Politics

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.

Wikipedia Creative Commons

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. 

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