Politics

Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund

In 2015, Wyoming passed the Food Freedom Act, allowing the state’s food producers to sell an unprecedented number of products often illegal in other states, like unpasteurized milk and poultry, direct to consumers.

But on September 21, U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors required a vendor at the Gillette farmer’s market to dump all of his containers of chicken chili. State Representative Tyler Lindholm worked closely with the USDA to get the law passed and said he’s trying to figure out what happened so the state’s producers can be in compliance going forward.

Wyoming Youth Voter Summit

A Youth Voter Summit planned for Tuesday will be the first of its kind in Wyoming. The summit is being held in response to low voter turnout by young residents.

The summit will include voter registration, panel discussions and a number of speakers, including Governor Matt Mead and Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner.

Maggie Mullen

Wyoming’s economic downturn has decreased the amount of money the state gives to local governments at a time when many counties were already facing local revenue losses.

Johnson County Treasurer Carla Faircloth said her county's assessed valuation is down more than anywhere else in the state. Natrona County Sheriff Gus Holbrook said he has had to cut five positions and he predicts that may increase emergency response time.

Natrona County Coroner Connie Jacobson said like most agencies, her department is learning to do more with less.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

Proposals for generating new state revenue failed to draw much support from the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee during its meeting this week.

 

The committee rejected proposals to increase taxes on wind energy and tobacco. A bill that would have introduced a sales tax on services also failed and a proposal to repeal some sales tax exemptions was largely gutted. Of the nine sales tax exemptions considered, the committee voted to keep five of them intact.

 

Wyoming’s tobacco tax will remain among the lowest in the nation—at least for now. The Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee overwhelmingly rejected a bill Thursday that would have raised the cigarette tax from 60 cents to 90 cents.

 

Committee co-chair Representative Mike Madden says the proposed increase would have allowed Wyoming’s tax to keep up with inflation. The last cigarette tax increase was in 2003.

 

Wyoming Equality

On Tuesday, the Gillette City Council adopted a non-discrimination resolution in support of greater equality for the LGBT community. The resolution has no real legal power but is designed to encourage the Wyoming Legislature to take action.

Wyoming Equality spokeswoman Sara Burlingame said there was only one dissenting vote and, during the meeting, no one voiced opposition.

Germany UN

Last week, Germany’s ambassador to the United States, Peter Wittig gave a lecture at the University of Wyoming on the importance of maintaining a strong trans-Atlantic alliance.

He said the German-U.S. relationship is more important than ever as terrorism and mass migrations continue. He said Germany has taken in 1.1 million Syrian refugees in the last year, which would be equivalent to the United States taking in 4.4 million. He said each country must take its own needs and preferences into account when deciding how to respond to the refugee crisis.

Wyoming Equality

Wyoming’s largest LGBT organization, Wyoming Equality, has elected John King as their new Board Chairman. King has been asked to revitalize the organization, since it is currently facing fundraising and membership challenges.

Same-sex marriage became legal in Wyoming in October 2014 and King said since then, support for the organization has declined. King said he believes that is because of the misconception that marriage equality means complete equal rights for the LGBT community in Wyoming.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein gathered enough signatures to get her name on the November ballot in Wyoming, according to the Secretary of State's office. It is the first time a Green Party candidate has qualified for the ballot in Wyoming. 

Meanwhile, Evan McMullin, who is running as an anti-Trump independent, did not gather enough signatures to make it onto the ballot. Presidential candidates needed 3,302 signatures to qualify in this year’s election.

Wyoming Legislative Service Office

Tuesday night long time Sheridan County State Representative Rosie Berger not only lost her bid for re-election, but also her chance to be the Speaker of the House. 

Berger was defeated in the Republican primary by Bo Biteman, who painted her as anti-gun and was critical of her support of the state capital renovation project. The loss was shocking to Cheyenne Representative Dan Zwonitzer.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

Liz Cheney clinched the Republican nomination for U.S. House, Ryan Greene won the Democratic nomination for the same seat, and upsets in state legislative races spell uncertainty for leadership positions in the next legislative session. Wyoming Public Radio's Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard speaks with News Director Bob Beck about Tuesday's state primary results.

