wyoming legislature

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

A Wyoming legislative committee has given unanimous support to an ambitious bill intended to reduce prison sentences, provide more probation, and provide enhanced rehabilitation to those convicted of crimes. 

The Criminal Justice Reform measure is viewed by many in law enforcement as a way to treat people in a way that will prevent them from re-committing crimes. The tough sell may be the $2.8 million price tag at a time of fiscal austerity. orrections Substance Abuse Specialist Frank Craig says Wyoming can expect a great deal of savings in the long run.

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The House sponsors of a controversial piece of legislation say they will remove House Bill 135 from consideration.

The bill was called the Government Nondiscrimination Act and was aimed at protecting business owners and employees from being punished or sued for not serving or selling to gay people because of moral or religious beliefs. It also trumped local ordinances that protected gay and transgender people.

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A bill to increase taxes on cigarettes in Wyoming was supported by the House Revenue Committee today. House Bill 151 would increase the tax from 60 cents a pack to 90 cents.

Jason Mincer is with the Cancer Action Network of the American Cancer Society. He says they hope the tax will convince people to quit smoking.

"By putting a substantial price increase in front of a customer, they make a conscious decision on whether they want to continue to smoke or not," said Mincer.

Wyoming Legislature

A Wyoming Senate Committee moved a bill forward to support Governor Matt Mead’s efforts to diversify the state’s economy. The Senate Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee passed the bill to form the ENDOW Executive Council, or the Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming Council.

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A bill to incentivize movie production companies to film in Wyoming passed the Wyoming Senate today. 

Senate File 24 will give the Wyoming Tourism Board more flexibility when it comes to reimbursing certain costs of film making to production companies, and investments in those production companies.

Douglas Senator Brian Boner said movie production itself won't bring revenue directly into the state, but it could attract tourism.

Wyoming Legislature

A Wyoming Senate committee voted down a bill today that would have prevented Wyoming school districts from using education funds to sue the state over budget cuts. The Senate Education Committee voted three to two against Senate File 135.

Sheridan Senator Bruce Burns sponsored the bill and said it would not keep districts from suing the state, but would keep state funds from financing such litigation.

Laramie Senator Chris Rothfuss voted against the bill. He said sometimes courts need to resolve differences between entities.

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Wyoming’s House Judiciary Committee moved a bill forward to remove gun free zones on college and university campuses across the state, voting six to three in favor of the measure.

Supporters of the bill said it would help gun owners better protect themselves and others, specifically in the case of an active shooter.

University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols has come out against the bill, as well as Laramie County Community College’s President Joe Schaffer. He said he would prefer a more comprehensive solution to campus safety.

Wyoming Legislature

The Wyoming House of Representatives has started debating a bill that will change how teachers are evaluated.   

The teacher accountability bill takes the state out of monitoring teachers and gives that power to local school districts. The change is supported by school districts and teachers.

Pinedale Representative Albert Sommers says having locals evaluate teachers is a much better approach.     

TYRA OLSTAD- Fossil Butte National Monument

A controversial constitutional amendment that would have allowed the state to take over management of federal lands was killed late Friday afternoon by legislators who realized they did not have enough votes to pass it. 

The Select Committee on Federal Natural Resources said they drafted the proposed amendment as a way to protect public access to federal lands. House Majority Floor Leader David Miller said legal actions by other states could force Wyoming to take over public lands.

Liz Cheney

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is a known entity at the Capitol – there’s even a bust of him on the second floor. But what do members of Congress know of his daughter, the former cable news talking head and short lived U.S. Senate candidate?

Arizona Democrat Raul Grijava said “I don’t watch Fox much. I remember when she was running for office at her daddy’s behest.”

Wyoming Department of Education

School districts that temporarily borrow funds from the state may no longer face high interest rates. A bill to remove a 6 percent interest rate on money borrowed from the state’s Common School Fund passed the Wyoming House and is now before the Senate.  

Are you in favor of or against House Bill 135 “The Government Anti-Discrimination Act”? And Why?

For more information regarding this bill, please visit the Wyoming Legislature website

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Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails

The tight economic times have prompted many Wyoming agencies to look at where they can raise more money and Wyoming State Parks is no different.

The legislature’s Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee is proposing to give the parks program more flexibility to set daily pass and campground fees as they see fit, rather than keeping a cap on fees as it is currently.

Jackson Representative Mike Gierau sits on the committee and says Wyoming State Park Fees are cheaper than other states. 

Bob Beck

The Wyoming legislative session is underway and 24 new legislators enjoyed their first week in office. With such high turnover it wouldn’t be a surprise if some veteran lawmakers weren’t just a bit leery having so many freshmen joining the ranks, but House Majority Leader David Miller said it’s a good time for new ideas.

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The Wyoming Senate has starting working on a bill that is intended to clarify a student's digital privacy. Senate File 20 would prohibit an officer or employee of a school district from accessing a current or prospective student’s digital accounts – like their personal email or Facebook. 

