legislature

A state lawmaker from Jackson is proposing some changes to Wyoming's tipping laws.

One bill introduced by Rep. Ruth Ann Petroff would make all tips exempt from sales tax. Currently tips automatically added to a bill, usually for large groups, are subject to sales tax.

Another bill from the Republican would allow restaurants to pool tips from everyone waiting on tables and then split the money among its employees. However, an employee couldn't be forced to contribute more than 15 percent of their tips to a tip pool.

Wyoming Legislature set to convene today

Jan 8, 2013

The Wyoming Legislature is set to convene at noon today for the first day of its general session, which is set to run through early March.
 
Lawmakers generally take care of housekeeping matters on the first day and won't get down to business until after Gov. Matt Mead delivers his annual state of the state address tomorrow morning.
 

Wyoming House Speaker-elect Tom Lubnau says crafting a supplemental state budget will be the "overriding concern" as lawmakers open the 2013 session tomorrow

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State financial analysts are warning that Wyoming needs to brace for flat revenues for years to come, given the slumping national demand for coal and increasing natural gas production in other states.

Gov. Matt Mead presented a budget proposal to lawmakers last month calling for cutting state agency budgets by an average of 6.5 percent.

The Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee will introduce a bill that would modify bonds for seismic exploration for oil and gas on private land. If passed, companies doing any seismic exploration would have to put up a $5,000 bond for the first 1,000 acres being explored, with increases for acreage beyond that. The outgoing chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Kermit Brown of Laramie, said there have been complaints about the current regulations.

UW President discusses cuts and pay request

Dec 11, 2012

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.             

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.
 

State Senator Charles Scott of Casper is facing a challenge from veteran Representative Bob Brechtel.  The two are competing in the Senate District 30 Republican Primary.

Uranium industry growth has challenges

Jun 15, 2012

Many people hope that Wyoming’s uranium industry will become much more active, as interest in nuclear energy grows. 

University of Wyoming Ag Economist Tex Taylor says there is a lot of potential for increased employment and tax revenue for the state.  But Wyoming Senator Eli Bebout, who chairs the Senate Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee, says new and smaller companies are often stymied by the state and federal permitting process and other regulatory hurdles. 

Wyoming lawmakers are considering further reforms to the state’s pension system. This year, the legislature lowered pension benefits for new employees  and changed the way cost-of-living adjustments are made.

But Cheyenne Representative Bryan Pedersen  says he is convinced that even with the changes, Wyoming won’t have e

“This will at best float us three to five years. It’s a band-aid that will kick the can further down the road. And that’s with the plan fully performing at the eight percent estimated average annual return.”

A recent report from the Center for Public Integrity ranks Wyoming 48th in the nation when it comes to accountability in state politics. According to the report, Wyoming and a number of other western states seemed to operate with a live-and-let-live attitude when it came to government,  stressing a strong preference for informal societal controls as opposed to legislative actions that regulated oversight.

Gordon Witkin is with the Center for Public Integrity. He says Wyoming is too relaxed when it comes to oversight and auditing processes.

The Wyoming Legislature has approved a $3.2-billion budget bill which now goes to Gov. Matt Mead for his consideration.

The budget bill approved by both Houses on Monday keeps state spending essentially flat over the coming two-year budget cycle.

State lawmakers are keeping a close eye on falling natural gas prices and had directed state agencies to prepare for possible 4-percent budget cuts next year if necessary.

Senators continue debate on Open Records Bill

Feb 21, 2012

A majority of Senators have voted to keep a provision in an Open Records bill that would allow communication between one elected official and one private citizen from being made public. But Senator Bill Landen argued that such communication should be made public, because it could provide insight into why board members voted a particular way.  Landen argued that the bill allows for mischief.

The Wyoming Legislature begins budget work

Feb 21, 2012

    The Wyoming House and Senate have begun discussing the 3-point-2 billion dollar state budget.  It will cover a biennium, or the next two fiscal years.  House Appropriations Chairman Rosie Berger says they are trying to pass a flat budget this year and limit future spending.  Senate Appropriations Chairman Phil Nicholas says agencies will be asked to reduce their budgets by four percent in the second year of the biennium and another four percent in the following year.

A panel of Wyoming legislators has voted to deny Gov. Matt Mead's request to use state money to make up for expired federal stimulus funds that had gone to help support the Medicaid program.

A majority of members of the Joint Appropriations Committee voted against Mead's request to give the Health Department and extra $37 million for Medicaid today.

The committee also voted against Mead's request to put up nearly $7 million to cut waiting lists for people in the state waiting for services for developmental disabilities and acquired brain injuries.

 An Australian coal company that wants to mine Powder River Basin coal has hired a Wyoming state lawmaker as
an executive.
     The Gillette News Record (http://bit.ly/rrhxjt ) reported that
Republican Rep. David Miller of Riverton sold his Campbell County
mineral rights to Sydney-based County Coal Limited for $200,000 in
March. Miller, a geologist, now holds one million shares in the
company and will get 3 percent royalty payments on coal mined in
the basin, one of the richest coal sources in the United States.

An organization called Good Jobs First says Wyoming should play harder-to-get when businesses apply for state funding and tax incentives. Of the states requiring job-creation results from benefiting businesses, Good jobs first ranks Wyoming 49th. Dan Neal of the Equality State Policy center says Wyoming is being too loose with its purse strings without demanding a return in new jobs.  He says while Wyoming looks at ways to diversify its economy through incentives…it is not unreasonable to require a certain number of good paying jobs to be created.

UW Trustees discuss proposed budget cuts

Dec 13, 2011

    The University of Wyoming says reductions in staffing and student support are among the scenarios they are considering if the legislature decides to cut its budget this year.  

U-W and other state agencies have been asked to explain what reductions of two, five and eight percent would mean to their budgets.  At the high end, U-W President Tom Buchanan says the cuts would be severe.  In the two percent scenario, Buchanan says reductions not connected to academics would be made.   But he admits that will change if the cuts are more than that.

A legislative panel has signed off on a plan that could remove federal protections from gray wolves in
Wyoming as early as next year.   Sen. Bruce Burns says the Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and
Cultural Resources Interim Committee approved the plan on Tuesday.

Burns says the panel was unanimous in recommending that the Legislature approve Wyoming's wolf-management plan when it convenes in February.   Gov. Matt Mead and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar agreed this summer to classify wolves in most of Wyoming as predators that
could be shot on sight.

Teton County lawmakers are balking at a cost-of-living adjustment the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Education Committee has initially approved for school districts across the state.

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