2018 Legislative Session

Bob Beck


The Wyoming Legislature spent roughly $40 million on a variety of economic development initiatives aimed at creating jobs and diversifying the economy. Some left the session very excited about what they did while others were anxious.

Jack, his mom Sarah Chatfield and his teacher Tia Reed pose with the cookies he's brought for the teachers at his IEP meeting. A team works with Jack and his family to create an individualized learning plan to accommodate his low vision.
Tennessee Watson

In an effort to curb the rising costs of K-12 education, the state legislature voted to cap spending on special education during the 2018 Budget Session. Lawmakers also directed the Wyoming Department of Education to come up with efficiencies. While educators agree there’s room for improvements, they say Wyoming’s rural nature complicates things.

Battle Creek is a tributary of the Yampa River, which flows into the Colorado River.
By Dicklyon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

At the end of the 2018 Legislative Session, the Wyoming House and Senate resolved two water project bills, ultimately agreeing to fund the West Fork Reservoir. The original legislation would have allocated $40 million, but the House eliminated the project completely. The Senate later resurrected it with $10 million in funding, and eventually, lawmakers reached a compromise of $4.7 million. 

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has now signed into law several bills dealing with domestic violence and sexual assault. Advocates at the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence And Sexual Assault are mostly pleased with lawmakers’ efforts.

The Wyoming Legislature wrapped up its work after waiting a few days to finish some outstanding issues. Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck discussed the session's end with Morning Edition host Caroline Ballard.

SF 74, image below Gov. Mead's veto letter
Legislative Service Office

Governor Matt Mead has vetoed a bill aimed to make new criminal classifications for those damaging or slowing down critical infrastructure like oil and gas facilities or pipelines. In a public letter, he said it was imprecisely crafted with some crimes already covered under other statutes. 

Wyoming Legislature Senator Eli Bebout
Bob Beck

The Wyoming Legislature still has work to do. Despite working for 20 days the House and Senate will reconvene later this week to hopefully reach a compromise on one bill that funds building projects and another that trims school funding. 

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

A bill that would allow educators and students to be trained about child sexual abuse squeaked through the Wyoming Legislature Saturday.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Leland Christensen
Wyoming Legislature

A bill that would allow the prosecution of those who damage critical infrastructure or try to prevent its use, is on its way to the governor. Saturday, the Senate voted to accept House changes to the bill that clarified that protesting is okay as long as access to the infrastructure is not blocked.

Combination of several notices, regulations, and proposed policies
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Sierra Club’s Wyoming Chapter

This week, both the state and federal government took steps that will change how coal companies deal with pollution and reclamation.

People listen to late night proceedings in the Wyoming House of Representatives
Bob Beck

While budget cutting and education may have been in the headlines, the Wyoming legislature did pass a number of economic development measures this legislative session. Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck speaks with Jerimiah Rieman who is the Governor's Director of Economic Diversification Strategy and Initiatives.  

State school administrators oppose funding cuts during a 2018 legislative hearing.
Bob Beck

Education was a main topic of discussion during most of the legislative session. As the legislature comes to a close, K-12 education took a $30 million cut and a couple of constitutional amendments that could have done further damage failed. Senate Education Chairman Hank Coe and Senate Minority Leader Chris Rothfuss join Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck to size up what happened.

Wyoming Legislature logo
Wyoming Legislature

The Wyoming Legislative session is coming to an end and Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck joined Morning Edition host Caroline Ballard to discuss the lawmakers' progress.

Colorado River Water Users Association

The House last week removed the West Fork Reservoir from a bill that includes a number of water projects proposed around the state. On Wednesday, the Senate returned $10 million in funding for the dam near Baggs. Originally, state water developers asked for $40 million for the project, and estimated that it would cost twice that. 

http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2018/billreference/BillReference.aspx?type=ALL

Despite strong concern over the appropriateness of spending state money to partner with an airline, the Wyoming House of Representatives approved a bill that is intended to stabilize air service in the state. The plan is to set aside $15 million to partner with an air carrier for 10 years. Supporters say it should reduce current costs that the state pays airlines and should improve air service, which they say is critical for economic development. 

http://legisweb.state.wy.us/LegislatorSummary/LegDetail.aspx?LegID=1241

After a late night debate, the Wyoming House of Representatives gave initial support for a controversial bill that intends to punish people who damage or tamper with infrastructure such as pipelines or oil and gas facilities. The House amended the measure to narrow what would be declared a felony and reduced the fine for someone convicted, down from $1 million to $100,000.

WyoTecg logo
WyoTech

The future of WyoTech, the automotive school in Laramie, has been in limbo for five months, following the Zenith Education Group’s announcement it would be downsizing. But lawmakers have earmarked $5 million in the budget bill to help WyoTech stay open under new management.

