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.
A Medicaid fraud recovery bill has gotten initial approval from the House of Representatives. The bill would permit the state to investigate Medicaid fraud by medical providers and recipients without involving the federal government… Currently investigations only go forward when the federal government decides to investigate.
Representative Elaine Harvey says the bill is necessary to recover millions of dollars for the state.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a pair of gun rights bills with some key changes.
The Committee reworked a bill that had been intended to threaten federal law enforcement officials with arrest if they tried to enforce federal gun bans in Wyoming. The committee amended the bill to say that federal officials could carry out their duties, but that local law enforcement could not assist. Still, the Wyoming Attorney General was given authority to protect citizen gun rights.
Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis told the state legislature that federal budget cuts of $1.6 trillion are coming.
“I am pleased to say that for the first time since I’ve been in Congress, truly significant cuts are coming. The sequester will take effect on March 1st, it will cut roughly 10 percent across the board on all discretionary spending.”
A bill that would give Wyoming employers a ten-percent discount on their workers’ compensation payments in exchange for implementing workplace safety initiatives has received initial approval from the State Senate.
Employers would have to sign up for OSHA’s health and safety consultation program.
Senator Eli Bebout of Riverton says the program should be a big help for smaller employers.
The State Senate had a lengthy discussion over a bill that will study future options for the Lander-based Wyoming Life Resource Center. The facility is used for adults with disabilities and some believe it should be shut down and clients should be sent to other facilities.
But Senator Cale Case of Lander says the facility is important for people who need specialized care.
While the House version of the bill was to study how clients would be moved out of the facility, Case says the Senate version will look at ways to upgrade the facility and improve services.
The University of Wyoming’s Faculty Senate has released a resolution against a pair of pro-gun bills.
One would allow concealed carry permit holders to carry concealed firearms in schools and at public sporting events. The other bill would prohibit U-W and other local entities from regulating firearms. The bills have passed the state House, and will be considered in Senate Committees.
The Wyoming House soundly defeated a bill that would have raised many hunting license fees.
The Wyoming Department of Game and Fish said that the increases were needed to pay for budget shortfalls. Laramie Democrat Cathy Connolly said the Game and Fish Department has been asked to take over management of a number of non-game and endangered species and that has driven up costs.
But Jackson Republican Keith Gingery said that in 2005 the Department promised to study the issue and see if there was a solution. Gingery said that never happened.
The State Senate has defeated a bill that would take money from the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund to maintain and construct roads.
It would divert over 57 million dollars in fiscal year 2014 that would have flowed into the PMTF. When combined with a ten cent increase in the gas tax, it would raise nearly 72-million dollars. Senator Stan Cooper says it would help the state catch up with its road maintenance needs and provide more substantial funding.
Despite concerns that a lottery would be a regressive tax, the State House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow Wyoming to join a multi-state Powerball Lottery.
It establishes a quasi-corporation that would be tasked with making the lottery profitable. Several lawmakers near border states say that Wyoming is losing money as residents cross state lines to buy lottery tickets.
The Wyoming House of Representatives has given initial approval to a bill that would allow the University of Wyoming and community colleges in the state to keep presidential searches secret.
Media groups have sued to require UW to make its presidential finalists public as UW tries to find a replacement for the retiring President Tom Buchanan.
Supporters including Cheyenne Democrat Jim Byrd say that it gives the University the best chance to get a quality president because competitive candidates would not be compromising their current positions.
Some Wyoming legislators are working to thwart anticipated federal efforts to ban semi-automatic weapons or limit the size of gun magazines with the state’s boundaries. They also support allowing concealed firearms in government buildings and schools.
The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill that prevents such laws, and also says that anyone trying to enforce a federal gun ban in Wyoming could face felony charges.
Wyoming Gun Owners Association Director Anthony Bouchard told the committee that the time is right for such legislation.
A bill creating a Wyoming lottery has passed in the House Corporations, Elections, and Political Subdivisions committee. Supporters of the bill said that the lottery would bring money to the state for to-be-determined purposes.
Opponents testified that a small state like Wyoming would not make much of a profit. Wyoming Association of Churches representative Chesie Lee said that’s not including other societal costs.
“That’s not looking at all the negative costs to individual who do have addictions (sic) problems and the destruction of families,” Lee says.
After nearly two hours of debate, the Senate gave initial approval to a bill that would require companies doing seismic exploration for minerals to post bonds or negotiate a contract with the surface owners.
Supporters of the bill say that seismic operators sometimes trespass onto private property, and current bond requirements are too low to encourage good-faith negotiations between surface owners and companies wanting to explore.
Governor Matt Mead has signed into law a bill that strips powers from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. In turn Superintendent Cindy Hill has filed suit, claiming that the new law is unconstitutional.
Mead also announced that Community College Director Jim Rose will serve as the interim Director of Education.
Mead said he did a lot of soul-searching before agreeing to sign the bill.
“I don’t think anybody would view this as a celebration, I think we would view it as a duty we must go forward on for the kids in Wyoming,” Mead says.
A Wyoming legislative committee has approved a bill that would allow civil unions between same sex couples in the state on a 7 to 2 vote. The Committee voted down a bill that would have legalized gay marriage on a 5 to 4 vote.
The Civil Unions bill passed despite some strong opposition. Cheyenne Representative Lynn Hutchings urged the committee not to consider either bill a matter of civil rights. She testified that as an African American she is offended by such comparisons.
Katie’s Law, a bill that would have allowed the state to collect DNA of people arrested for certain felonies will not move forward in the Wyoming House.
A committee voted 5-3 to kill the bill, which is named after a 22-year-old New Mexico resident whose killer was identified based on DNA matching. Proponents of the bill argued that DNA is the modern equivalent of a fingerprint.
Legislators have voted to advance two bills relating to guns in government meetings.
One that would allow people to carry concealed weapons into government meetings passed unanimously, after the committee agreed to strike a provision that would have required permission of the meeting’s presiding officer.
Former gun shop owner Maury Jones of Jackson Hole says concealed guns make government meetings safer.
A bill that would have increased hunting license fees by nearly 20-percent was defeated by a Wyoming House committee that wants further study of the proposal.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department says the money is needed to address a revenue shortfall and would have raised about eight million dollars a year by 2016. But some challenged the need for the increase.
Bob Wharff of the group Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife says he feared that the increase would drive away hunters, especially those from out-of-state.