Politics

Bob Beck

No conclusive action was taken Thursday on House Bill 236 – the last standing piece of legislation, which addresses the $400 million education budget deficit.

Legislators and lobbyists expected the bill to come up for a concurrence vote on Thursday, but Speaker of the House Steve Harshman said he delayed action on the bill because he wanted one more day to work on it.  

“I’m going to actually sleep on it, and I’m gonna' keep working tonight on it,” said Harshman. “We’re still working. Working like dogs.” He added a few barks as he walked off down the hall.

Leap Into Leadership

On Monday, women gathered from around the state to attend the tenth annual Leap Into Leadership conference. This year’s conference focused on how to cultivate a more respectful discourse in state politics.

Former U.S. Senator and Bipartisan Policy Center fellow Olympia Snowe was the keynote speaker. She talked about how bipartisanship has never been an easy job, not even when the founding fathers crafted the constitution.

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The Wyoming Senate gave final approval to a pair of bills that will allow guns in public places. 

One will allow school boards to designate certain individuals to carry concealed weapons in schools. The idea is to help protect rural school districts in the state. Senators did approve one amendment that was worded in such a way that some worried that it was allowing those with concealed carry permits onto school grounds. 

Cheyenne Senator Tara Nethercott said it does nothing of the sort.

GOVERNOR.GOV.WYO

The Wyoming House voted for a final time to establish the ENDOW initiative, or the Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming. The initiative was introduced by Governor Matt Mead last November to diversify the state’s economy and now his office is seeking public input. 

When Congress recessed earlier this month, Senators Enzi and Barrasso and Representative Cheney all held office hours and visited communities around Wyoming – but did not hold larger public events in the state.

The annual Leap Into Leadership Conference begins Monday in Cheyenne. It’s hosted by the Wyoming Women’s Legislative Caucus as a way to encourage women, and give them the tools to run for public office. This year the focus is on civil discourse and debate, with one of the panels titled “How Do We Disagree Without Being Disagreeable?”

Wyoming Department of Education

February 23rd is Digital Learning Day. It’s appropriate then that on Thursday, the House took up Senate File 35 on virtual education. The bill, which updates guidelines for student enrollment in online classes, passed Committee of the Whole in the House, but not without being amended. An appropriation for $250,000 to establish a centralized statewide management system was removed.

State of Wyoming Legislature

On Thursday, the Wyoming House of Representatives Committee passed the first reading of a bill that would establish a council charged with studying and implementing a plan to diversify Wyoming’s economy. The bill would create the ENDOW Council (or Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming Council).

Lander Representative Jim Allen proposed an amendment adding a tribal member to the council, which he said fits with the stated mission of the council.

University of Wyoming

The Wyoming Senate has defeated a bill that would have allowed those with concealed carry permits to carry guns on the University of Wyoming Campus and at Community Colleges. 

The Senate defeated the measure 17 to 13 after sponsor Anthony Bouchard of Cheyenne urged lawmakers to restore gun rights. University officials and some of the colleges begged to leave this issue up to campus trustees, but Bouchard says local control isn’t working. 

"The campuses have had the right or the ability to allow carry, but they even admitted in committee that they don’t want to do it.”

Wyoming LSO

The Wyoming Senate has given initial approval to a pair of gun bills and defeated another. 

The Senate voted down allowing concealed guns on the University of Wyoming and community college campuses, but supported allowing guns at government meetings and voted to allow K-12 school boards to decide if some personnel should be allowed to have concealed weapons in schools. 

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The Wyoming House Of Representatives gave initial support to a bill Wednesday that limits when the public can view footage recorded by police body cameras. The House also amended Senate File 32, to remove dashboard cameras from the bill. A person or the media could view the recordings if they were able to convince a judge there was compelling public interest in releasing the video. 

Supporters of the bill say its intent is to provide clarity to law enforcement and the general public and give parameters and guidance on the handling of policy body footage. 

The Senate’s Judiciary Committee passed a bill on Wednesday to create a tiered penalty system for products containing THC, or edibles. House Bill 137 originally dealt with the plant form of marijuana, but the committee amended the bill to define marijuana product as a substance meant to be consumed in ways other than smoking. 

 

Zach Dischner

After a lengthy debate, the Wyoming Senate gave final approval to what’s known as the Ski Safety Act. The bill is intended to protect ski areas from litigation in case of injury or death.

Supporters say frivolous lawsuits drive up insurance costs for smaller ski areas. Cheyenne Senator Tara Nethercott added an amendment to make sure there was proper signage to protect skiers. She said those using the slopes are looking for a safe experience.

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People packed the Senate Education Committee meeting Wednesday to discuss House Bill 236 that will attempt to address the state’s education funding shortfall. The bill differs from the Senate approach to the problem in that it proposes some funding reductions, but holds off deep and immediate cuts to education by using legislative savings.

Should those savings dip to $500 million, a half percent sales and use tax would go into affect to generate more revenue. Representatives of the energy industry say that tax would hurt their industries.

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Two bills that would remove gun free zones in public places were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. The first bill, House Bill 136, would  allow those with concealed carry permits to legally carry guns on the University of Wyoming and Community College campuses, including sporting events.

Supporters of the bill said that allowing people to carry guns will make the campuses safer. Many argued that it would especially provide protection for women.

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The Wyoming Senate passed a bill Wednesday to require internet retailers like Amazon to collect sales tax on sales to Wyoming residents. 

