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

As the Wyoming legislative session winds down, Governor Matt Mead joins us to give his thoughts on the session. We start with the budget, where the governor vetoed three items.  One area of concern is the lack of funding lawmakers gave the governor for forest fires and another is the legislature’s insistence that agencies propose more budget cuts.  Governor Mead tells Bob Beck that can wait…

A massive bill that attempts to reform Wyoming’s current Medicaid program was given initial approval in the State House of Representatives.  One of the goals of the bill is to establish caps on how much is spent in the developmental disability program.  What lawmakers want to do is limit spending to what’s really necessary for clients in the program.  Evansville Republican Kendall Kroeker says his son receives services from the program and only requires a minimal amount of money, so he supports the new limits.

A bill that would legalize the practice of tip sharing has failed after a conference committee of House and Senate members could not reach agreement on the bill.  Sponsor Ruth Ann Petroff of Jackson says lawmakers also heard a lot of negative feedback on the bill, so conference committee members agreed to drop it for the year.

The Wyoming Senate has given final approval to a bill that would focus accountability in education on individual schools in the state.  The statewide education accountability phase one bill would establish benchmarks for schools. If schools don’t meet those benchmarks, they will have to develop a school improvement plan.  Senator Chris Rothfuss says that lawmakers hope to measure student performance in coming months.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has line item vetoed three areas of the state supplemental budget.  The governor vetoed a section that involved the management of surplus state money and he vetoed a section that required state agencies to consider more budget cuts.  Mead says it doesn’t make sense for agencies to re-do that exercise, especially since it’s possible that the state may get more revenue.

The Wyoming Senate is close to approving a bill that would allow the state to enter into a multi-state lottery.  The Senate spent the second day of debate on the bill clarifying language to make sure that the lottery is run properly and that the state is protected.  The Senate has not spent as much time on the moral issues that were the focus in the House.  Senator Michael Von Flatern of Gillette says the Senate noted that those concerns were already aired in the House.

The Wyoming Senate gave initial support to a bill that would allow the state to become part of a multi-state lottery, but not before hearing a lot of questions.  

Much of the debate centered on how the lottery would be administered and costs surrounding it.  Senator Bruce Burns says money raised would go to city and county governments.
 

“They estimate that it will bring in roughly about 25 million and that it should clear based on other states close to our size about a little over six million dollars a year net,” Burns says.

The State Senate continues working on a bill that would require schools to be accountable for student performance.  Under the bill, each school in the state would need to meet a pre-determined performance rating. 

Senator Charles Scott successfully amended the bill to say that a principal could be fired if his or her school falls short of that rating two years in a row.

“All these accountability structures are very fine, but when the day’s over you gotta do something if the performance is not adequate,” Scott says.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a pair of gun rights bills with some key changes. 

The Committee reworked a bill that had been intended to threaten federal law enforcement officials with arrest if they tried to enforce federal gun bans in Wyoming.  The committee amended the bill to say that federal officials could carry out their duties, but that local law enforcement could not assist.  Still, the Wyoming Attorney General was given authority to protect citizen gun rights. 

Senator Mike Enzi continues to say that the budget sequester will take effect on March first. 

The Republican told the state Legislature that the sequestration will roll back the federal budget to 2008 levels and will feature an eight-percent cut. 

Enzi says instead of across the board cuts, he says Congress should have taken a page from the Wyoming Legislature and had federal agencies participate in the exercise.

Max Klingensmith / Creative Commons

The Wyoming Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would rate schools on student performance. 

The school accountability measure was amended by the Senate to say all schools that do not exceed pre-determined academic targets would have to develop improvement plans. 

The House version of the bill said meeting targets was sufficient.  

Senator Chris Rothfuss of Laramie says the Senate is shooting for a higher bar. 

Increased coal exports overseas bring up questions of royalty payments
Coal producers in the U.S. are looking to markets abroad to make up for decreasing demand at home. But a recent investigation by Thomson Reuters news service suggests there might be royalty underpayments on those shipments. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that royalty question is still unresolved.

Courtesy of the Carol Mann Agency

The Hansen-Mead family has been an important part of Wyoming history.  Not only are they well known ranchers in Teton County, but they are have yielded 2 governors and even a writer.  Muffy Mead Ferro has written a memoir of growing up in that family called Its Head Came Off by Accident.  Much of the book focuses on her view of ranch life and of her mother Mary Mead...

