Maggie Mullen

Reporter

Phone: 307-766-5086
Email: mmullen5@uwyo.edu

Maggie Mullen is a fifth generation Wyomingite, born and raised in Casper. Before coming to Wyoming Public Radio, she was a Master’s student in American Studies at the University of Wyoming, where she also earned a BA in English and French. Maggie enjoys writing, cooking, riding bikes, swimming in rivers and lakes, and her Labrador, Jane. She’s also a fervent believer that no meal is complete without hot sauce.

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An Omnibus Education Bill received initial approval by the Wyoming House of Representatives Friday, but not before a heated tax debate. The House rejected a proposed 2-percent tax increase that was part of the bill and instead approved a half penny tax that kicks in when the rainy day fund falls below $500 million dollars.

Encampment Representative Jerry Paxton supported the larger of the two tax increases and said the state needs to act now to produce more revenue.

Alan Simpson

Since the 2010 Citizens United decision by the United States Supreme Court, an unprecedented amount of money is being spent in elections, sometimes anonymously.

One cross-partisan organization, American Promise, is leading an effort to add a 28th amendment to the Constitution to overturn the decision. Former U.S. Senator Al Simpson sits on the organization’s board. He told Wyoming Public Radio’s

Maggie Mullen most Americans would like to see reasonable limits on election spending.

The Wyoming Legislature

The Senate Education Committee is continuing to work on Senate File 165 that proposes a number of reductions to school funding. The measure is one of several being considered as the legislature looks to make up a $400 million shortfall in K-12 funding.

Among the bill’s proposals, it would freeze special education funding and offer early retirement to teachers within five years of retiring. The committee has heard over five and half hours of public input.

The Wyoming Legislature

A bill to raise the minimum wage in Wyoming failed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. House Bill 140 would have raised Wyoming’s minimum wage to the federal level of $7.25 an hour.

Wyoming has the lowest minimum wage in the country at $5.15 an hour. When Cheyenne Representative Jim Byrd first introduced the bill in the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, he proposed raising minimum wage to $9.50 an hour.

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A bill to raise Wyoming’s cigarette tax failed in the House of Representatives today, but will be voted on again Wednesday, after Pinedale Representative Sommers asked for a reconsideration. 

House Bill 151 would raise the tax from 60 cents a pack to 90 cents. Opponents of the bill say the increased taxes would hurt small business across the state, and would not deter smokers from buying cigarettes. 

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Marijuana reform was a popular topic at the Wyoming Legislature on Tuesday with the House Judiciary Committee voting to support House Bill 197 to create a tiered penalty system.   

The bill would mean stiffer punishment for second, third and fourth possession convictions within ten years of the first, and would apply to possessions of less than three ounces. 

University of Wyoming

In a statement, University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols affirmed the university’s support of its international students and employees. Her comments came after President Donald Trump signed an executive order to temporarily bar citizens and refugees from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

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A bill to increase taxes on cigarettes in Wyoming was supported by the House Revenue Committee today. House Bill 151 would increase the tax from 60 cents a pack to 90 cents.

Jason Mincer is with the Cancer Action Network of the American Cancer Society. He says they hope the tax will convince people to quit smoking.

"By putting a substantial price increase in front of a customer, they make a conscious decision on whether they want to continue to smoke or not," said Mincer.

Wyoming Legislature

A Wyoming Senate Committee moved a bill forward to support Governor Matt Mead’s efforts to diversify the state’s economy. The Senate Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee passed the bill to form the ENDOW Executive Council, or the Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming Council.

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A bill to incentivize movie production companies to film in Wyoming passed the Wyoming Senate today. 

Senate File 24 will give the Wyoming Tourism Board more flexibility when it comes to reimbursing certain costs of film making to production companies, and investments in those production companies.

Douglas Senator Brian Boner said movie production itself won't bring revenue directly into the state, but it could attract tourism.

Wyoming Legislature

A Wyoming Senate committee voted down a bill today that would have prevented Wyoming school districts from using education funds to sue the state over budget cuts. The Senate Education Committee voted three to two against Senate File 135.

Sheridan Senator Bruce Burns sponsored the bill and said it would not keep districts from suing the state, but would keep state funds from financing such litigation.

Laramie Senator Chris Rothfuss voted against the bill. He said sometimes courts need to resolve differences between entities.

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The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would change the placement of liability from ski area operators to skiers and recreationalists.

All ten of the state’s ski operators are in support of the bill, as well as the Wyoming Business Alliance. In a press release, the Alliance said the bill would be especially beneficial to smaller operators who might suffer from lawsuits.

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Wyoming’s House Judiciary Committee moved a bill forward to remove gun free zones on college and university campuses across the state, voting six to three in favor of the measure.

Supporters of the bill said it would help gun owners better protect themselves and others, specifically in the case of an active shooter.

University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols has come out against the bill, as well as Laramie County Community College’s President Joe Schaffer. He said he would prefer a more comprehensive solution to campus safety.

