Politics

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.

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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.

State of Wyoming Legislature

An omnibus education bill passed the Wyoming House Tuesday and moved to the Senate for review.

The bill is the House of Representatives' answer to the $400 million education budget deficit. The bill proposes freezing transportation and special education funding for the 2018-2019 fiscal year to generate some savings.

Remaining gaps in funding would be covered by legislative reserves. And should the state’s rainy day account dip below $500 million, the state sales tax and the state use tax would increase a half penny.

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The Wyoming Senate passed a proposed constitutional amendment Friday to give the legislature the power to determine how much the state should spend on public education.  The amendment, if supported by the public, would diminish the power of the courts.

Laramie Senator Chris Rothfuss said he voted against Senate Joint Resolution nine because it would adversely change the nature of the relationship between the courts and the legislature.

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A bill to lower the penalty for marijuana possession of three ounces or less passed the Wyoming House of Representatives today. The vote for House Bill 157 was nearly unanimous with 52 votes in favor.

Cheyenne Representative Jared Olsen sponsored the bill in an effort to save prison costs.

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An Omnibus Education Bill received initial approval by the Wyoming House of Representatives Friday, but not before a heated tax debate. The House rejected a proposed 2-percent tax increase that was part of the bill and instead approved a half penny tax that kicks in when the rainy day fund falls below $500 million dollars.

Encampment Representative Jerry Paxton supported the larger of the two tax increases and said the state needs to act now to produce more revenue.

Wyoming Legislature

The Wyoming House of Representatives gave initial approval to bills that touched on the topic of abortions. House Bill 182 requires physicians to tell a woman that they can see an ultra-sound and hear the unborn child’s heartbeat and provide other information.   

Laramie Representative Charles Pelkey said the bill goes too far.

People with concealed carry permits could soon be able have guns on college campuses, in certain schools, and in government meetings.  

The Wyoming House of Representatives overwhelming supported all three bills Wednesday. The only serious debate surrounded whether concealed carry should be allowed on the University of Wyoming campus. 

House Minority Leader Cathy Connolly is a UW professor. She says the bill takes away local control by forcing the University to accept guns. Connolly says a number of faculty are worried about the bill.

The Wyoming Legislature

The Senate Education Committee is continuing to work on Senate File 165 that proposes a number of reductions to school funding. The measure is one of several being considered as the legislature looks to make up a $400 million shortfall in K-12 funding.

Among the bill’s proposals, it would freeze special education funding and offer early retirement to teachers within five years of retiring. The committee has heard over five and half hours of public input.

The Wyoming Legislature

A bill to raise the minimum wage in Wyoming failed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. House Bill 140 would have raised Wyoming’s minimum wage to the federal level of $7.25 an hour.

Wyoming has the lowest minimum wage in the country at $5.15 an hour. When Cheyenne Representative Jim Byrd first introduced the bill in the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, he proposed raising minimum wage to $9.50 an hour.

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A bill to raise Wyoming’s cigarette tax failed in the House of Representatives today, but will be voted on again Wednesday, after Pinedale Representative Sommers asked for a reconsideration. 

House Bill 151 would raise the tax from 60 cents a pack to 90 cents. Opponents of the bill say the increased taxes would hurt small business across the state, and would not deter smokers from buying cigarettes. 

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Marijuana reform was a popular topic at the Wyoming Legislature on Tuesday with the House Judiciary Committee voting to support House Bill 197 to create a tiered penalty system.   

The bill would mean stiffer punishment for second, third and fourth possession convictions within ten years of the first, and would apply to possessions of less than three ounces. 

Bureau of Land Management, Wikimedia Commons

A new public land transfer bill was filed this week by House Majority Floor Leader David Miller. The bill would allow the state to take over management of federal lands, and comes hard on the heels of a recently failed constitutional amendment that would also have given the state control over federal lands, an idea that’s been opposed by many sporting and outdoor recreation groups.

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