Politics

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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. 

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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