio internships.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead is asking the legislature for what he calls a modest budget increase of roughly 156 million dollars. 

His supplemental budget request features funding for a number of one time projects that includes improving the safety of Highway 59 near Gillette, millions in matching money for the University of Wyoming, and 25 million for local governments. 

After months of negotiations with the federal government, the Wyoming Department of Health unveiled a plan today/Wednesday for using federal dollars to expand Medicaid in the state. The proposed state plan is called Share and it includes provision for work training, Co-pays and Health Assessments.  Laramie Democrat Chris Rothfuss is a supporter of expanding Medicaid. He says he's okay with the requirement that some people pay a small amount into the plan.

Wikimedia Commons

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission introduced a rule this week designed to head off conflict between landowners and companies as drilling activity moves into populated areas of the state. But so far, reaction to the proposal has been less-than-positive. Wyoming Public Radio’s energy reporter, Stephanie Joyce, joins Bob Beck to talk about what’s been proposed and why landowners aren’t happy with it.

Bob Beck: At the center of this debate are something called “setbacks” – what is a setback and why is it so important?

Wikimedia Commons

As Republicans prepare to take charge of the U.S. Senate, Wyoming Senator John Barrasso is chairing the committee that sets up the Republican agenda. Senator Barrasso says they have a number of topics to get started on.

Kindness Ranch

Just outside of Hartville nestled in virtually the middle of nowhere rests the only sanctuary in the United States that takes in horses, pigs, sheep, cats and dogs that were used as research animals. The Kindness Ranch has been in existence since 2006 and has provided sanctuary to over 250 animals. 

State of Wyoming

Wyoming legislators will look to amend the state constitution in order to invest reserve account money in the stock market.  While there is risk associated with the move, State Treasurer Mark Gordon says that risk can be minimized with proper investing.

“Take some of those savings and invest them more broadly, into stocks not only bonds, so balancing the risks to make sure that the state’s savings actually not only return a little bit more…but are more defensibly invested.”

He says Wyoming’s investments overcame the economic downturn in the last decade.

Stephanie Joyce

Low Gas Prices Double-Edge Sword For Wyoming

It’s lunchtime in Douglas, Wyoming and the line of cars at the McDonald’s drive-thru wraps around the building. A hiring poster hangs in the window and the parking lot is full. Leaning out the window of his black pick-up truck, Troy Hilbish says he had no idea oil prices have fallen more than a quarter in recent months. But he knows what falling oil prices mean.

Prior to election night the University of Wyoming conducted a survey of state residents about their views on candidates and their attitudes about some key issues. University of Wyoming Professor Jim King joins Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck to discuss what they found.

In 1994 University of Wyoming Botany Professor Dennis Knight wrote a book about Wyoming’s landscapes and some of the challenges they may be facing. Now 20 years later, Knight is joined by other authors to provide an update. The book is called Mountains and Plain: The Ecology of Wyoming Landscapes. We spoke with Knight when he wrote his first book and today he admits to Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck that some of the challenges the state faces today were not on his radar.

Courtesy UW athletics

The University of Wyoming women’s soccer team will play for the Mountain West Conference Championship Saturday night.

The Cowgirls will travel to face San Diego State, a team that beat them 5 to 2 last month.  Wyoming enters the contest with 9 wins and 3 losses in the Mountain West conference this season.  The Cowgirls advanced to the title game after defeating New Mexico in the semifinals of the conference tournament. 

Wyoming has never won a conference title in soccer.  The game begins at Saturday night at 8 p.m. in San Diego.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead says the federal agencies in charge of Medicaid are open to innovative expansion proposals. He says that could convince legislators to adopt a Medicaid Expansion program in Wyoming. The proposal the state is working on would require those eligible for the program to contribute to it. 

The Wyoming Republican Party's sweeping victories on Election night left the chairman of the Wyoming Democrats disappointed. 

Ana Cuprill says she is especially disappointed that Mike Ceballos lost his bid for State Superintendent. She says Ceballos would have had the ability to bring the State Department of Education, the legislature, and the Governor’s office together.

“He’s just that kind of guy and it will be interesting to see if we have to continue with another four years of not being able to work together with the Department of Education.

Irina Zhorov

Wyoming Democrats had high hopes of gaining some legislative seats on election day, but in the end, they gained only one in the House.

Democratic newcomers Charles Pelkey in Laramie, JoAnn Dayton in Rock Springs, and Andy Schwartz in Jackson picked up Republican seats, but that was trumped by losses of previously held Democratic seats in Fremont and Laramie County. 

While Wyoming residents strongly oppose the Affordable Care Act, residents are supportive of expanding Medicaid to provide health care to those who cannot afford it. A University of Wyoming election year survey conducted in mid - August found that only 24 percent of state residents approve of the Affordable Care Act, while 70 percent oppose it.  

University of Wyoming Political Scientist Jim King says people have a different opinion about Medicaid expansion.

Wyoming residents say they are not fond of common core, but support for same sex marriage is growing. A University of Wyoming election year survey found that most residents have heard of the Common Core education standards. University of Wyoming Political Scientist Jim King says that 36 percent support common core while 63 percent oppose it. But King says understanding of where common core came from is lacking.

Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck joins Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard to help analyze the races and issues at stake in tomorrow's elections.

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