wyoming legislature

 

The Equality State Policy Center has launched a new effort called The People’s Review. It’s intended to let the public know how their legislators voted on key legislation supported by social justice, conservation, and labor groups in Wyoming. The Director of the ESPC is Phoebe Stoner. She tells Bob Beck that the effort is focused on increasing transparency.

 

The Williams Institute

Gays and lesbians in Wyoming can be discriminated against when it comes to employment and housing. Wyoming has a non-discrimination law, but it does not include sexual orientation or gender identity. According to a recent study by the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law, that leaves more than 15,000 LGBT residents vulnerable.

Bob Beck

Cities and towns are terrified about their financial future especially when it comes to having a stable source of revenue. Years ago legislators removed direct funding to local governments, preferring instead to fund them on a bi-annual basis from the state general fund. But Lawmakers have been engaged in budget cuts and communities in particular fear they will lose their general fund money. One solution is to have the ability to raise their own revenue.

Bob Beck

  

On Tuesday, City Council members and others will converge on the legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee to suggest ways that communities could raise more money for themselves.

Lawmakers are worried about maintaining local government funding due to the downturn in the energy economy and because of education funding needs. Wyoming Association of Municipalities Director Rick Kaysen joins us to say that if local governments could raise more money internally, it could address budget uncertainty. 

Melodie Edwards

Several advocacy groups were vindicated this week when a federal appeals court ruled Wyoming’s data trespass laws unconstitutional. Now, a lower court will reconsider the statutes, which forbid people from trespassing in order to take pictures or data samples from public lands. The laws also restrict agencies from using data they receive from people who got it by crossing private lands.

Tennessee Watson

Wyoming spends significantly more on education than most states. The national average is around $12,000 per student each year, while Wyoming spends over $19,000. But Wyoming’s funding deficit has caused policy makers to question what exactly the state is paying for, and if the high price tag is required to provide a quality education. 

On Tuesday, legislators on the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration met for the first time with APA Consulting — a firm contracted to help re-evaluate the state’s educational program and funding model.

Office of Governor Matt Mead

The accounts that fund education saw an unexpected revenue boost, which brought the predicted education shortfall from $400 million down to $250 million, according to Governor Matt Mead.

 

Mead said coal is coming back — along with oil and gas — but he cautioned the state is still running short on funds. He added that means the legislature will have some hard work to do during the 2018 Budget Session, as they consider further budget reductions or alternate revenue through new taxes.

 

State of Wyoming Legislature

As a part of the state’s efforts to confront a funding deficit brought on by the downturn in the energy industry, the 2017 Legislature established the Wyoming Government Spending and Efficiency Commission.

One of its first actions was to request that all major agency heads report on their work to reduce spending and improve efficiency.

Logos courtesy of APA and the Wyoming State Legislature

The Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration—charged with looking for ways to reduce spending in the face of funding shortfalls—announced they will be working with APA Consulting to assess the current school funding model.

Photo by Gabriel Pollard from Flickr with Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

A growing deficit in funding continues to loom over the K-12 education system in Wyoming. The legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee and Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration came together Monday to work together towards a solution.  Most lawmakers say it will require a combination of cuts and revenue to resolve the deficit. 

Wyoming Public Media

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Bob Beck

Wyoming is facing a budget deficit mostly due to revenue shortfalls from energy companies and a loss in sales tax revenue. Lawmakers are starting to realize that they may need to raise money through taxes or fee increases. But while education funding has the attention of lawmakers, local government—specifically cities and towns—fear that they are being left out of the revenue conversation, and without more money communities will struggle to provide services.

 

Earlier this month, legislators met to take another look at the school funding model and possibly change it. That’s called recalibration. But changing school funding is a tricky business because politics is a big variable in the spending equation. At the April 3rd meeting of the Select Committee for School Finance Recalibration, there was only one thing that everyone could agree on.

  

The Wyoming legislature passed a bill this session to extend the sunset for that provides a manufacturing machinery sales tax exemption. It turns out this is a big deal for manufacturers. The legislature pushed the sunset on the tax back ten years. The Alliance of Wyoming Manufacturers urged lawmakers to pass the legislation and their chief lobbyist Bob Jensen joins Bob Beck to discuss the importance of the new law. 

Tennessee Watson

Every superintendent will tell you the goal is to keep cuts far away from the classroom and to hang on to as many teachers as possible. During the last legislative session, Wyoming educators asked the legislature to use reserves to cover the deficit, but instead, they stuck them with a $34 million funding reduction. Meanwhile, contracts to teachers are due April 15th, so district school boards are in the midst of figuring out what else in their budgets can go.