It also prevents a student from being punished for not divulging such information. The legislature defeated a similar bill last year. 

Proponents say the bill protects students’ rights to privacy.

How Wyoming holds its teachers, principals and school district leaders accountable is up for discussion this legislative session. House Bill 37 amends how teachers are held accountable, while Senate File 36 focuses on administrator accountability.

Under the proposed accountability system, data reviewed by the state will tie student performance only to school buildings and districts, and not to individual teachers. Data connecting student performance to teacher performance will then only be evaluated at the local level. 

Department of Education

During his State of the State address Wednesday, Governor Matt Mead asked the Wyoming legislature to broaden the public discussion for the education budget.

Public school funding is estimated to fall around $400 million dollars short. Governor Mead said the legislature needs to act quickly to try to solve the shortfall, while also slowing down so that the public can better participate in decision making.

The Wyoming legislative session is underway, and one of the main challenges facing lawmakers is a revenue shortfall due to a downturn in the energy industry.

House Majority Floor Leader David Miller defended the state’s reliance on the energy industry for revenues in a speech to the House of Representatives.

“Diversifying the economy will not diversify the tax base. In fact, every non-mineral job is a further drain on our limited revenues. Minerals can support Wyoming in perpetuity, however that requires access to the minerals,” Miller said.

Bureau of Land Management

On Monday night, about 20 legislators met with the Wyoming Wildlife Federation to discuss an alternative to a proposed public land transfer bill. The amendment is scheduled for introduction at the legislature and would allow the state to take over federal land management from agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

In late December the Joint Education Committee released potential solutions to the K-12 education funding deficit. In the week-long public comment period that followed, the legislature received close to 600 comments.

The Wyoming School District Coalition for an External Cost Adjustment came out in support of comprehensive approach taken by the Subcommittee on Education Deficit Reduction Options, but expressed concern that the process was happening too fast. 

The Wyoming Legislature's Joint Education Committee released a document outlining possible solutions to Wyoming’s education funding crisis and has asked for immediate public input.

The Subcommittee on Education Deficit Reduction Options was tasked with offering strategies to address the current funding model, while maintaining the quality of public education.

Wyoming State Legislature

The Wyoming legislature's Joint Judiciary Committee has drafted a bill that aims to enact criminal justice reform.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman David Miller said the bill would reduce Wyoming’s prison population through a variety of sentencing reforms.

“[Through] not as strict sentencing, letting the prosecutors have a little more leeway, the judges have a little more leeway, and when people are up for parole, giving them possibly more credit for time served, good time served, or if there is a minor infraction not resetting all that back to zero,” said Miller.

Bob Beck

 

It’s been a rough year for state officials. A greater than expected revenue decline last spring forced lawmakers to cut $67 million out of existing budgets, and the governor was forced to follow-up with an additional $250 million. While revenues are starting to show some moderate improvement, lawmakers will soon be debating the wisdom of even more cuts, especially as a revenue shortfall for education looms.

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In the upcoming session, the Wyoming legislature will consider a Joint Judiciary Committee bill that aims to bring about criminal justice reform. House Judiciary Committee Chair David Miller, a Republican, and Representative Charles Pelkey, a Democrat, joined Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard to talk about the bill.

Melanie Arnett

 

 

Naysayers packed into a legislative meeting Wednesday to express disapproval of a proposed constitutional amendment that would provide guidance to the state in the event that federal lands are transferred to the state. The meeting was meant to clarify language in the amendment and no vote was actually cast.

 

Committee Chairman Tim Stubson said he's voted against such bills in the past, but this one is different.

 

Stuart and Jen Robertson - Flickr: State Penitentiery, Rawlins Wyoming

Members of a task force that reviewed a wide range of structural problems at the Wyoming maximum security prison in Rawlins stressed that they believe using up to $125 million to fix the facility will work.

National Blue Ribbon Schools Program

How should state lawmakers resolve the education funding shortfall?

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Bob Beck

 

After several months of budget cuts, it was a surprise to some that the governor did not propose any more reductions in his supplemental budget. He will present that budget to the legislature’s joint appropriations committee on Monday. Prior to that meeting the governor agreed to join Bob Beck to discuss his budget strategy.

Bob Beck

  

Over the last several years a number of right leaning activist groups have gotten themselves heavily involved in Republican politics in the state. WyWatch was a group that pushed anti-abortion and family value legislation and Wyoming Gun Owners pushed for expanded gun rights. But the group with perhaps the biggest impact is the Wyoming Liberty Group.  

Wyoming State Archives

In recent years, more and more bills have been introduced in Wyoming’s legislature that would transfer the management of federal public lands into the state control. In fact, legislators will discuss a constitutional amendment to allow state management of public lands in Cheyenne on December 14.

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