Ryan Greene won the Democratic primary Tuesday night with 60 percent of the vote, defeating his challenger Charlie Hardy. Greene campaigned as a "Wyoming Democrat," splitting with the rest of his party on issues like second amendment rights and minimum wage increases.

“My dad’s a Republican, my mom’s a Democrat. I line right up in the middle," Greene said. "And I think that’s where the solutions lie. Not too far right, not too far left, but right there in the middle. Because I don’t think Wyoming’s problems are Republican or Democrat. I believe that they are Wyoming problems.”

Surdam For Mayor

Whatever the outcome of the general election, Cheyenne’s next mayor will be a woman, for the first time ever. Marian Orr received 28 percent of the vote, while Amy Surdam received 21 percent.

The primary ballot began with 10 candidates, but only Orr and Surdam will move onto the general election. Orr and Surdam both say they are excited to see two female candidates, but both say they are very different candidates.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

After a hotly-contested primary, Liz Cheney secured the Republican nomination for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat by a landslide. Cheney took 40 percent of the vote. Her closest challengers were Leland Christensen, with 22 percent, and Tim Stubson, with 17 percent.

Cheney is a former Fox news commentator and the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, who held the seat she is seeking from 1979 to 1989. 

Liz Cheney first ran for office in 2014 against Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi, but she dropped out of that race before the primary, citing family health problems.

Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray says voting has gone smoothly across the state during today’s primary election. 

Murray said Tuesday that early voting for the primary was actually about 500 votes more than two years ago when the governor and all the top elected officials were on the ballot. He added that the races for U.S. House and some interesting local races in Cheyenne, Casper, and Gillette has turned out voters in those areas. But interest has been much lower in counties with few contested races.

Wyoming Democratic Party

The Wyoming Democratic Party is hoping that a new progressive caucus will bring in more grassroots voices and grow the party. The idea is to attract progressive Independents and current Democrats who would like to take a more active role with the party beyond the traditional structure. 

State Democratic Party Chair Ana Cupril said Bernie Sanders inspired lots of new voters to become interested in politics and many are not interested in traditional party politics. The hope is that the new caucus will get them interested.

Four state residents are calling for an ethics investigation of State Senator Eli Bebout saying that his support of the Abandoned Mine Lands bill improperly benefited a company that he partially owns. 

The company called Nucor received AML funding as a result of the legislation, but the bill did not pay Bebout directly and for that reason the Senate rules committee allowed him to vote on the legislation. Senate Minority leader Chris Rothfuss is a member of the rules committee and said Bebout’s vote was proper.

Wyoming Democratic Party

The Democratic National Convention wrapped up Thursday night with the official nomination of Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential candidate.  

Wyoming is a reliably red state, voting republican in every presidential election since the 1960s, so the Democratic candidate is typically an afterthought to most voters. But Ken Chestek, a DNC delegate from Laramie, said he doesn’t think Donald Trump will get much support in Wyoming.

Aaron Schrank

A poll commissioned by the Casper Star-Tribune and Wyoming PBS says 52 percent of Wyoming’s Republican voters are undecided in the race for the state’s lone U.S. House seat. The seat is being vacated by Representative Cynthia Lummis, who has decided not to seek a fifth term.

The poll shows that Liz Cheney is supported by 21 percent of those contacted, while 9 percent support State Representative Tim Stubson and 4 percent support State Senator Leland Christensen. But with 52 percent of the voters undecided, Cheney’s lead is not as firm as it could be.

NBC News / via Twitchy

The recent use of the acronym BLM in national conversation has left some Westerners confused. 

At this week’s Democratic National Convention, the Wyoming delegation wore t-shirts supporting Black Lives Matter, or in shorthand, BLM. Nina McConigley is a writer who lives Laramie. She posted about the show of support on her Facebook page, writing "Wyoming delegation - all wearing BLM shirts! As a POC [Person of Color] in Wyo, this makes me so so happy." She says that elicited a lot of confused comments in response. 

