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

Bob Beck

Listen to the full show here.   

Wyo. Lawmakers Send Power Over Education To State

It took Congress eight years and countless hours of listening to angry teachers and parents, but No Child Left Behind is soon to be a thing of the past. Matt Laslo reports from Washington that Congress and the White House agreed to scrap the hated Bush-era law.

Healthcare.gov

 

Tuesday is an important date for those hoping to sign up for health insurance. Enrollment has been underway since November for those who purchase health care coverage through the federal marketplace via the website HealthCare.gov. Kevin Counihan oversees that effort and he joins Bob Beck to explain why Tuesday is so important.

Wyoming Legislature

The legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee has wrapped up its first week of budget hearings. The committee heard from the governor early in the week and has started reviewing agency budgets. The governor wants to eventually divert money going into the state’s permanent mineral trust fund in an effort to keep the state budget where it is. While lawmakers have mixed thoughts on that idea, but they are more concerned that the governor has not given more thought to a major budget threat. 

Wyoming U.S. Senator Mike Enzi is thrilled with legislation that will revamp the No Child Left Behind education law.

Enzi sat on the conference committee that came up with the final version of the bill. He said it returns the responsibility of educating students back to states and school districts. 

Bob Beck

Members of the legislature’s Joint Appropriations committee say they are very concerned about how to pay for the construction and maintenance of new schools. 

In the past, the state used the money coal companies paid for leases, but those funds are drying up. During a hearing on Mead’s proposed budget, House Appropriations Chairman Steve Harshman asked the governor if he had considered increasing taxes to make up that shortfall. Mead said he is not ready to support a tax increase because it would hurt the energy industry.

Bob Beck

 

With the Consensus Revenue estimating group saying that revenues are dropping, Governor Matt Mead announced his budget this week. While his budget reduces spending that will impact some, it does not feature the deep cuts some feared. The governor is proposing to balance the budget by borrowing from reserves initially and paying it back with future income.  

A new federal transportation bill working its way through congress should provide more money to Wyoming. Interim Wyoming Department of Transportation Director Bill Panos says in highway funding alone the bill provides the state with an increase of 24 million dollars.

“That’s a boon for Wyoming and will help us improve the highway system in our state, preserve what we have invested in over the last few years and make our highways safer.” 

It will also provide the state with additional funding for a variety of other projects said Panos.

Members of a group trying to legalize medical marijuana in Wyoming have set up a political action committee and will buy advertising in an effort to get enough signatures to place the issue on the ballot. 

The former director of the National Organization for the Reform of Medical Marijuana stepped down last week and spokeswoman Amber Sparks said the group is trying to move forward. They need to collect about 20 thousand signatures of registered voters by February, but Sparks says she remains optimistic. But they do need to overcome negative attitudes about marijuana.

Bob Beck

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead unveiled his proposed budget for the next two years. The governor will address the budget shortfall by borrowing short term from the legislative reserve account and pay back that account with investment income.

Mead says his budget is about 200 million dollars less than it was two years ago. Much of the proposed cuts are to local government funding. Mead reduced spending for cities and counties to 90 million dollars down from 175 million dollars two years ago. The governor says that reduction will have a big impact.

James Rumminger

Winter weather conditions with snow and strong winds will make Thanksgiving travel difficult.  Most of the snow will fall in central Wyoming, Fremont County could see around 8 inches. 

But Riverton based National Weather Service Meteorologist Paul Skrbac says snow statewide will make driving a challenge.           

Wyoming’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remains at four percent, but those numbers are being questioned.  

David Bullard is a Senior Economist with the Department of Workforce Services research and planning division. While the latest numbers should that unemployment has increase in energy counties, he says seeing that the overall unemployment rate remains steady is surprising, especially when you consider other economic indicators. 

Since coal companies are no longer buying coal leases, Wyoming may need to find a new way to fund school construction.

Friday the legislature’s joint revenue committee was asked to support legislation that would increase either property or sales taxes to pay for school construction.  But several legislators say it’s too early to consider a tax.  Revenue Committee member Tom Reeder has voted against the last several budgets and he’s calling for lawmakers to stop spending first. 

“I have heard nobody talk about…we could make government more efficient by doing XYZ.”

Bob Beck

It’s been a bad year for concussions for the University of Wyoming football team. While the team does not release exact numbers due to federal health care regulations, media counts put the number above 20. And everyone involved with Cowboy football admits that’s a lot. Head Football Coach Craig Bohl said the high number is surprising.  

Governor Matt Mead said that Wyoming can diversify its economy through technology and that the energy industry will bounce back.

