Politics

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The legislature’s joint revenue committee wrapped up two days of discussions on possible tax increases to deal with Wyoming’s declining revenue picture. 

The committee looked at everything from increasing property taxes to pay for an education shortfall to letting communities add a sales tax on food. But at the end of the two days, the committee only agreed to draft two bills, both dealing with increasing the wind tax.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

A Wyoming legislative committee is looking into ways to help cities, towns, and counties raise more money, but a localized food tax failed to gain support Thursday.

State Senator Ogden Driskill of Devils Tower said the state will likely not be able to keep providing money for local government at the rate it has in the past. Lawmakers approved 105 million dollars for local entities for the next two years, a decrease of 78 million from the previous two years. 

Wyoming’s Democratic Candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives says the Affordable Care Act has helped many citizens in the state, but he adds that it can be improved.  

Rock Springs resident Ryan Greene says there are a number of reforms that could help, but Congress has to stop trying to kill the ACA and instead look to fix it. He says there are problems with the current system.

“We pay twice as much for name brand prescription’s as any other nation on earth. Why? And then I can get my car insurance from Chicago, but I have to get my health insurance from Wyoming.”

AARON SCHRANK/WPR

Meet The Candidates 

Dr. Rex Rammell is a veterinarian from Gillette. In 2008 he was an Idaho candidate for the United States Senate and in 2010 a candidate for governor.  He is author of the book, "A Nation Divided: the War for America's Soul."  Dr. Rammell considers himself a firebrand constitutional conservative who believes the answer to many of Wyoming's problems can be solved with the Federal transfer of public lands.  

AARON SCHRANK?WPR

Nine candidates for Wyoming’s only U.S. House seat faced off in a debate Monday night at the University of Wyoming.

Republican Liz Cheney told the crowd that she’s the one candidate who can build a national coalition around fossil fuels and other important Wyoming issues.

But State Representative from Casper Tim Stubson said he’s the candidate with a proven track record representing Wyoming.

Maggie Mullen

The Albany County Democrats are asking Wyoming’s superdelegates to reconsider their commitments to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in order to more accurately reflect the popular presidential vote that favored Senator Bernie Sanders at last week’s statewide caucus.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The Cheyenne City Council has been debating a proposed ordinance that would allow those living in certain residential zones in Cheyenne to raise chickens in their backyard. Right now, it is illegal to so do.

What has come to be known as the “chicken ordinance” would allow up to five chickens in a backyard within certain residential zones in Cheyenne. This week the ordinance was tweaked during second reading discussion.

Wyoming is sometimes called the Equality State — it had the nation's first female governor and was the first territory to give women the right to vote. But that legacy isn't visible on the floor of the state Senate. Just one of the 30 state senators is a woman.

"I am the queen of the Senate. I have my own little tiara," jokes Bernadine Craft, a Democrat who represents the mining town of Rock Springs.

The state of Wyoming was amongst the locations revealed in the data leak of the Panama Papers, that involved the large offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The leak included 11.5 million confidential files and pointed to millionaires and others that may be hiding their money in Wyoming based shell companies.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told supporters that he has a path to the White House and that will continue with a victory at the Wyoming Democratic caucus this weekend. 

Speaking at the University of Wyoming, Sanders encouraged his supporters to get the vote out.

Democrats and progressives win when there is a large voter turnout, Republicans win when people are demoralized, this campaign is giving energy and enthusiasm to millions of Americans.”

Flickr Creative Commons, by 401kcalculator.org

Wyoming has consistently ranked poorly among states when it comes to equal pay, but new research reveals the state as having the third largest lifetime wage gap in the country. Because of that gap, an average Wyoming woman makes about 651,000-dollars less than a man over the course of a 40-year-career.

WPR/AARON SCHRANK

Former President Bill Clinton was in Cheyenne Monday morning, telling a crowd of 500 to support his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the state’s democratic caucus Saturday.

Clinton defended his wife’s perceived anti-coal stance and said a transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable  energy will ultimately benefit Wyoming’s economy. He also criticized Wyoming’s Republican-led Legislature for failing to approve Medicaid expansion.

Wyoming Democratic Party

Democratic county caucuses will be held at 11 a.m. on April 9th and the number of registered democrats has seen a recent increase. 

   

Wyoming is a distinctly red state, but that hasn’t stopped both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders from setting up statewide offices and running recent TV ads.

The Wyoming Republican Party voted Saturday on who some of the state’s delegates will support in the GOP presidential convention in July.

Senator Ted Cruz dominated the contest winning 9 of the 12 delegates up for grabs. Marco Rubio and Donald Trump each got one delegate, and one delegate was elected as uncommitted. The rest of the state’s delegates will be decided at the GOP state convention in Casper in April.

Bob Beck

A bill that would lead to the sale of two state-owned 640 acre parcels of land inside Grand Teton National Park has failed after a conference committee could not agree to the details in the bill.

The state has been trying to get rid of the land for many years, and the bill would have required the state to sell both parcels at once. Sen. Eli Bebout wanted the federal government to get the deal done this year or pay 500-thousand dollars to extend the deadline, but the House and Senate could not reach agreement on the sale guidelines.  

