Politics

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.

Bob Beck

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead unveiled a mostly flat supplemental budget that features no new budget cuts.

The governor is proposing limited spending, using only a small portion of the legislature’s rainy day fund for things like Title 25 that addresses those with mental health issues, and a contingency fund for corrections. He put forth bonding as a way to fix problems with the prison in Rawlins.  

Matt Micheli

Wyoming U.S. House Representative Cynthia Lummis is rumored to be on the short list for Secretary of the Interior in the Trump administration and the Wyoming Republican Party is doing what it can to make that happen.

State party chairman Matt Micheli said at this point it’s just a matter of trying to put in a good word in Washington.

“You know the transition team is assembled and there are people on the transition team that I know well," he said. "We can raise our hand and say ‘hey.'”

National Park Service

Five Wyomingites became U.S. citizens in a naturalization ceremony at the federal courthouse in Kemmerer on Monday. 

Naturalization ceremonies aren’t as common in Wyoming as other states but have been more frequent this year because of the National Park Centennial. Several states co-hosted ceremonies this year at Yellowstone National Park where new citizens took the oath of allegiance.

Brooklynn Gray

Hundreds of University of Wyoming students, faculty, and community members protested the outcome of last week’s election with a Solidarity Walk Out Monday.

Reports of discrimination and harassment of minorities have increased across the U.S. in recent days. The solidarity walk, which started at the Wyoming Union before heading downtown and back, was meant to show support for LGBTQ individuals, Muslims, immigrants and other marginalized groups.

After some losses in Tuesday’s election, the Wyoming State Legislature’s Democratic count is down from 13 to 12. However, there were a couple of victories over Republican incumbents, like Debbie Bovee’s defeat of Gerald Gay in Casper.

Wyoming State Legislature

There will be fewer women serving in Wyoming's legislature after Tuesday's election. A large number of women ran for seats in the state house and senate, 37 total. But only 10 won their races.

Currently, Wyoming has the lowest representation of women in its legislature in the country, with just 12 women currently in office.

Cathy Connolly, the House District 13 representative, said she is at a loss for why the state ended up losing female representatives.

Bouchard

Republican Anthony Bouchard beat Independent Kym Zwonitzer in the race for Senate District 6 by about 300 votes. The seat represents rural Laramie and Goshen Counties.

Zwonitzer entered the race after her husband David lost in the Republican primary. Bouchard leads a gun rights organization and calls himself a fiscal conservative.  He says the state must reduce its spending.   

“I think the biggest problem that we have had since the time that I have been watching the legislature very closely, is that it’s just been a spending spree,” said Bouchard. 

Wyoming State Legislature

Republican challenger Jared Olsen beat Democratic incumbent Mary Throne in House District 11 of Laramie County. It was a close race, with Olsen winning by only 63 votes.

Representative Throne’s loss came despite raising more than $34,000, a remarkably high amount for a local race in Wyoming. It’s also remarkable considering she’s served five terms, most recently as the House Minority Floor Leader.

Jared Olsen has never held elected office, but that didn’t keep him from challenging a five-term incumbent. Olsen said Wyoming’s biggest issue is fixing its economy.

Brett Neilson

Wyoming Public Radio's Caroline Ballard interviews News Director Bob Beck about what the outcomes of several key races mean for Wyoming.

Marian Orr

Marian Orr has been elected to be Cheyenne’s next Mayor.  Orr won Cheyenne’s hotly contested mayoral race with 56 percent of the vote.

Throughout her campaign, she said she was focused on repairing infrastructure in the city, especially roads, and improving the city’s police force. Now she said it will be a matter of moving funds around.

Ryan Greene

Democrat Ryan Greene has conceded the race for Wyoming's lone U.S. house to Liz Cheney. With 80 percent of precincts reporting, Cheney has taken 62 percent of the vote while Greene took 30. Greene said he wishes Cheney the best of luck going forward but offered her some advice.

“Well, you know, vote for Wyoming, not for the party,” Greene said. “Our issues are not reflective of one party. Always, always keep the Wyoming people in mind, regardless of the party. Do what’s best for the state.”

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

The daughter of a former Vice President is Wyoming’s new Congressman. Liz Cheney easily defeated Ryan Greene to win the same seat that was once held by her father Dick. 

Cheney had been accused of being a carpet bagger after moving to the state to run for federal office. But her strong views about abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency and against a number of Obama administration policies gained her support. Cheney says it was a message many wanted to hear.

Caroline Ballard

As voters cast their ballots this Election Day in the first race to feature a major-party female candidate for President, some Laramie residents gathered to honor the first female voter. In 1870, Wyoming became the first state to give women the right to vote. Laramie resident Louisa Swain was the first woman to exercise that right. 

Around 50 voters gathered at the statue of Swain in Laramie Tuesday to pay their respects and to voice support for female candidates, including presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

blogtrepreneur.com/li

Three of Wyoming’s Supreme Court justices and seventeen District and Circuit Court Judges in the state are up for retention on Tuesday’s ballot.

Brett Neilson

Jackson resident says a state system that flags voters as potential non-citizens may be intimidating some U.S. citizens, who have the legal right to vote.

Jackson's Gina Valencia became a U.S. citizen in 2010. That November she registered to vote in her first U.S. election and then voted in five elections. The Wyoming Department of Transportation has a copy of her U.S. passport on file as proof of her citizenship.

But this year, she received a letter from the Teton County Clerk saying she had been flagged by the state as a "potential non-citizen."

Mayoral candidates Marian Orr and Amy Surdam were friends for a couple of years. Then, they each learned the other was seeking to become Cheyenne’s next mayor. Marian Orr said they decided to meet up.

“We had coffee,” said Orr. “I knew that she was considering, and I wanted to be very upfront with her that I was considering the race, as well.”

Amy Surdam remembered the meeting, as well.

Cheyenne’s two mayoral candidates have raised nearly $50,000 over the course of their campaigns, according to new filings with the Laramie County clerk's office. 

Amy Surdam, who is running on a platform of improving amenities in Cheyenne, raised more than $30,000, largely during the primary race. Of that, $3,500 came from political action committees, including the Cheyenne PAC, Federated Firefighters of Wyoming PAC and the Wyoming Realtors PAC.

American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming has named Sabrina King as its new Policy Director in hopes of increasing its presence in Wyoming, after financial pressures forced the organization to shrink about a year and a half ago.  

Forward Wyoming

Two organizations the Wyoming Republican party alleged violated campaign finance laws sent official responses to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office. 

The Wyoming GOP said that mailers sent by Forward Wyoming Advocacy were actually paid for by a progressive political consulting firm, but not marked as such. 

But the Executive Director of Forward Wyoming Advocacy, Sydney Stein said in a press release that while her organization contracts with ELLA Wyoming for data management and web design, they are not one and the same.  

Wikipedia

The Wyoming Republican Party has filed two complaints with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, alleging certain mailers broke campaign finance laws. The two complaints were filed on October 20 and 25, and refer to two separate mailers sent to Wyoming residents earlier this month, which expressed support for Democratic candidates in legislative races around the state.

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