Wyoming Women March

Jan 23, 2017
Maggie Mullen

Cities and towns all over the world and communities across Wyoming hosted women’s marches on Saturday in response to President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

In Cheyenne, 1,200 people from the city and surrounding areas marched on Capitol Avenue. There was enough of an interest in the Laramie community that the non-profit, Forward Wyoming, rented a chartered bus to transport marchers to Cheyenne.

At the capitol, a huge crowd gathered with large banners and glittery uterus signs. Katie Christensen brought her four-month-old daughter.

Stephanie Joyce

 

The House Revenue Committee killed a bill Friday that would have lowered the coal industry’s severance tax from seven to six percent.

The Coal industry has struggled over the last couple of years and Gillette Representative Tim Hallinan said he hoped that the decrease would spur industry and prevent further bankruptcies, but he said it’s unknown whether or not it would create jobs. For Laramie Representative Dan Furphy that was a deal breaker.

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The Wyoming Legislature’s House Education Committee moved a bill forward to end the foreign language requirement for kindergarten through second grade students.

The requirement is currently an unfunded mandate. Evanston Representative Garry Piiparinen said the best approach to foreign language is a dual-immersion system where students are exposed consistently, and that the current requirement forces teachers to give up time they could use more productively. 

Visit Pinedale

 

In 2015, the town of Pinedale turned off its sodium silicate water treatment--a type of corrosion control that helps prevent lead contamination from old plumbing. The next year, dangerous levels of lead were found in one residence and at the town’s high school. The treatment has been turned back on, but residents want to know why it was shut off in the first place. 

Department of Education

During his State of the State address Wednesday, Governor Matt Mead asked the Wyoming legislature to broaden the public discussion for the education budget.

Public school funding is estimated to fall around $400 million dollars short. Governor Mead said the legislature needs to act quickly to try to solve the shortfall, while also slowing down so that the public can better participate in decision making.

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An earlier version of this story implied hunting regulations for coyotes are determined by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. This version has been changed to reflect the fact that coyotes are classified as a predatory animal by state law. Therefore, they are managed by the Department of Agriculture. 

The Bureau of Land Management said they will not shut down two upcoming coyote hunting contests in the Rock Springs area. Various conservation groups had asked the agency to halt the hunts, calling them inhumane and dangerous.

Adapt Pharma

Deputies with the Albany County Sheriff’s office and University of Wyoming police department officers have been trained to use Narcan, a nasal spray that can reverse the effects of opioid overdoses, in hopes of preventing drug-related deaths.

Opioid overdoses have been on the rise nationally, and Albany County Sheriff Dave O’Malley said the Laramie area has experienced several such deaths in the last couple of years.

It’s impossible for someone using substances to know when they might overdose, said O’Malley, partly because it’s not easy to know the strength of narcotics.

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Ski resorts in Wyoming’s western mountains are seeing historic snow depths because of heavy snowfall that first began in early December.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort spokeswoman Anna Cole said the resort is now 100 percent open after a delayed season because there wasn’t enough snow early on. But Cole said the resort has made up for that delay.

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An updated mitigation policy from the Bureau of Land Management will address inconsistent rules that once created problems for companies trying to operate in western states. Mitigation rules, or how companies are required to lessen or offset negative environmental effects they might cause on public land, will now be the same for all public land.

Eric Holst is the Associate Vice President at the Environmental Defense Fund. He said public land should be able to support both wildlife and energy development, and the new policy addresses the need to create such a balance.

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The United States Department of Agriculture will invest $225 million dollars in conservation projects across the country, including two in northeastern Wyoming that will continue efforts in forest health and enhancing sage-grouse environments.

Maggie Mullen

Last year, the Arizona Final Salute Foundation asked University of Wyoming student Cassidy Newkirk to paint the sinking of the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Prints of the painting would help raise money to fly the six remaining survivors of the Arizona to Hawaii to be honored at the 75th anniversary ceremony. But as soon as she began the work, Newkirk said strange things started happening.

When Newkirk was commissioned she said she was given certain guidelines. 

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One of President-elect Donald Trump’s biggest campaign promises was to enact stricter immigration policies. That has caused concern for the Jackson community, a town with a large immigrant population. Immigration laws are outside of the jurisdiction of local law enforcement, but Mayor-elect Pete Muldoon said the town could pass a resolution or ordinance to limit its cooperation with federal authorities.

Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia Commons

The Environmental Protection Agency has reversed a previous finding that fracking did not cause “widespread, systemic” harm to drinking water in the United States. In its final report on the issue, the EPA said under certain circumstances hydraulic fracturing poses a risk to drinking water resources.

But because of what the agency calls “data gaps,” it was unable to make a definitive statement on just how risky fracking is.

Maggie Mullen

It was standing room only at the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s public meeting Thursday, where the agency discussed the state’s final Pavillion groundwater contamination report.

During the meeting, the DEQ reiterated that it found fracking did not cause water contamination in Pavillion. But because the state has not ruled out the possibility that other parts of the oil and gas development process were responsible, the agency said it will take additional samples from fourteen different wells.

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