Legislative

Legislative
10:15 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Senate committee amends and passes gun bills

Crowd listens as Senate Judiciary committee works gun bills
Credit Bob Beck

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.

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Lottery bill
6:16 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Senate begins debate on lottery bill

The Wyoming Senate gave initial support to a bill that would allow the state to become part of a multi-state lottery, but not before hearing a lot of questions.  

Much of the debate centered on how the lottery would be administered and costs surrounding it.  Senator Bruce Burns says money raised would go to city and county governments.
 

“They estimate that it will bring in roughly about 25 million and that it should clear based on other states close to our size about a little over six million dollars a year net,” Burns says.

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Education accountability
6:15 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Senate continues work on education accountability bill

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.

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Medicaid
5:28 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

House considers increasing Medicaid fraud enforcement

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.

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Guns
5:27 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Senate Committee amends gun bills

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. 

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Sequester
6:23 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

Sen. Enzi warns that The Sequester is coming

Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming

Senator Mike Enzi continues to say that the budget sequester will take effect on March first. 

The Republican told the state Legislature that the sequestration will roll back the federal budget to 2008 levels and will feature an eight-percent cut. 

Enzi says instead of across the board cuts, he says Congress should have taken a page from the Wyoming Legislature and had federal agencies participate in the exercise.

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School accountability
6:16 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

Senate debates school accountability

"Empty Desks"
Credit Max Klingensmith / Creative Commons

The Wyoming Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would rate schools on student performance. 

The school accountability measure was amended by the Senate to say all schools that do not exceed pre-determined academic targets would have to develop improvement plans. 

The House version of the bill said meeting targets was sufficient.  

Senator Chris Rothfuss of Laramie says the Senate is shooting for a higher bar. 

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Gas tax
4:54 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

Wyoming Senate passes fuel tax hike

The State Senate has passed a $.10-per-gallon increase in the state gas tax. 

It would raise the tax from $.14-a-gallon to $.24.  It’s expected to generate about $47 million for highways and several million dollars for local government. 

Senate Transportation Chairman Michael Von Flatern says the money is desperately needed by the Wyoming Department of Transportation, but even with the increase, WYDOT is looking at a shortfall.

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silencers
4:56 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

House passes bill allowing hunters to use silencers

Sen. Tom Lubnau

The Wyoming House has passed a bill that will allow hunters to use silencers and suppressors for various types of hunting in the state.  

Before passing the bill, the House removed an amendment that would not have allowed silencers when hunting for big game. 

But Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau argued that there are plenty of protections if someone violates the law, and if they misuse a silencer or a suppressor, the hunter can be punished.

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Permanent Mineral Trust Fund
5:42 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Bebout supports increasing the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund

Sen. Eli Bebout of Riverton

As the Legislature irons out the final details of the State budget, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee says lawmakers were forward-thinking with the budget. 

During a news conference, Senator Eli Bebout of Riverton said the spending reductions and cuts to some agencies were needed to get the budget in shape for future spending. 

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Lottery
5:18 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Lottery bill heads to Senate Floor

The Wyoming Senate will have an opportunity to debate implementing a lottery in Wyoming. 

A committee approved the bill 3-2.  It will allow the state to enter a multi-state lottery, such as Powerball. 

Supporters say a number of Wyoming residents are spending money on lottery tickets in other states, and they want to keep that money here. 

But opponents like Chesie Lee of the Wyoming Association of Churches say lotteries hurt the poor “who are more likely to buy lottery tickets then people in other income brackets,” Lee says. 

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Gas tax
5:17 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Senate approves gas tax hike

The Wyoming Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would increase the gas tax by $.10 per-gallon. 

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Gun Silencers
6:25 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

House changes bill that would allow hunting with silencers

The Wyoming House of Representatives has given initial approval to a bill that would allow hunters to use silencers to hunt predators and non-game animals.

 The House did amend the bill to say that silencers may not be used to hunt for big game animals due to the concern of some that allowing silencers could encourage poaching. 

Sponsor Allen Jaggi of Lyman strongly disagreed with the sentiment.

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Federal Cuts
6:23 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

Lummis tells the Legislature that cuts are on the way

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.”

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Tips
6:18 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

Tips bill moves ahead in the Senate

The State Senate has started work on a bill that would allow employers to ask servers to contribute 15 percent of their tips to be redistributed to other service employees of an establishment. 

The goal is to improve service from top to bottom and raise wages for all employees. 

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Workplace Safety
6:16 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

Senate debates latest workplace safety measure

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.

          

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Life Resource Center
6:14 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

Senate considers ways to save the Life Resource Center

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.

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Guns at UW
4:42 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

UW Faculty Senate urges legislature not to pass two gun bills

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.

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Game and Fish Funding
6:16 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Game and Fish license fee increase is defeated

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.

          

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Roads
6:14 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Senate votes down an effort to divert money for roads

Sheridan Sen. Bruce Burns

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.
 

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Lottery
12:21 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

House passes bill to allow Wyoming to join a multi-state lottery

Wyoming House passes bill to create state lottery

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. 

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University of Wyoming
6:25 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

Wyoming House supports allowing university, college president searches to remain confidential

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.

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Guns
6:15 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

House Judiciary Committee supports gun rights bills

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.

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Lottery
6:11 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

House committee approved plans for a state lottery

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.

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oil and gas
5:47 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

Senate supports bill to protect land owners from seismic explorers

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.

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Superintendent
5:43 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

Gov. Mead strips power from State Superintendent, Hill sues

  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.

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civil union
5:54 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

House committee approves bill that would allow civil unions for same-sex couples

A Wyoming House committee passed a bill that would allow civil unions for same-sex couples.

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. 

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Katie's Law
5:44 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

House committee kills "Katie's Law"

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.

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Guns
4:18 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

House committee approved bill to allow concealed firearms into government meetings

Credit Newsday.com

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.

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Hunting
4:51 pm
Fri January 25, 2013

House committee defeats hunting license fee hike

Credit Wyoming Game and Fish Department

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.

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