Wyoming Legislature

After a lot of discussion the Wyoming legislature has finally agreed to a new local government funding bill.

The measure funds local government to the tune of 105 million dollars, and changes the distribution formula so that mineral rich counties will get less money that those without energy revenue. 

Bob Beck

The Wyoming House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow the state to sell two parcels of state-owned land located inside Grand Teton National Park to the federal government. 

Lawmakers would like 92 million dollars for the two 640 acre parcels.  During final debate the House added an amendment that would also allow the state to lease the land to the federal government if a sale falls through. 

Despite the fact that previous attempts to sell or trade the land haven’t worked out, Jackson Representative Ruth Ann Petroff said she is optimistic.

A bill intended to keep school officials from requiring students to turn over their Facebook, Twitter, or phone passwords has passed the House of Representatives. The controversial bill has received mixed reviews from school officials and lawmakers who say it could put schools in danger. 

Bob Beck / Natrona County High School

A bill that would set up a student safety call center which people could use anonymously to give information about threats to school and student safety has passed the Wyoming House of Representatives.

Supporters say call centers in other states have been very successful, but some lawmakers are not convinced. Torrington Republican Cheri Steinmetz said there are plenty of hotlines and tip lines already in existence. 

But Pinedale Republican Albert Sommers said he believes this effort is necessary.

Despite some concerns from members of the Appropriations Committee the Wyoming Senate passed a bill that provides 105 million dollars to local government over the next two years.  

Several Senators tried to reduce the funding from 105 million back to the 90 million dollar amount suggest by the Appropriations Committee. Senate Appropriations Chairman Tony Ross noted that the funding is coming out of the legislative reserve account. He said lawmakers need to save as much of that money as possible.

Despite concerns of over spending, the Wyoming House of Representatives has given final approval to a massive 400 million dollar capital construction bill.

The Wyoming House of Representatives made some changes to a bill that would reform how the state handles people involuntarily hospitalized due to mental illness. 

During second reading debate, the House adopted an amendment that gives more authority to so-called ‘Gatekeepers’. 

Every county will now have a gatekeeper that will watch over the patient and how their case is handled.

Gillette Republican Eric Barlow said his amendment clarifies the gatekeeper’s duties.

The Wyoming House and Senate reached agreement on a state budget bill and sent it to the Governor. 

The biggest budget compromise was on K -12 education funding. The Senate proposed cutting education funding by nearly 46 million dollars while the House wanted to cut substantially less. Casper Representative Tim Stubson told House members Monday that their version of the budget would instead cut about 34 million dollars from education in the next two years.

The Wyoming House of Representatives gave initial approval to a bill that would allow the state to sell two 640-acre parcels of state trust land located inside Grand Teton National Park to the federal government. 

The legislature is looking for 92 million dollars for the land.  Conservation groups and National Park officials would like the land protected, but Evansville Republican Kendell Kroeker suggested the land be sold at an auction. 

A bill that was touted as an alternative to Medicaid Expansion died in the House of Representatives. House members did not consider the bill on the final day to debate Senate bills for the first time. 

Senator Charles Scott has long opposed expanding Medicaid, but wanted to help a few hundred low income Wyomingites get health care services. The plan was to study and find alternatives to the lack of low income health care services in the state.

A bill that would have clarified how edible marijuana possession would be handled in the courts has died. That's after it failed to come up for debate on the final day to discuss bills in the House. 

The Senate had passed a bill that would have made possessing three ounces of marijuana-infused edibles a felony, but the House reduced that to a misdemeanor.  

By Subvertc, Wikipedia Commons

A Wyoming legislative committee has voted to make possession of edible marijuana a misdemeanor and will require prosecutors to determine how much marijuana is actually in the candy, drink, or other products. 

The House Judiciary committee changed the Senate version of the bill that had said possession of three ounces of edible marijuana was a felony. Laramie Democrat Charles Pelkey said the focus will now be on the amount of marijuana in the edible.

Wyoming Legislature

Riverton Senator Eli Bebout says after meeting with Wyoming’s Consumer Advocate and others, he’s dropping his effort to get rid of the office by next year. 

The Office of Consumer Advocate represents consumers when utilities want to raise rates. Bebout said it appears that the office was doing its job, but some laws need to be tweaked to allow it to do more. 

After more debate over whether they are going too far, the Wyoming Senate gave final approval to a bill that makes marijuana laced food and drink a felony if someone has over three ounces in their possession. 

Senators clarified what a constitutes a felony and rejected amendments to require prosecutors to prove that the amount of marijuana in the edible exceeds three ounces. Laramie Democrat Chris Rothfuss said  it’s not difficult to measure such things, but Senate Judiciary Chairman Leland Christensen said the Wyoming Crime lab does not currently have that ability.  

People could carry concealed firearms into legislative, city council and County Commissioner meetings under a bill approved by the Wyoming House of Representatives. 

The House easily passed the bill Tuesday after rejecting an amendment by Democrat Charles Pelkey that local government agencies should get to decide if they want concealed weapons at their meetings. Pelkey said he was trying to make a bad bill better.

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