wyoming legislature

cityofcody-wy.gov

The Wyoming state legislature passed a law in March allowing school districts to choose whether their employees can carry firearms. Legislatures said the law would help many rural schools in Wyoming that are far away from law enforcement to react to an armed intruder. So far, a couple of school districts have begun to debate the possibility of introducing such a policy.

Park County School District #6 in Cody is the first school board actually working on drafting a policy that will be introduced to the public on January 8.

Office of Governor Matt Mead

Governor Matt Mead presented his budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year to the legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee Monday. The budget largely calls for reversing cuts to social services that Mead said have been in effect for long enough to hurt agencies’ ability to deliver services.

Mead wants to increase the Department of Health’s budget by $48 million. But he also rejected some of the department’s recommendations for spending reductions, like privatizing the Wyoming Retirement Center and Pioneer Home, an assisted living facility.

Willow Belden

  

A Wyoming legislative committee has been looking to trim education spending out of what is called the school funding model. A Denver-based consulting firm is in the process of reviewing the model to determine how much actually needs to be spent on education in the state.

Tennessee Watson

Lawmakers met in Casper this week to examine the current school funding model and to hear recommendations from APA, a Denver-based education consulting firm hired to help the state find efficiencies in education funding.

The state legislature’s Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration has spent the last several months working with a group of Denver-based education consultants to review Wyoming’s approach to education funding. They’re hoping to find ways to save money.

 

But Laramie Senator Chris Rothfuss said time is tight. This week he and his fellow committee members will meet in Casper for the second to last time before the 2018 Legislative Session begins in February.  

 

Wyoming Legislature

Wyoming’s energy sector seems to be bouncing back, but years of uncertainty have prompted lawmakers to take a look at spending. For the last eight months, a legislative committee has been trying to wrap their heads around the true cost of K-12 education.

Senator Dave Kinskey is part of that effort, and he’s become well known for saying he wants to see Wyoming get the most bang for the buck. Wyoming Public Radio’s Tennessee Watson visited Kinskey in Sheridan to ask him what that means.

Courtesy: Sabrina King

A new report says Wyoming’s prison system is growing, which is driving up costs and the culprit is the lack of prison reform and new legislation that could lead to more people being placed behind bars. ACLU of Wyoming has released a report called Bucking the Trend: How Wyoming can reverse course through reduced incarceration and lowered costs

State Policy Director Sabrina King says they’ve given the legislature some ideas.

 

Bob Beck

Wyoming’s revenue forecasting arm known as the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group or CREG had some good news for state officials. CREG says Wyoming’s general fund will see an increase of $141 million from January projections, but state lawmakers and the governor say it’s good news, not great news.

Legislative Service Office

Wyoming’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group says that Wyoming’s income is slightly increasing and is $141 million over its January forecast.   

The report indicates increases in such things as interest income, sales tax, and oil revenues. Lawmakers use the CREG forecast to craft the state budget. A lot of that increase is already in hand due to end of the fiscal year revenue collections. 

 

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

What do you think about giving communities more power to impose taxes and fees?

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By contributing your comment, you consent to the possibility of having it read on the air. 

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. 

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