2017 Legislative Session

Earlier this month, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead signed a bill that requires doctors to offer ultrasounds to patients seeking abortions, but that law may only apply to one provider in the state.

Dr. Brent Blue of Jackson said he is Wyoming’s only doctor who publicly admits to providing abortions. But he has heard of other doctors in the region who have provided their regular patients with abortions that used medications to end a pregnancy, instead of surgical procedures.

Melodie Edwards

The Wyoming legislature passed two bills this session to expand the Food Freedom Act. The act was first passed in 2015 to allow local food producers to more easily sell otherwise home grown foods, like raw milk and poultry, directly to consumers.

The act is a unique piece of legislation in the U.S., and Sundance Representative Tyler Lindholm said many states have started to model bills after it.

Wyoming Legislature

March 8 is International Women’s Day. All over the country women skipped work and participated in marches and rallies to spotlight women’s economic contributions as a part of an action called "A Day Without a Woman."

Office of Governor Matt Mead

Now that the Wyoming Legislature has passed House Bill 236, school districts are standing by to see if Governor Matt Mead will sign onto the $34 million in cuts to education funding for the upcoming school year. The House and Senate reached a compromise on the bill Friday in the final hours of the 2017 Legislative Session.

If Mead signs it, the hard work of figuring out what and who to cut will begin immediately for district school boards, administrators and business managers.

  

The Wyoming legislative session wrapped up on March 3, and Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck joins Caroline Ballard to discuss this year’s work. 

Wyoming Game and Fish Department

 

This week the legislature gave final approval to a bill that will take general fund money away from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and require them to make up the difference through fee increases.

It’s just one of a few issues Director Scott Talbott is finding challenging these days. He sat down with me to explain that it’s critical that the fees do not lead to a net loss. 

Tennessee Watson

Across the United States, mobile and manufactured home owners are without the same access to the American Dream as their neighbors with site-built homes. That’s because mobile homes are often classified as personal property, like a car or a boat. And converting them to real property — like a house — can be complicated. But in Wyoming, one feisty homeowner decided to take action.  

Bob Beck

Early in the Wyoming legislative session, we heard from some new lawmakers about what they were expecting. With the legislature ending its 40-day session, the freshmen say they found that they have a healthy respect for the process, but leave with some disappointments.

Sara Burlingame and Mike Lehman

 

Last year, after intense debate, the city of Cheyenne adopted an anti-discrimination resolution to protect members of the LGBT community and in this legislative session, lawmakers have tried and failed to pass state laws on both sides of the issue.

In the midst of all that, though, an unlikely friendship sprouted up.

Melodie Edwards

The State Legislature, Thursday, was still in the process of passing a bill intended to better help social studies teachers in Wyoming include the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone in their curriculum.

The bill passed the Senate, but with amended language that caused concern for Lander Representative Jim Allen who sponsored the bill.

Sheridan Senator Bruce Burns, whose district neighbors the Crow and Cheyenne reservations, pushed the Senate to strike Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone, and replace it with “tribes of the region.” 

Bob Beck

No conclusive action was taken Thursday on House Bill 236 – the last standing piece of legislation, which addresses the $400 million education budget deficit.

Legislators and lobbyists expected the bill to come up for a concurrence vote on Thursday, but Speaker of the House Steve Harshman said he delayed action on the bill because he wanted one more day to work on it.  

“I’m going to actually sleep on it, and I’m gonna' keep working tonight on it,” said Harshman. “We’re still working. Working like dogs.” He added a few barks as he walked off down the hall.

Wikimedia Commons

The Wyoming Senate gave final approval to a pair of bills that will allow guns in public places. 

One will allow school boards to designate certain individuals to carry concealed weapons in schools. The idea is to help protect rural school districts in the state. Senators did approve one amendment that was worded in such a way that some worried that it was allowing those with concealed carry permits onto school grounds. 

Cheyenne Senator Tara Nethercott said it does nothing of the sort.

Tennessee Watson

The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill to increase circuit court judge salaries Monday. 

Circuit court judges are currently paid an annual salary of $119,000 and the bill proposes an increase to $132,000.

There was concern expressed that now was not a great time to increase judges’ salaries, considering the widespread budget cuts affecting state employees and public education.

GOVERNOR.GOV.WYO

The Wyoming House voted for a final time to establish the ENDOW initiative, or the Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming. The initiative was introduced by Governor Matt Mead last November to diversify the state’s economy and now his office is seeking public input. 

University of Wyoming

  

A bill to allow individuals with concealed carry permits to carry guns on the University of Wyoming’s campus and community colleges was defeated this week by the State Senate. Those in support of the legislation say it would have made campuses safer, while those opposed to it worried about potential dangers.

Wyoming Department of Education

February 23rd is Digital Learning Day. It’s appropriate then that on Thursday, the House took up Senate File 35 on virtual education. The bill, which updates guidelines for student enrollment in online classes, passed Committee of the Whole in the House, but not without being amended. An appropriation for $250,000 to establish a centralized statewide management system was removed.

