wyoming legislature

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. 

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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.” 

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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

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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.”

Wyoming LSO

The Wyoming Senate has given initial approval to a pair of gun bills and defeated another. 

The Senate voted down allowing concealed guns on the University of Wyoming and community college campuses, but supported allowing guns at government meetings and voted to allow K-12 school boards to decide if some personnel should be allowed to have concealed weapons in schools. 

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The Wyoming House Of Representatives gave initial support to a bill Wednesday that limits when the public can view footage recorded by police body cameras. The House also amended Senate File 32, to remove dashboard cameras from the bill. A person or the media could view the recordings if they were able to convince a judge there was compelling public interest in releasing the video. 

Supporters of the bill say its intent is to provide clarity to law enforcement and the general public and give parameters and guidance on the handling of policy body footage. 

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A bill to study wage and benefit disparities between men and women in Wyoming unanimously passed the Senate’s Labor, Health, and Social Services Committee on Wednesday.

In April 2016, The National Women’s Law Center released a study that ranked Wyoming as having the third largest lifetime wage gap in the country. The study said because of that gap, an average Wyoming woman makes about $651,000 less than a man over the course of a 40 year career. 

Zach Dischner

After a lengthy debate, the Wyoming Senate gave final approval to what’s known as the Ski Safety Act. The bill is intended to protect ski areas from litigation in case of injury or death.

Supporters say frivolous lawsuits drive up insurance costs for smaller ski areas. Cheyenne Senator Tara Nethercott added an amendment to make sure there was proper signage to protect skiers. She said those using the slopes are looking for a safe experience.

Wyoming Education Association

The Wyoming Senate Education Committee voted to remove a tax measure from a comprehensive education bill and added some more cuts.

The bill is the House solution to a projected $400 million shortfall in education funding. It originally imposed a half percent sales tax after the legislature’s reserve account dropped below $500 million.

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Last week, legislators cut the salaries of two tribal liaison positions in half, from $160,000 to $80,000. Northern Arapaho liaison Sergio Maldonado has since resigned.

Only two years ago, lawmakers agreed to let the state take over the program, allowing the governor to appoint liaisons to represent the state’s two tribes instead of requiring the tribes to do so. Maldonado said he recognizes that the decision was financial and not personal, but he said the reduced salary will mean part-time pay for full-time work.

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Two bills that would remove gun free zones in public places were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. The first bill, House Bill 136, would  allow those with concealed carry permits to legally carry guns on the University of Wyoming and Community College campuses, including sporting events.

Supporters of the bill said that allowing people to carry guns will make the campuses safer. Many argued that it would especially provide protection for women.

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The Wyoming Senate passed a bill Wednesday to require internet retailers like Amazon to collect sales tax on sales to Wyoming residents. 

Only three Senators opposed the bill. Lander Senator Cale Case said he thinks the smooth passage of the bill has to do with creating a more level playing field between local and online retailers.

Wyoming Public Media

The Wyoming Senate passed a bill Wednesday to give local school districts the responsibility to decide how public school teachers evaluated. The power currently lies with the state.

House bill 37 was revived after a reconsideration vote during its second reading. And it passed its third reading with 3 dissenting votes. School districts and teachers across the state have widely supported the bill.

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The House Education Committee passed a bill Friday that provides updated guidelines for virtual education in Wyoming.

House Bill 35 sets out how students taking courses online should be enrolled in schools, and how school districts will be funded when it comes to students who split time between different programs.

The bill also changes existing language concerning “distance education” to “virtual education”

Kari Eakins with the Wyoming Department of Education said this could potentially open up more opportunities for students around Wyoming.

Bob Beck

A downturn in the energy economy has caused a crisis in Wyoming education funding. K-12 funding is projected to see a $400 million shortfall at the end of the current two-year budget cycle.

That deficit will grow if lawmakers can’t find a way to address the shortfall, but the House and Senate are taking different approaches towards solving the problem. During an interview Senate Education Chairman Hank Coe of Cody repeated a sentence that’s become a cliché this session.

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After hours of testimony Thursday, two bills concerning abortion passed a Senate Committee.

House Bill 116 would make selling fetal tissue a felony. House Bill 182 would require doctors to tell women that they can see an ultrasound before having an abortion.

People on both sides of the issue came out to show their disapproval and support of the bills.

Mary Bowd is retired nurse from Cheyenne. She said letting women know they could see an ultrasound would be consistent with standard medical practice.

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