Wyoming Legislature Service

A Wyoming legislator is hoping to change some minds during this week’s Democratic National Convention.  

House Minority Leader Mary Throne said energy is important to Wyoming and she is concerned that the Democratic platform is anti-fossil fuels. Throne added that Democrats from non-energy producing states don’t seem to understand the role oil, natural gas, and coal play in the national economy. 

 

Wyoming U.S Senator John Barrasso said he’s pleased with the final Republican Party platform that was adopted in Cleveland this week. 

Barrasso chaired the committee that drafted the platform. The document has been criticized for its stance against same sex marriage, its opposition to transgender men and women using the restroom that aligns with their gender identity, and its support for a constitutional amendment banning abortion, among other things. But Barrasso said the platform represents Wyoming values.

Jason Senteney

A candidate for Wyoming’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives said he wants to require military service for 18-year-olds. 

Republican Jason Senteney of Torrington said  he wants to implement what he calls the National Service Plan where 18-year-old men and women would be required to serve two years in the military or a related job if they are not physically able. Senteney said this will get young people to respect each other and get them invested in the nation. 

Bob Beck

Due to declining state revenues, Governor Matt Mead announced that he is cutting the state budget by $248 million.

The Wyoming Department of Health is being asked to cut its budget by $90 million for the next two years, which Mead said will lead to a loss of 677 private sector jobs. The University of Wyoming will cut $35 million, community colleges $20 million and the Department of Corrections $17 million. Mead told the Joint Appropriations Committee Tuesday that he had no choice.

Wyoming State Legislature

It’s up to a legislative task force to decide how Wyoming should deal with structural issues at the state penitentiary building in Rawlins. They can either make repairs or construct an entirely new building.

The 13-member task force includes five senators. Senator Stephen Pappas, an architect from Cheyenne, is among five other senators on the task force.  

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

Although Bernie Sanders won the Wyoming Democratic caucus with 56 percent of the vote, he received the same number of delegates that Hillary Clinton did. Sanders supporters are hoping to change that.

Sanders supporter and Democratic National Committeeman elect Jon Gardzelewski said state delegates supporting Sanders have filed a formal petition with the Democratic National Committee challenging the apportionment of Wyoming delegates to the national convention. 

University of Wyoming

As Wyoming faces tough choices about how to balance its budget, a new survey from the University of Wyoming looks at what the public would choose. 

It's the first scientific look at citizen opinion on the budget.

“Effectively we have three choices to face a budget deficit: Raise revenue, that’s increase taxes, cut services or agency budgets, or thirdly take money out of our savings account, the rainy day fund," said Rob Godby, one of the organizers of the survey. "And we were trying to figure out what combination or single action was most popular with people.”

Tim Stubson

A candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives has unveiled a plan to help Wyoming’s struggling energy industry—and to give back power to states. 

Republican Tim Stubson calls his plan “winning back the west.” His biggest effort is to use legislation and the power of the purse to remove what he considers burdensome rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Bob Beck of Wyoming Public Radio

To save money, the Wyoming legislature may meet only 37 out of 40 possible days next year and will make other reductions in travel, staffing, and purchases.  

Due to a downturn in expected revenues, the legislature’s management council voted to reduce the legislature’s upcoming two-year budget by 12 percent. The governor is working with all state agencies and the University of Wyoming to reduce their budgets by an average of eight percent. 

Speaker of the House Kermit Brown said the upcoming session may be difficult and lawmakers may need all 40 days. 

According to a new poll, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has the third highest approval rating of Governors across the U.S. The survey results were released last week by the non-partisan media and polling organization Morning Consult, which listed Governor Mead’s approval rating at 67 percent. 

Jeff Cartwright is the communications director at Morning Consult. He says even with Wyoming facing a budget crunch, Governor Mead’s approval ratings may not be affected, simply because it’s hard to predict what will hurt a governor’s image.

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