Wyoming Governor Matt Mead is recommending that the legislature not expand Medicaid services to the some 16-thousand low income people in the state who cannot afford health insurance. Mead says he will not support any form of Medicaid Expansion because of problems the federal government has had in implementing the Affordable Care Act.
“Even if it was gonna work it still seems to me that the ACA is more bent on how to pay for medical costs
rather than the questions of how do we lower costs and how do we get more medical care to more people?”
The Governor is recommending two-point-five percent pay raises for University of Wyoming and state employees, for each of the next two years.
Governor Matt Mead is also proposing one-time two percent pay hikes for Community College and K-12 Education employees. The governor made the recommendations in his proposed two year budget for the fiscal year that begins in July. Mead says it’s been several years since state and U-W employees have received a raise.
The Legislature’s Joint Health and Labor Committee took no action on three bills that would address expanding Medicaid Services in the state.
The committee will vote on the legislation in January, although a pilot project that would provide Medicaid expansion on the Wind River Reservation was assigned to another committee that deals with Native American issues.
The Legislature’s Revenue Committee strongly supported a bill Tuesday that would lower interest rates on unpaid mineral taxes.
Currently, if a state audit finds that companies have incorrectly reported their production, counties can levy interest of up to 18 percent on back taxes.
The bill changes that, pegging interest to current rates, with a minimum of 12 percent and a maximum of 18 percent. Interest rates for companies that discover the discrepancy on their own would remain the same – at 18 percent.
A legislative committee killed a bill Tuesday that would have taxed natural gas flaring from oil wells.
When there isn’t pipeline or processing infrastructure available to move the natural gas, companies simply burn it. The draft bill would have required severance tax payments on gas flared more than 180 days after the well starts producing. Representative Michael Madden, one of two supporters of the bill, said the proposal wasn’t a tax increase, but rather the repeal of an exemption.
The Wyoming legislature’s management council voted unanimously today/Tuesday to provide 100-thousand dollars to a special committee investigating State Superintendent Cindy Hill.
Hill is accused of mismanaging federal funds, abusing state resources, and creating a hostile work environment. Hill has denied the allegations.
Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau says they need extra help to complete what he says is a complicated investigation. Normally the Legislative Service Office helps lawmakers with this work, but he says the L-S-O is limited by law in what they can do.
A legislative committee would like to see faster progress on a program to plug abandoned oil and gas wells. That was the message for Oil and Gas Supervisor Grant Black at a meeting of the legislature’s Minerals Committee today.
Committee members criticized Black for not providing a concrete plan for plugging or repurposing the wells. There are currently 1,200 orphaned wells in the state, and that number is expected to double in the next year.
Oil and gas operators need more insurance, or bonding. That’s what the leaders of several state agencies told the legislature’s Minerals Committee at a meeting today. They said there’s a gap in how much money is available and how much is needed to deal with abandoned oil and gas wells. The question is: where will that money come from?
Oil and Gas Commission Supervisor, Grant Black, says the bonding structure can be changed to avoid similar problems in the future.
The Wyoming Department of Health has been given the task of cutting some 24 million dollars from the Developmental Disability waiver program.
The goal would be redistribute that money to try and get services to nearly 600 people who remain on the waiting list. The waiver program provides money to deliver services to people with disabilities.
Those who object to the cuts say that the legislature should put more money into the system. Senator Charles Scott of Casper says that request was denied, but could come up again in the future.
The legislature’s Joint Revenue committee will discuss the possibility of raising the state beer tax Friday/Today.
Beer is currently taxed two cents a gallon, a tax that was established in 1935. Supporters want to raise the tax to pay for underfunded substance abuse programs. Wyoming has the lowest beer taxes in the nation.
Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness says communities have trouble finding money to pay for substance abuse programs, and he says that he’s disappointed that the Legislature has frequently scuttled attempts to raise the tax.
Recently the Wyoming Department of Health submitted a revised plan on how the state could expand Medicaid Services to more people.
It would require some of the new participants to pay into the system, much like they would do if they owned insurance. They’d do this on a sliding fee scale depending on their income. While he is still nervous about the federal government’s financial commitment to the effort, Governor Matt Mead says that the program could provide more health care to more people and also save the state money.
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has chosen Pete Michael to be Wyoming’s new Attorney General.
Michael is viewed as an expert in water law and has worked in the attorney general’s office for seven years. He says there is a lot of legal activity taking place in Wyoming and he’s excited to lead that effort.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved a number of budget cuts that will help the agency deal with a seven million dollar shortfall. A number of citizens expressed concern about the budget reductions fearing that they will negatively affect both wildlife and recreation.
Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott says they dropped education programs, eliminated or froze 21 positions, and addressed two key areas.
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has signed a lottery bill into law.
The Governor’s approval means that Wyoming can either form its own state lottery or enter into a multi-state lottery on July first.
A C-E-O and a nine member board will oversee the lottery. Mead said last week that he was weighing the pros and cons of the lottery, but ultimately decided to sign the bill to keep Wyoming residents from driving to other states to purchase lottery tickets. Mead says he wants to keep those dollars in Wyoming.
The State Legislature passed a bill that would allow hunters to try and thin wild bison herds in northwest Wyoming. But an amendment added in the Senate led to a lot of debate in the House.
The Senate amendment would give $250,000 to the Wyoming Attorney General’s office to defend the second amendment rights of Wyoming citizens “to possess and use any firearm” that is useful in hunting bison. Many saw this as a way to add a gun rights law to a bill that deals with bison hunting.
The Wyoming Legislative session has ended. In his closing comments to lawmakers, Governor Matt Mead acknowledged that lawmakers had a difficult
“I asked in my state of the state for 6 percent budget cuts and you delivered that,” Mead said. “I asked in my state of the state to provide some flexibility in terms of where we go in the future in large projects. You provided that. I asked for in my budget to fund landfills, a Gillette-Madison water project, the School of Engineering. You addressed all of those.”
It came down to the final day, but the Wyoming legislature finally approved a bill that would require students to take vocational or arts classes in order to qualify for the Hathaway Scholarship. The idea was to remove a foreign language requirement in order for students to be able to take other courses.
But Senator Phil Nicholas argued that it was important to allow students who wanted four years of foreign language to be able to have it. Bill Sponsor Sam Krone says it was a good idea.
The Wyoming Senate changed course and voted to follow Governor Matt Mead’s recommendation, confirming two attorneys to become members of the Wyoming Public Service Commission. The Commission regulates utility rates for consumers.
On Tuesday, the Senate opposed the appointments of Kara Brighton and William Russell because they believed that too many attorneys have been appointed to the PSC, and because they lacked qualifications.
But Senate Majority Floor Leader Phil Nicholas asked Senators to reconsider their votes.
The Wyoming House has passed a pair of bills that ag and landowner groups say will level the playing field when it comes to energy development.
Under one bill, entities that are seeking to use eminent domain to condemn private property will have to pay court fees if the court determines that they didn’t offer a fair price for the land. The other bill would raise the damage bond for seismic companies from two-thousand to five-thousand dollars.
Bill Bensel of the Powder River Basin Resource Council says the bills should help protect landowners.
For the first time in many years, the State Senate has failed to confirm two appointments by Governor Matt Mead.
The Senate voted no on Wyoming Public Service Appointees William Russell and Kara Brighton after Senator Cale Case complained that they appear to be unqualified attorneys. He’d like to see economists and others considered.
After rejecting the Senate version of the bill that would allow Wyoming to join a multi-state lottery, a conference committee has reached a compromise that supporters hope will get the bill to the governor.
The House wants all revenue from the lottery to go to local government, but the Senate wants the money to go into a permanent account that’s used for schools.
The compromise says that 6-million dollars goes to local government, while any money above that amount would go into the schools account.
The Wyoming House of Representatives has finished its version of a massive Medicaid reform bill.
The bill will create two tiers in the current Development Disability waiver program. That means that people who need fewer services will not be allocated more funding then they need.
House Labor and Health Committee Chairwoman Elaine Harvey says that change will allow more people to benefit from the program. She says they also have made reforms to long-term care that should better help Wyoming residents.
The Wyoming House continues to support a bill that would strengthen the state’s eminent domain laws.
It would require that all legal requirements for condemning land must be met before a case can be taken to a court. If a company fails, or if a landowner is not given fair market value for his property, the landowner would be able to sue.
Groups supporting the bill say it will limit abuses in eminent domain discussions.
A Wyoming Senate Committee has watered down a bill that was intended to arrest federal officials if they enforced federal gun bans in Wyoming. The House version of the bill would have allowed local law enforcement to arrest federal officials and charge them with a misdemeanor. But several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee worried that the bill was unconstitutional. Jackson Senator Leland Christensen successfully changed the bill to allow the enforcement by federal law enforcement officials, but keeps Wyoming law enforcement from helping.
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.