State of Wyoming Legislature

On Thursday, the Wyoming House of Representatives Committee passed the first reading of a bill that would establish a council charged with studying and implementing a plan to diversify Wyoming’s economy. The bill would create the ENDOW Council (or Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming Council).

Lander Representative Jim Allen proposed an amendment adding a tribal member to the council, which he said fits with the stated mission of the council.

University of Wyoming

The Wyoming Senate has defeated a bill that would have allowed those with concealed carry permits to carry guns on the University of Wyoming Campus and at Community Colleges. 

The Senate defeated the measure 17 to 13 after sponsor Anthony Bouchard of Cheyenne urged lawmakers to restore gun rights. University officials and some of the colleges begged to leave this issue up to campus trustees, but Bouchard says local control isn’t working. 

"The campuses have had the right or the ability to allow carry, but they even admitted in committee that they don’t want to do it.”

Wyoming LSO

The Wyoming Senate has given initial approval to a pair of gun bills and defeated another. 

The Senate voted down allowing concealed guns on the University of Wyoming and community college campuses, but supported allowing guns at government meetings and voted to allow K-12 school boards to decide if some personnel should be allowed to have concealed weapons in schools. 

Wikipedia

The Wyoming House Of Representatives gave initial support to a bill Wednesday that limits when the public can view footage recorded by police body cameras. The House also amended Senate File 32, to remove dashboard cameras from the bill. A person or the media could view the recordings if they were able to convince a judge there was compelling public interest in releasing the video. 

Supporters of the bill say its intent is to provide clarity to law enforcement and the general public and give parameters and guidance on the handling of policy body footage. 

pixabay.com

A bill to study wage and benefit disparities between men and women in Wyoming unanimously passed the Senate’s Labor, Health, and Social Services Committee on Wednesday.

In April 2016, The National Women’s Law Center released a study that ranked Wyoming as having the third largest lifetime wage gap in the country. The study said because of that gap, an average Wyoming woman makes about $651,000 less than a man over the course of a 40 year career. 

The Senate’s Judiciary Committee passed a bill on Wednesday to create a tiered penalty system for products containing THC, or edibles. House Bill 137 originally dealt with the plant form of marijuana, but the committee amended the bill to define marijuana product as a substance meant to be consumed in ways other than smoking. 

 

Zach Dischner

After a lengthy debate, the Wyoming Senate gave final approval to what’s known as the Ski Safety Act. The bill is intended to protect ski areas from litigation in case of injury or death.

Supporters say frivolous lawsuits drive up insurance costs for smaller ski areas. Cheyenne Senator Tara Nethercott added an amendment to make sure there was proper signage to protect skiers. She said those using the slopes are looking for a safe experience.

Wyoming Education Association

The Wyoming Senate Education Committee voted to remove a tax measure from a comprehensive education bill and added some more cuts.

The bill is the House solution to a projected $400 million shortfall in education funding. It originally imposed a half percent sales tax after the legislature’s reserve account dropped below $500 million.

FLICKR

Wyoming is among the states with the highest proportion of people living in mobile homes, but they don’t have the same rights as other homeowners.

House Bill 56, which is now before the Senate, will fix an oversight in how mobile homes are titled.

P. SOLOMON BANDA, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Last week, legislators cut the salaries of two tribal liaison positions in half, from $160,000 to $80,000. Northern Arapaho liaison Sergio Maldonado has since resigned.

Only two years ago, lawmakers agreed to let the state take over the program, allowing the governor to appoint liaisons to represent the state’s two tribes instead of requiring the tribes to do so. Maldonado said he recognizes that the decision was financial and not personal, but he said the reduced salary will mean part-time pay for full-time work.

pixabay.com

People packed the Senate Education Committee meeting Wednesday to discuss House Bill 236 that will attempt to address the state’s education funding shortfall. The bill differs from the Senate approach to the problem in that it proposes some funding reductions, but holds off deep and immediate cuts to education by using legislative savings.

Should those savings dip to $500 million, a half percent sales and use tax would go into affect to generate more revenue. Representatives of the energy industry say that tax would hurt their industries.

Wikimedia Commons

Two bills that would remove gun free zones in public places were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. The first bill, House Bill 136, would  allow those with concealed carry permits to legally carry guns on the University of Wyoming and Community College campuses, including sporting events.

Supporters of the bill said that allowing people to carry guns will make the campuses safer. Many argued that it would especially provide protection for women.

Pexels

The Wyoming Senate passed a bill Wednesday to require internet retailers like Amazon to collect sales tax on sales to Wyoming residents. 

Only three Senators opposed the bill. Lander Senator Cale Case said he thinks the smooth passage of the bill has to do with creating a more level playing field between local and online retailers.

Wyoming Public Media

The Wyoming Senate passed a bill Wednesday to give local school districts the responsibility to decide how public school teachers evaluated. The power currently lies with the state.

House bill 37 was revived after a reconsideration vote during its second reading. And it passed its third reading with 3 dissenting votes. School districts and teachers across the state have widely supported the bill.

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