Politics

Bob Beck

An effort to add a three day waiting period to handgun purchases has been defeated by a Wyoming legislative committee. The House Judiciary Committee voted 8 to 1 against the bill from Laramie Representative Cathy Connolly.

The waiting period was requested by Laramie resident Jim Kearns whose son used a handgun to commit suicide in August. Kearns says his son bought the gun to kill himself.

Wyoming Legislature

The Wyoming Senate is debating a bill that could lead to a long awaited 20 year plan to diversify Wyoming’s economy. The bill sets up the Economically Needed Diversity Options For Wyoming Council, or ENDOW Council.

Senate President Eli Bebout said it’s difficult to get legislators to think long term, but he thinks the current economic climate will help.

Bob Beck

The Wyoming House of Representatives is debating three bills that would allow concealed weapons in places where they are currently banned.

One bill allows concealed carry permit holders to have guns on the University of Wyoming campus, including athletic events. The House had a lengthy discussion over whether UW trustees should be allowed to declare parts of the campus off limits to guns. That amendment failed. Casper Representative Bunky Loucks says having guns on campus will keep it safe.

On the list of recommendations to reduce Wyoming’s education budget deficit is a cap on special education funding. That means moving forward, districts that need to spend more than their allocated budget will need to cover those additional costs on their own.

Wyoming highway patrol

The Wyoming Senate has passed a bill that enhances the penalties for fleeing a police officer or attempting to flee a police officer. 

The bill makes it a felony if a driver tries to elude a police officer and drives recklessly. The penalty is further enhanced if the driver injures someone or causes property damage. 

LaGrange Senator Curt Meier said someone who is driving recklessly is not necessarily committing a felony, and that the bill goes too far.

Bob Beck

In an effort to bring more young people to the state, Speaker of the House Steve Harshman wants to expand the Hathaway Scholarship to out of state students.

To qualify, a student will need a cumulative grand point average of 3.75 and be in the 96 percentile on either the SAT or ACT. The catch is that students must repay the scholarship either by working in the state or by paying out of pocket after they graduate. Harshman said that he believes if students come here, they will want to stay and that will help the economy.    

Wyoming Public Radio News Director Bob Beck joins Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard to discuss the latest news from the Wyoming Legislature.

The House Education Committee will welcome public comments on the Omnibus Education Bill on Monday at 6 p.m.

In anticipation of a large turnout, Representative David Northrup requested the meeting take place at the Cheyenne East High School Auditorium.

He said it’s because: “We anticipate having a lot of district personnel show up and ask questions. I am probably expecting 300 to 400 people.”

This exceeds the capacity of legislature’s temporary home in the Jonah Building.

Melodie Edwards

The Wyoming House of Representatives has started working on a bill that is intended to better help social studies teachers teach about the Tribes on the Wind River Reservation. 

The legislation provides the resources so that teachers across the state help students learn a number of things about the tribes and Native Americans. Some have expressed concern that it could burden already overworked teachers, House Floor Leader David Miller says it won’t.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

A Wyoming legislative committee has given unanimous support to an ambitious bill intended to reduce prison sentences, provide more probation, and provide enhanced rehabilitation to those convicted of crimes. 

The Criminal Justice Reform measure is viewed by many in law enforcement as a way to treat people in a way that will prevent them from re-committing crimes. The tough sell may be the $2.8 million price tag at a time of fiscal austerity. orrections Substance Abuse Specialist Frank Craig says Wyoming can expect a great deal of savings in the long run.

LSO

The House sponsors of a controversial piece of legislation say they will remove House Bill 135 from consideration.

The bill was called the Government Nondiscrimination Act and was aimed at protecting business owners and employees from being punished or sued for not serving or selling to gay people because of moral or religious beliefs. It also trumped local ordinances that protected gay and transgender people.

Wikimedia Commons

A bill to increase taxes on cigarettes in Wyoming was supported by the House Revenue Committee today. House Bill 151 would increase the tax from 60 cents a pack to 90 cents.

Jason Mincer is with the Cancer Action Network of the American Cancer Society. He says they hope the tax will convince people to quit smoking.

"By putting a substantial price increase in front of a customer, they make a conscious decision on whether they want to continue to smoke or not," said Mincer.

Wyoming Legislature

A Wyoming Senate Committee moved a bill forward to support Governor Matt Mead’s efforts to diversify the state’s economy. The Senate Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee passed the bill to form the ENDOW Executive Council, or the Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming Council.

Flickr Creative Commons

A bill to incentivize movie production companies to film in Wyoming passed the Wyoming Senate today. 

Senate File 24 will give the Wyoming Tourism Board more flexibility when it comes to reimbursing certain costs of film making to production companies, and investments in those production companies.

Douglas Senator Brian Boner said movie production itself won't bring revenue directly into the state, but it could attract tourism.

Wyoming Legislature

A Wyoming Senate committee voted down a bill today that would have prevented Wyoming school districts from using education funds to sue the state over budget cuts. The Senate Education Committee voted three to two against Senate File 135.

Sheridan Senator Bruce Burns sponsored the bill and said it would not keep districts from suing the state, but would keep state funds from financing such litigation.

Laramie Senator Chris Rothfuss voted against the bill. He said sometimes courts need to resolve differences between entities.

pixabay

The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would change the placement of liability from ski area operators to skiers and recreationalists.

All ten of the state’s ski operators are in support of the bill, as well as the Wyoming Business Alliance. In a press release, the Alliance said the bill would be especially beneficial to smaller operators who might suffer from lawsuits.

