The State Senate has approved a bill that changes the way Medicaid services are administered in Wyoming.
Senate Health and Labor Committee Chairman Charles Scott says it would make a number of changes, especially for those with brain injuries and developmental disabilities, where large numbers of people are on a waiting list to get services.
Scott says they will address the program by making sure that everyone does not qualify for more insurance than they need.
The Wyoming House of Representatives defeated a pair of amendments during the second day of debate on a bill that would remove some duties from the State Superintendent and give them to a governor-appointed Director of Education.
Jackson Republican Keith Gingery asked for $20,000 to be set aside to allow State Superintendent Cindy Hill to fight her loss of power in court. During that discussion Gingery expressed disappointment about the tone of the debate on the issue.
The State Senate has begun overhauling the Wyoming Medicaid program.
The bill attempts to slow down rising costs of the program through a variety of reforms that would both cap payments and try to put less critical clients into lower cost programs.
Senate Labor and Health Committee Chairman Charles Scott says savings could range between $30 million and $113 million, depending on which reforms the federal government allows the state to go forward with.
The Wyoming Senate defeated two education bills and passed one during final debate on all three measures.
The Senate defeated one bill that would require parental permission for someone under the age of 18 to drop out of school. The Senate also killed a bill that would have required students to take four years of math in order to graduate. Both bills were sponsored by Democrat Chris Rothfuss of Laramie.
The Senate did approve a bill that puts in place a new energy and natural resources curriculum for schools.
Wyoming is one of eight states that does not have the ability to pursue false claims in Medicaid cases. A bill being debated in the state Senate would change that.
Senator Ray Peterson says conservative estimates suggest that Wyoming is likely losing 15 million dollars a year to overbilling in Medicaid cases. His bill would allow the state to investigate and prosecute Medicaid fraud.
In an effort to find ways to offer health insurance to citizens, the Wyoming House of Representatives is considering a bill that would allow insurance companies from outside of the state to offer policies to Wyoming residents.
The House gave initial approval to the bill that will also allow in-state companies to match the price offered by the out of state insurance company. Supporters see this as a way to provide consumers a more competitive marketplace for health insurance. Some feared the measure could hurt Wyoming’s health insurance providers.
After several days of discussion, the Senate Health and Labor Committee has approved a bill that is intended to reform Medicaid in Wyoming.
Medicaid is an expensive program for the state to run and lawmakers have been looking at how to reduce costs, but not take away services. One significant change would be how the state handles those with developmental disabilities and brain injuries.
The state spends 120 million dollars a year on those services.
The Wyoming Senate has given final approval to a bill that takes power away from the state superintendent and creates an appointed director to run the Department of Education.
The Senate voted 20-10 to approve the measure. Senator Hank Coe blames the move on failures by the State Superintendent Cindy Hill to follow through on legislative mandates, a charge Hill denies. Coe says Hill has lacked management skills. He says that’s led to a 40-percent turnover.
A bill that would raise the gas tax by ten cents has passed the House Revenue Committee. Revenue from the increased taxes would fund highway construction and maintenance throughout the state, a sector that’s currently underfunded.
Chairman of the House Revenue Committee, Michael Madden, says the measure is supported by many groups.
"About every engine that makes our economy run, we had strong support for this bill. And the overall gist of the thing was that Wyoming runs on roads and it’s too important of an asset to watch deteriorate. "
A bill that changes the qualifications for the position of Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Supervisor has unanimously passed the State Senate.
The bill changes the requirements for the Supervisor from a registered professional petroleum engineer or geologist, to an engineer or geologist with ten years of experience in his respective field of expertise.
Energy and Legislative advocate with the Wyoming Outdoor Council, Richard Garrett, says it may be valuable to consider applicants’ assets fully.
Two Leaders of the Wyoming House of Representatives expressed different views of expanding Medicaid during the opening day of the legislative session.
Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau said during his opening remarks to the House that he is not a fan of the Affordable Care Act and wants the state to wait before it considers expanding Medicaid for more citizens in Wyoming. Lubnau doubts that the federal government can afford the program.
The Wyoming Senate President is urging cooperation after what he calls an ugly campaign season.
Tony Ross of Cheyenne urged the Senate to work together and not let the public get cynical. Ross says that’s important because this will be a difficult session with lots of important issues to address.
“Supplemental budget cuts, our response to the affordable care act, expansion of Medicaid, education accountability and a fuel tax just to name a few. Many people are looking to the Senate to be THE body of reason and measure.”
In early 2013 the state legislature will discuss cutting the state budget. While some say only minimal cuts are needed, others are not so sure. State Senator Tony Ross says the so-called fiscal cliff could add to the loss of federal money the state is already dealing with, starting with the loss of abandoned mine land money last fall.
“As a result of the loss of AML funds or there is even talks that there may be a push to cut back on federal mineral royalties. If they do something like that it effects us here in a very big way.”
The President of the University of Wyoming says while the six percent budget cuts are better than the eight percent the Governor had previously proposed…he says they will still cause pain.
President Tom Buchanan told the legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee that the cuts could cost U-W 60 to 95 employees and added that some may have to be layoffs. Buchanan also made the case for increasing U-W’s faculty and staff salaries by three percent.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill says she is looking forward to addressing a legislative committee next week following a report that was critical of her department.
The Legislative Service Office report said that errors and communication problems led to delays in the Department of Education’s ability to provide necessary federal information and required state accountability data. Hill says the report is inaccurate.
Republicans in the State Senate have elected Cheyenne’s Tony Ross to serve as Senate President and Laramie’s Phil Nicholas to serve as majority floor leader.
The House previously announced its makeup, choosing Tom Lubnau to be speaker and Kermit Brown to be majority floor leader. Steve Harshman of Casper will become the new chair of the House Appropriations Committee. The Senate also added some new committee chairman, the most notable being Riverton’s Eli Bebout who was chosen to serve as its Appropriations Committee Chairman.
A report by consultants hired by the Legislature gives the Wyoming Department of Education poor marks in implementing state education reforms.
The report says the agency has failed in some of its responsibilities and hindered other entities involved in the state's initiative to better prepare its public school students for college and careers.
The report blames much of the agency's failings on loss of too many key personnel in the last two years.
At last night’s congressional debate, four out of five candidates for Wyoming’s U.S. House seat said climate change is not a concern.
The three third-party candidates all said they don’t believe that human activities contribute to global warming. Constitution party candidate Daniel Cummings said he thinks the earth is warming because of a natural sun cycle.
“So those who want to put a cap on global warming have got to find a way to turn down the sun,” Cummings said.
During tonight’s Congressional debate, Democrat Chris Henrichsen attacked Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis for losing hundreds of millions of dollars of Abandoned Mine Lands money that were destined for Wyoming.
Coal-producing states receive AML funds in order to pay for mine reclamation, but Wyoming used a portion of the money for buildings, infrastructure and other projects. This fall, Congress voted to severely limit the amount the Cowboy State gets.
Henrichsen says Lummis failed in her duties because she failed to stop the measure.