During a speech to kick off his annual business forum on Tuesday, Mead said that technology was poised to be Wyoming’s fourth leading industry. He discussed the enhancement of high-speed internet throughout the state and a number of other advances the state has made to attract technology-based business.

Mead said such work is important to the state’s future and it goes beyond economics.

Wyoming Legislature

State Representative Mike Madden and the joint revenue committee will be busy next week. They have a number of issues from local government funding to how to pay for school construction that they need to address. With the recent revenue projections, the committee will need to see if there are new ways to pay for such things. One idea could even be a property tax. Madden, who chairs the House Revenue Committee talks with Bob Beck. 

Wikimedia Commons

Earlier we heard Representative Mike Madden discuss two key funding challenges the Joint Revenue Committee will tackle next week, one other topic of discussion will be whether to raise the state tobacco tax. A dollar increase would raise 20 million dollars but the hope is that it will also curtail smoking.

Jason Mincer is the government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. His organization is strongly in favor of increasing the tax.  

Tom Rea

  

The news that African American football players at the University of Missouri threatened not to play a football game against Brigham Young reminded some Wyoming players of the time they got kicked off of their team prior to a game with BYU. In Wyoming lore, they are known as the Black 14.

Wyoming U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis says she will finish her term and not seek re-election. She made the announcement Thursday afternoon in Cheyenne. Lummis tells Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck that she’s been thinking about this for several months.

Wikimedia Commons

Wyoming is among eleven states who received an F for the lack of transparency and accountability in government. 

The Center for Public Integrity dinged Wyoming for having few laws when it comes to government ethics enforcement and for the lack of government and judicial accountability. 

The report called most Wyoming laws vague and complained that few documents are online. It was also was critical of Wyoming’s open record laws. Wyoming Press Association Executive Director Jim Angell actually thinks most of the laws are good.         

Wyoming PBS

Next Friday Wyoming PBS will air its long-awaited documentary called Dick Cheney: A Heartbeat Away. Producer Geoff O’Gara joins us and says the two-year effort putting the 90-minute program together was interesting. He admitted that it’s tough to do a documentary on someone that most people have a strong opinion about.

Dick Cheney: A Heartbeat Away will be broadcast by Wyoming PBS on Friday, November 13 at 8 p.m. and be re-broadcast at 9:30 p.m. You can learn more here.   

Bob Beck

 

When you drive north into Torrington on highway 85 you see an iconic place. Since 1926 the Sugar beet factory, currently owned by Western Sugar Cooperative has been a mainstay of the local economy. Now is the busy season for the plant and you can hear it hum. Torrington is a small agriculture town of 7,000 people and according to Gilbert Servantez,  who is the manager of the Torrington Workforce Services Center, the sugar factory has been a major employer. 

sastrugipress.com

  

Laramie author and poet Lori Howe’s new book CloudShade: Poems of the High Plains, is due out on November 18. Poems from CloudShade have been nominated for a Pushcart award, and the collection itself nominated for several first-book awards. She begins our conversation by reading one of her poems called On the Ice. 

CloudShade is available on the Sastrugi Press website or via her website.

Aaron Schrank

As state lawmakers mull the latest revenue projections it appears that in a few years the state will have a lot less money for education, especially new school construction. 

It’s largely because revenue from coal lease bonus sales is down and that’s what pays for school construction. But a court ruling mandates that the state pay for school construction and maintenance so Wyoming will need to find another way to pay for it. 

Wyoming legislative leaders will be looking at budget cuts and using reserve funds after receiving a report that state revenues have declined substantially. 

The Consensus Revenue Estimating Group or CREG said that falling energy prices will lead to a decline of 617 million dollars in revenue from July first of this year through June of 2018. Senate Appropriations Chairman Tony Ross said they will need to look at targeted cuts and use some reserve funding to get through the next two years. He said lawmakers have planned for this day and that will help.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

Listen to the full show here.  

Wyoming's Revenue Picture Will Lead To A Lean Budget

The Consensus Revenue Estimating group or CREG will release its much-anticipated revenue forecast on Tuesday. Wyoming’s revenues are expected to drop 500 to 600 million dollars, which means legislators will have a lot less money to spend compared to the last budget. 

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

The Consensus Revenue Estimating group or CREG will release its much-anticipated revenue forecast on Tuesday. Wyoming’s revenues are expected to drop 500 to 600 million dollars, which means legislators will have a lot less money to spend compared to the last budget. 

This comes at a time when the governor has already asked state agencies to find ways to trim 200 million dollars from the existing budget. The culprit is falling energy prices, specifically from oil and gas. 

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