Only three Senators opposed the bill. Lander Senator Cale Case said he thinks the smooth passage of the bill has to do with creating a more level playing field between local and online retailers.

Wyoming Public Media

The Wyoming Senate passed a bill Wednesday to give local school districts the responsibility to decide how public school teachers evaluated. The power currently lies with the state.

House bill 37 was revived after a reconsideration vote during its second reading. And it passed its third reading with 3 dissenting votes. School districts and teachers across the state have widely supported the bill.

Wyoming State Legislature

The Wyoming House of Representatives and the Wyoming Senate have both passed their respective versions of the budget bill. The two bodies will now swap bills for consideration before a conference committee meets to select one final bill to adopt.

The Senate’s version cuts $91 million from public education funding, marking the largest difference between the two different versions.

Speaker of the House Steve Harshman is a school teacher in Casper, but Jackson Representative Andy Schwartz said that’s not why the House took a less severe approach to K-12 cuts.

Tennessee Watson

School business managers asked the legislature to remove a six percent interest on funds borrowed temporarily from the common school account. They also asked that schools be allowed to repay those funds in June instead of December. 

The bill narrowly passed the committee of the whole.

Proponents of the bill argued that penalizing schools doesn’t make sense when cash flow issues are caused by payment schedules decided by the state. The bill sailed through the House, but is now being met with scrutiny in the Senate.

Tennessee Watson

According to a bill that passed the Senate Monday, students at the University of Wyoming and the state’s community colleges should own the material they store on school servers and send in school email accounts. The bill further specifies that writing and correspondence will be kept private unless students are otherwise notified.

The bill passed by a narrow vote of 16 - 13, and is up for review by the governor.

Tennessee Watson

Wyoming schools use digital tools and software to support teaching and school operations, but a bill to protect digital student data was defeated on a tie vote.

The data includes everything from student name and home address to test results and cafeteria food purchases for children in preschool through 12th grade. The protections in the bill were meant to prevent the sale or sharing of this information, and to block the possibility of its usage for targeted advertising.

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The House Education Committee passed a bill Friday that provides updated guidelines for virtual education in Wyoming.

House Bill 35 sets out how students taking courses online should be enrolled in schools, and how school districts will be funded when it comes to students who split time between different programs.

The bill also changes existing language concerning “distance education” to “virtual education”

Kari Eakins with the Wyoming Department of Education said this could potentially open up more opportunities for students around Wyoming.

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The State Senate approved a budget amendment Friday that mandates school districts cannot use state funds to sue the legislature. The amendment passed 20 to 10.

The language was added as a footnote to the Budget Bill, and is similar to legislation that died in both the House and a Senate committee.

Sheridan Senator Dave Kinskey was in favor of the amendment, and said Wyoming could avoid mistakes of the federal government by approving it.

Wyoming State Legislature

The Senate passed its version of the budget Friday, after considering 34 amendments and adopting 18 to the bill. One of the largest amendments passed would cut $91 million from K-12 education funding.

One amendment intended to strip a measure cutting two percent of salaries of 100 series government employees, not including those in public education, generated considerable discussion.

Tennessee Watson

Right now digital materials stored on the servers of Wyoming’s institutions of higher education do not belong to the students who create them. But a bill making its way through the Wyoming Senate would change that. 

Currently, the content in a University email sent by a student belongs to the University because it’s stored on their server, and the University can do what it want with that email. Laramie Senator Chris Rothfuss said he decided to tackle the problem because of a case involving the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

State of Wyoming Legislature

An amendment approved in the Wyoming Senate’s version of the state budget that would cut the salaries of certain state employees by two percent has some concerned, especially senators in districts with large populations of people who work for the government, specifically Cheyenne.

The amendment excludes school district employees and those who work for Community Colleges and the University of Wyoming.   

Cheyenne Senator Tara Nethercott is opposed to the amendment, and said she was surprised she didn’t hear more input from constituents after it passed.

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After hours of testimony Thursday, two bills concerning abortion passed a Senate Committee.

House Bill 116 would make selling fetal tissue a felony. House Bill 182 would require doctors to tell women that they can see an ultrasound before having an abortion.

People on both sides of the issue came out to show their disapproval and support of the bills.

Mary Bowd is retired nurse from Cheyenne. She said letting women know they could see an ultrasound would be consistent with standard medical practice.

Tennessee Watson

A program to allow judges to mandate substance abuse treatment instead of jail time for drug offenders received final approval by the Wyoming House of Representatives on Tuesday.

House Bill 94 provides funding to support more drug courts. Proponents of the bill say the approach will save the state money overall by reducing prison costs.  

Court mandated substance abuse treatment is already an option in Wyoming, but Thermopolis Representative Nathan Winters said there’s been an uneven application of this program.

Wyoming State Legislature

The Wyoming Senate discussed over 25 different amendments to their budget bill and adopted 12 of them on Wednesday. One amendment that was approved reduces salaries of most state employees by two percent. The bill would exclude employees of the University of Wyoming, the state’s community colleges, school districts, and the judicial branch.

Senate President Eli Bebout sponsored the bill. He said the state should consider how the private sector addresses financial trouble.

Wyoming Public Media

Wyoming’s Senate Education Committee moved a bill forward today to change how teachers are evaluated. The change is also supported by school districts and teachers across the state.

House Bill 37 removes the state’s responsibility to monitor teachers and gives that power to local school districts. Wyoming Education Association spokesperson Ken Decaria said school districts and teachers around the state support the change.

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