 

Wyoming State Legislature

As the budget session comes to a close, there’s still no conclusion on how to fund education. The House wants to use sales tax from online purchases and other new sources of revenue, while the Senate prefers to dip into reserve funding and reduce spending on education.

 

Wyoming Legislature

The Senate Education Committee stripped out innovative school funding amendments out of a bill after committee members declared the ideas move not germane to the original bill. They also amended the bill so that it resembled a measure that died in a house committee earlier this year.   

Speaker of the House Steve Harshman and House Education Chairman David Northrup were frustrated with the move. They disagreed that the funding proposals didn’t belong in the bill. Northrup says new revenue for education is needed.

Bob Beck

The issue of making edible marijuana a felony is still alive...for now. The House Judiciary Committee voted to advance a heavily amended bill that is much different than the Senate version. 

The problem is that some judges won’t sentence someone for a felony of procession of edible marijuana. John Knepper of the Wyoming Attorney General’s office says they are starting to see serious problems with edible marijuana in the state.

LSO

The Wyoming House of Representatives gave initial support to a pair of bills focused on improving Wyoming’s economy. 

The bills would help bring high-speed broadband to more areas of the state and start to find ways to improve air service in Wyoming. Some House members were skeptical about the need to eventually spend $15 million on air service, but House Majority Leader David Miller told a few horror stories about getting major business leaders to Riverton. 

Miller said service gets canceled and flights are delayed on a consistent basis.

Stephanie Joyce

A Wyoming House Committee killed and then said it would resurrect a controversial bill aimed at delaying the construction or operation of an infrastructure facility, like that at Standing Rock in North Dakota. 

The bill provides for prison time and a million dollar fine for someone interfering with something like a pipeline or a power plant. 

Senate President Eli Bebout discusses SF-98 with the House Revenue Committee
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

A bill seeking to incentivize more oil and gas production has died in the House Revenue Committee with a 6 to 3 vote. Senate File 98 would have cut the severance tax rate for oil and gas in half after the second year of production until the end of the fourth.

WCADVSA

A bill strengthening how stalking offenders are prosecuted and sentenced is moving through the Wyoming legislature.

 

But Tara Muir, Public Policy Director with the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said the bill has met debate every step of the way. She said lawmakers have been caught up on whether a prosecutor has to prove a victim suffered a substantial amount of fear. Muir added most states are moving towards an objective test that focuses on the behavior of the perpetrator.

 

Tennessee Watson

A senate bill proposing over $40 million in cuts to education over the next several years died in the House Education Committee Friday.

 

Committee members raised concerns about proposed increases in class sizes, as well as, a change to how the state adjusts funding when districts have declining enrollment. Currently, if districts lose students, their funding decreases based on a three-year rolling average. The proposed legislation wanted decreases to take effect within one year.

 

istockphoto.com

Representatives from the University of Wyoming and the state’s community colleges testified before the Senate Education Committee Friday asking lawmakers to approve a bill that would create a common transcript.

 

Currently, UW and the community colleges use separate systems for awarding course credits. Casper Senator Bill Landen said that means students end up losing credits and having to retake classes. He said his own daughter brought this issue to his attention.

 

Guns in Walmart
Bob Beck

This year the Wyoming Legislature is dealing with a couple of pro-gun bills. So what else is new? It seems like lawmakers are discussing gun bills all the time, but supporters of the legislation say that’s because there are still self-defense and safety issues that need to be resolved.  

Airplane
CREDIT "ALLEGIANT AIR" BY EDDIE MALONEY FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS IS LICENSED UNDER CC BY 2.0

As a small rural state, Wyoming isn’t a huge player in commercial air service but many want to change that. Currently, a bill working its way through the legislature proposes a new subsidy program that could create more reliable air service.  

Cade Maestas is a co-founder of an outdoor equipment company in Lander. Not the most convenient location for an international company since Lander isn’t close to any interstate and the closest airport, Riverton Regional Airport, hasn’t always been reliable. 

Senate President Eli Bebout Speaks To Full Senate
Cooper McKim

It’s the third of four weeks in the 2018 budget session. With the current revenue crunch, many bills have revolved around spurring new revenue, finding new sources, or cutting back on spending. And for energy, it’s no different. The surviving bills also come down to money. Thirteen bills arose related to energy, with only three still moving through the system. There are others that relate, but are not directly tied to energy.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/lupuca/8720604364

If the Wyoming Department of Education has its way, kids across the state will be guaranteed access to computer science education. Bills have passed in both the House and Senate, which would require districts to offer computer science courses.

 

But those bills differ slightly. Dicky Shanor, Chief of Staff for the Wyoming Department of Education, said the Senate’s version of the bill is stronger because it treats computer science has a stand-alone knowledge area, where as the House places it under career and technical education.

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