Wikimedia Commons

Wyoming’s House Judiciary Committee moved a bill forward to remove gun free zones on college and university campuses across the state, voting six to three in favor of the measure.

Supporters of the bill said it would help gun owners better protect themselves and others, specifically in the case of an active shooter.

University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols has come out against the bill, as well as Laramie County Community College’s President Joe Schaffer. He said he would prefer a more comprehensive solution to campus safety.

Wyoming Women March

Jan 23, 2017
Maggie Mullen

Cities and towns all over the world and communities across Wyoming hosted women’s marches on Saturday in response to President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

In Cheyenne, 1,200 people from the city and surrounding areas marched on Capitol Avenue. There was enough of an interest in the Laramie community that the non-profit, Forward Wyoming, rented a chartered bus to transport marchers to Cheyenne.

At the capitol, a huge crowd gathered with large banners and glittery uterus signs. Katie Christensen brought her four-month-old daughter.

Wyoming lawmakers have introduced a bill that would bar utilities from using solar or wind power to generate electricity, but since the open of the legislative session the measure hasn’t made it to committee.

The proposed measure draws a line around “eligible resources”: coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear, and hydropower, and asks electricity providers to use those industries to meet 95 percent of demand by 2018. By 2019, they’ll be expected to phase out wind and solar, purchase energy credits, or pay a fee.

Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails

The tight economic times have prompted many Wyoming agencies to look at where they can raise more money and Wyoming State Parks is no different.

The legislature’s Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee is proposing to give the parks program more flexibility to set daily pass and campground fees as they see fit, rather than keeping a cap on fees as it is currently.

Jackson Representative Mike Gierau sits on the committee and says Wyoming State Park Fees are cheaper than other states. 

The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill Monday that clarifies the scope of Wyoming’s relationship with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in hopes of speeding up the process of approving in situ uranium mining projects.

House Floor Leader David Miller said Wyoming has a long history of uranium mining and much of the current technology used to extract it was developed in the state.

Wyoming has seen a higher rig count and more coal production in the last few months, but that doesn’t change much for its financial picture, according to the latest Consensus Revenue Estimating Group or CREG report. It shows that the general fund was up by $900,000 but that isn’t nearly enough to fill the gaping $156 million hole in the two year $3 billion budget.

CREG Co-Chairman Don Richards said while there are signs of a rebounding economy, the numbers still aren’t great.

governor.gov.wyo

In his State of the State message, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead focused on the state’s continued revenue shortfall, particularly the shortfall in K-12 education.

The School Foundation Program will face a $1.5 billion deficit over the next six years, not including school maintenance or facilities. Last year, Mead asked to form an education taskforce with input from legislators, teachers, students, and the public to find solutions for funding, and in his State of the State he renewed that request.

Craig Blumenshine / Wyoming PBS

Wyoming legislators were generally in agreement with Governor Matt Mead’s priorities following his annual State of the State message.  

Mead said  lawmakers need to resolve an education funding shortfall and figure out how to best use the state’s rainy day fund. Sheridan Senator Dave Kinskey said he agrees with that, but while the governor doesn’t want to see more budget cuts, Kinskey said he wants to try and reduce spending before they have to consider using savings or raising taxes.

Department of Education

During his State of the State address Wednesday, Governor Matt Mead asked the Wyoming legislature to broaden the public discussion for the education budget.

Public school funding is estimated to fall around $400 million dollars short. Governor Mead said the legislature needs to act quickly to try to solve the shortfall, while also slowing down so that the public can better participate in decision making.

The Wyoming legislative session is underway, and one of the main challenges facing lawmakers is a revenue shortfall due to a downturn in the energy industry.

House Majority Floor Leader David Miller defended the state’s reliance on the energy industry for revenues in a speech to the House of Representatives.

“Diversifying the economy will not diversify the tax base. In fact, every non-mineral job is a further drain on our limited revenues. Minerals can support Wyoming in perpetuity, however that requires access to the minerals,” Miller said.

Wyoming Democrats

Wyoming Democratic Chair Ana Cuprill has announced she will run for Secretary of the Democratic National Committee.

Cuprill has led the Wyoming Democrats since 2015. She said, being from a western state, she would be able to advance conversations about the Democratic Party’s poor showing in rural parts of the country, which voted overwhelmingly Republican in November’s election.

Wyoming State Legislature

The Wyoming legislature's Joint Judiciary Committee has drafted a bill that aims to enact criminal justice reform.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman David Miller said the bill would reduce Wyoming’s prison population through a variety of sentencing reforms.

“[Through] not as strict sentencing, letting the prosecutors have a little more leeway, the judges have a little more leeway, and when people are up for parole, giving them possibly more credit for time served, good time served, or if there is a minor infraction not resetting all that back to zero,” said Miller.

Wikimedia Commons

One of President-elect Donald Trump’s biggest campaign promises was to enact stricter immigration policies. That has caused concern for the Jackson community, a town with a large immigrant population. Immigration laws are outside of the jurisdiction of local law enforcement, but Mayor-elect Pete Muldoon said the town could pass a resolution or ordinance to limit its cooperation with federal authorities.

Stuart and Jen Robertson - Flickr: State Penitentiery, Rawlins Wyoming

Members of a task force that reviewed a wide range of structural problems at the Wyoming maximum security prison in Rawlins stressed that they believe using up to $125 million to fix the facility will work.

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