The State Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would remove the ability for Political Action Committees to give unlimited donations to candidates running for office.  The bill limits the spending of a PAC to $5,000 in statewide races and $2,500 in local races.  Individuals would be allowed to spend up to $2,500 dollars on a campaign. Supporters of the bill have complained that political action committees are used as a way to get a significant amount of money into a campaign.  Casper Senator Bill Landen says right now people contribute through PACS because it allows them to contr

The Wyoming House and Senate have reached a budget agreement on a $78 million supplemental budget and will send it to the Governor for his consideration.  While there was no discussion in the Senate, several representatives in the House were concerned that instead of cutting government…the legislature is spending more.  But House Appropriations Chairman Steve Harshman says most of the money is one-time spending.

The State Senate has passed a $.10-per-gallon increase in the state gas tax. 

It would raise the tax from $.14-a-gallon to $.24.  It’s expected to generate about $47 million for highways and several million dollars for local government. 

Senate Transportation Chairman Michael Von Flatern says the money is desperately needed by the Wyoming Department of Transportation, but even with the increase, WYDOT is looking at a shortfall.

The State Senate has approved a bill that will study ways to keep the Life Resource Center in Lander open.  The facility serves those with extreme disabilities. The House version of the bill looked at ways of phasing residents out of the facility with the option of closing it down.  Senator Cale Case of Lander says the Senate wants to take a different approach.

The Wyoming House has passed a bill that will allow hunters to use silencers and suppressors for various types of hunting in the state. Before passing the bill, the House removed an amendment that would not have allowed silencers when hunting for big game.  But Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau argued that there are plenty of protections if someone violates the law and if they misuse a silencer or a suppressor the hunter can be punished.

The Wyoming Senate has given approval to a bill that will allow restaurants to set up a system where servers will turn in tips, so that they can be redistributed to other service workers at the establishment.  Senator Ogden Driskill of Devils Tower says it will allow all service employees to make a greater wage.  Driskill says such pooling already takes place in Wyoming, but it isn’t legal.  He says workers and employers want it legalized.

The Wyoming House has passed a bill that will allow hunters to use silencers and suppressors for various types of hunting in the state.  

Before passing the bill, the House removed an amendment that would not have allowed silencers when hunting for big game. 

But Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau argued that there are plenty of protections if someone violates the law, and if they misuse a silencer or a suppressor, the hunter can be punished.

As the Legislature irons out the final details of the State budget, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee says lawmakers were forward-thinking with the budget. 

During a news conference, Senator Eli Bebout of Riverton said the spending reductions and cuts to some agencies were needed to get the budget in shape for future spending. 

The Wyoming Senate will have an opportunity to debate implementing a lottery in Wyoming. 

A committee approved the bill 3-2.  It will allow the state to enter a multi-state lottery, such as Powerball. 

Supporters say a number of Wyoming residents are spending money on lottery tickets in other states, and they want to keep that money here. 

But opponents like Chesie Lee of the Wyoming Association of Churches say lotteries hurt the poor “who are more likely to buy lottery tickets then people in other income brackets,” Lee says. 

The Wyoming Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would increase the gas tax by $.10 per-gallon. 

Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis told the state legislature that federal budget cuts of $1.6 trillion are coming.

“I am pleased to say that for the first time since I’ve been in Congress, truly significant cuts are coming.  The sequester will take effect on March 1st, it will cut roughly 10 percent across the board on all discretionary spending.”

The State Senate has started work on a bill that would allow employers to ask servers to contribute 15 percent of their tips to be redistributed to other service employees of an establishment. 

The goal is to improve service from top to bottom and raise wages for all employees. 

A bill that would give Wyoming employers a ten-percent discount on their workers’ compensation payments in exchange for implementing workplace safety initiatives has received initial approval from the State Senate. 

Employers would have to sign up for OSHA’s health and safety consultation program. 

Senator Eli Bebout of Riverton says the program should be a big help for smaller employers.

          

The State Senate had a lengthy discussion over a bill that will study future options for the Lander-based Wyoming Life Resource Center.  The facility is used for adults with disabilities and some believe it should be shut down and clients should be sent to other facilities. 

But Senator Cale Case of Lander says the facility is important for people who need specialized care. 

While the House version of the bill was to study how clients would be moved out of the facility, Case says the Senate version will look at ways to upgrade the facility and improve services.

The Wyoming House and Senate passed their respective versions of a state budget.  Both bodies feature budget cuts of roughly 6% in an effort to deal with declining revenues.  Cheyenne Representative Mary Throne says she is generally satisfied with the budget cuts.

Governor Matt Mead has let a bill that would change Wyoming’s Open Records law go into effect without his signature.  The Governor expressed concern over the legislation that would allow University of Wyoming Trustees to continue their search for a new President in private.  Mead says he is concerned about expanding the exemption of the Open Records law.  A Judge recently ruled that the finalists for President needed to be made public.   But Senate President Tony Ross defended the bill’s enactment.

Pages