The Campbell County District School Board passed a resolution authorizing a lawsuit against the state at their meeting Tuesday evening. While no legal action has been taken yet, the resolution gives the district the right to sue if budget cuts limit the district’s ability to provide a quality education to their students as guaranteed by the Wyoming Constitution. 

meddata.com

Despite some recent setbacks, Congress will eventually move to either replace or make serious changes to the affordable care act. Wyoming’s congressional delegation says that should help reduce insurance premiums in the state, but that may not be the case. Wyoming saw a growth in those who have insurance under the affordable care act and current congressional fixes could do more harm than good. 

Earlier this month, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead signed a bill that requires doctors to offer ultrasounds to patients seeking abortions, but that law may only apply to one provider in the state.

Dr. Brent Blue of Jackson said he is Wyoming’s only doctor who publicly admits to providing abortions. But he has heard of other doctors in the region who have provided their regular patients with abortions that used medications to end a pregnancy, instead of surgical procedures.

Wyoming Women Rise

At just 11 percent, Wyoming currently has the lowest percentage of female legislators of any state in the country. Now, one woman is trying to improve that ratio.

Samantha Case is the founder of Wyoming Women Rise, a proposed non-profit that would provide non-partisan campaign training for women.

Currently, the Wyoming Women’s Caucus puts on Leap Into Leadership, which provides workshops that encourage women to take on leadership roles in their communities and consider running for office. But Case said there was still a need for an organization that goes a step further.

Wyoming Legislature

March 8 is International Women’s Day. All over the country women skipped work and participated in marches and rallies to spotlight women’s economic contributions as a part of an action called "A Day Without a Woman."

  

The Wyoming legislative session wrapped up on March 3, and Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck joins Caroline Ballard to discuss this year’s work. 

Tennessee Watson

Across the United States, mobile and manufactured home owners are without the same access to the American Dream as their neighbors with site-built homes. That’s because mobile homes are often classified as personal property, like a car or a boat. And converting them to real property — like a house — can be complicated. But in Wyoming, one feisty homeowner decided to take action.  

Bob Beck

Early in the Wyoming legislative session, we heard from some new lawmakers about what they were expecting. With the legislature ending its 40-day session, the freshmen say they found that they have a healthy respect for the process, but leave with some disappointments.

Sara Burlingame and Mike Lehman

 

Last year, after intense debate, the city of Cheyenne adopted an anti-discrimination resolution to protect members of the LGBT community and in this legislative session, lawmakers have tried and failed to pass state laws on both sides of the issue.

In the midst of all that, though, an unlikely friendship sprouted up.

Melodie Edwards

The State Legislature, Thursday, was still in the process of passing a bill intended to better help social studies teachers in Wyoming include the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone in their curriculum.

The bill passed the Senate, but with amended language that caused concern for Lander Representative Jim Allen who sponsored the bill.

Sheridan Senator Bruce Burns, whose district neighbors the Crow and Cheyenne reservations, pushed the Senate to strike Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone, and replace it with “tribes of the region.” 

Wikimedia Commons

The Wyoming Senate gave final approval to a pair of bills that will allow guns in public places. 

One will allow school boards to designate certain individuals to carry concealed weapons in schools. The idea is to help protect rural school districts in the state. Senators did approve one amendment that was worded in such a way that some worried that it was allowing those with concealed carry permits onto school grounds. 

Cheyenne Senator Tara Nethercott said it does nothing of the sort.

Wyoming State Legislature

What’s been your impression of the 2017 legislative session?

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GOVERNOR.GOV.WYO

The Wyoming House voted for a final time to establish the ENDOW initiative, or the Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming. The initiative was introduced by Governor Matt Mead last November to diversify the state’s economy and now his office is seeking public input. 

State of Wyoming Legislature

On Thursday, the Wyoming House of Representatives Committee passed the first reading of a bill that would establish a council charged with studying and implementing a plan to diversify Wyoming’s economy. The bill would create the ENDOW Council (or Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming Council).

Lander Representative Jim Allen proposed an amendment adding a tribal member to the council, which he said fits with the stated mission of the council.

University of Wyoming

The Wyoming Senate has defeated a bill that would have allowed those with concealed carry permits to carry guns on the University of Wyoming Campus and at Community Colleges. 

The Senate defeated the measure 17 to 13 after sponsor Anthony Bouchard of Cheyenne urged lawmakers to restore gun rights. University officials and some of the colleges begged to leave this issue up to campus trustees, but Bouchard says local control isn’t working. 

"The campuses have had the right or the ability to allow carry, but they even admitted in committee that they don’t want to do it.”

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