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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

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 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.

The Wyoming House of Representatives has passed a bill that would provide protection orders for victims of sexual assault. Wyoming currently has no such provision.

The protection order would keep the person accused of the sexual assault from having any contact with the victim. Supporters of the bill wanted the protection order to last for a year, but Worland Representative Michael Greear successfully amended the bill which reduced the protection order to three months. He argued that it unfairly impacted someone who’s not yet been found guilty. 

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Media

Business leaders, health care providers, and members of the Wind River Reservation all urged a legislative committee to approve some form of Medicaid Expansion during a hearing today (Monday).  

The Senate Labor, Health, and Social Services Committee is considering a bill that would provide health care services to some 18-thousand people who currently cannot afford health insurance. If Wyoming’s plan is approved by the federal government, 100-percent of it would initially be paid for with federal money. 

Senator Mike Enzi (R)

Sen. Enzi Gets A Gavel - The First Accountant Ever To Chair The Budget Committee

Republicans now are the majority in both chambers in the U.S. Congress, which means they control all the gavels on Capitol Hill. Wyoming's senior senator, Mike Enzi, gets to wield one of those gavels in the all-important Budget Committee.

Bob Beck

The Wyoming legislative session is underway and it features 3 new Senators in Cheyenne and 14 newly elected Representatives. It’s a big stage for the newly minted lawmakers and 31-year-old Tyler Lindholm is excited. He is a tall, thin, and confident 1st year Representative from Sundance. Lindholm served in the Navyhas, chaired the Crook County Republican Party and is ready to jump into the legislature with both feet. But legislative protocols and the abundance of legislation can be a challenge for newcomers.

amazon.com

Lynne Cheney and her husband, former Vice President Dick Cheney, will be in Laramie on February 17th discussing her new book called James Madison:  A Life Reconsidered. The Cheney's will discuss the book at the Marian Rochelle Gateway Center at the University of Wyoming. The discussion begins at 4 p.m.

Scott Clem

A bill that would allow State Parks to use a portion of permit sales for general operations and maintenance is being debated by the Wyoming House of Representatives. The bill limits the amount that can be spent on these projects to 25% from the budget where permit fees are collected. Gillette Republican Scott Clem says the Division of State Parks and Cultural Resources needs budget flexibility.

State of Wyoming Legislature

The Wyoming House of Representatives gave initial approval to two bills that would remove limits on campaign spending. One removes an aggregate limit on individual spending. That bill is required following the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The other removes financial limits that Wyoming currently imposes on Political Action Committees. 

As they await an updated report on Wyoming’s revenue forecast, Republican legislative leaders are becoming more concerned about a downturn in energy prices. During a news conference following the governor’s state of the state message, Senate President Phil Nicholas says it’s time for the state to prepare for a long term reduction in mineral money. Oil and other commodity prices have fallen and Nicholas doubts those prices will rebound anytime soon.

In his State of the State message Governor Matt Mead asked for support of his energy and water initiatives and for investment in education, infrastructure, and local government. Mead said this will help overcome a downturn in energy prices.

But the governor admitted that challenges remain. He told legislators that his administration will fight against what he calls federal overreach, especially as it pertains to coal. 

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead is calling on legislators to pass a bill that expands Medicaid services in the state. During his State of the State message Mead argued that failing to offer Medicaid to more people will hurt hospitals across Wyoming because it increases their uncompensated care.  

A legislative committee recently rejected an expansion plan developed by the State Department of Health, but Mead said that doesn’t matter.

The Wyoming legislative session kicked off yesterday and this morning Governor Matt Mead will give the annual state of the state address. Wyoming Public Radio News Director Bob Beck is attending his 31st legislative session and joined Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard for a preview of the action.

The President of the Wyoming Senate said that falling energy prices are a concern, but he says the state must still be able to grow. 

During his opening speech to the Wyoming Senate, Phil Nicholas urged Senators to look ten years out and determine where Wyoming should be.  He said that the state will likely see little revenue growth in the near future, but he says that shouldn’t stop Wyoming’s development plans.               

Wyoming Legislature

Wyoming Republican Legislative Leaders say they plan to begin an extensive review of all state revenues and spending. During his opening day speech to the Wyoming House of Representatives, Speaker of the House Kermit Brown says he and Senate President Phil Nicholas will embark on a rigorous look into Wyoming’s budget picture called Vision 2020.

legisweb.state.wy.us

Wyoming’s leading Democrats expect a lot of discussion concerning falling oil prices in the upcoming legislative session.  Those price drops negatively impact Wyoming’s revenue picture.

House Minority Leader Mary Throne says that while prices are down, the state does have a robust savings account.  She says over the past several years lawmakers have overreacted to revenue swings.

Key Issues Await The Wyoming Legislature

For the next two months the State’s 90 legislators will gather in Cheyenne to consider a wide range of bills. Some ideas will be dead on arrival while others should generate considerable debate.

Bob Beck

For the next two months the State’s 90 legislators will gather in Cheyenne to consider a wide range of bills. Some ideas will be dead on arrival while others should generate considerable debate. One bill that will begin in the Senate would provide Medicaid health insurance to those who cannot afford health insurance and who do not qualify for subsidies under the affordable care act.

Senator Chris Rothfuss who is the Minority Leader in the Wyoming Senate and House Minority Leader Mary Throne say that legislative savings and Medicaid expansion will be among the top discussion items during the upcoming legislative session.

Mike Smith / Wyoming News dot com

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead said that state leaders should look to the future in an effort to improve the state. In his inaugural address, Mead said he is excited about a number of things as he heads into his second term.

County10.com

Three historic buildings and eight businesses were destroyed in an overnight fire in Dubois. Town Clerk Sandy Hurst says the fire started at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday night and was under control around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. 

Firefighters from Dubois and the surrounding area had to battle temperatures around 25 below zero. Hurst says federal officials will help determine what caused the fire.

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.

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