wyoming legislature

P. SOLOMON BANDA, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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.

Wikimedia Commons

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.

Pexels

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.

Wikimedia Commons

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.

Wikimedia Commons

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.

Tennessee Watson

A program to allow judges to mandate substance abuse treatment instead of jail time for drug offenders received final approval by the Wyoming House of Representatives on Tuesday.

House Bill 94 provides funding to support more drug courts. Proponents of the bill say the approach will save the state money overall by reducing prison costs.  

Court mandated substance abuse treatment is already an option in Wyoming, but Thermopolis Representative Nathan Winters said there’s been an uneven application of this program.

Wyoming State Legislature

The Wyoming Senate discussed over 25 different amendments to their budget bill and adopted 12 of them on Wednesday. One amendment that was approved reduces salaries of most state employees by two percent. The bill would exclude employees of the University of Wyoming, the state’s community colleges, school districts, and the judicial branch.

Senate President Eli Bebout sponsored the bill. He said the state should consider how the private sector addresses financial trouble.

Wyoming Public Media

Wyoming’s Senate Education Committee moved a bill forward today to change how teachers are evaluated. The change is also supported by school districts and teachers across the state.

House Bill 37 removes the state’s responsibility to monitor teachers and gives that power to local school districts. Wyoming Education Association spokesperson Ken Decaria said school districts and teachers around the state support the change.

State of Wyoming Legislature

An omnibus education bill passed the Wyoming House Tuesday and moved to the Senate for review.

The bill is the House of Representatives' answer to the $400 million education budget deficit. The bill proposes freezing transportation and special education funding for the 2018-2019 fiscal year to generate some savings.

Remaining gaps in funding would be covered by legislative reserves. And should the state’s rainy day account dip below $500 million, the state sales tax and the state use tax would increase a half penny.

pixabay

Should the legislature vote to raise taxes for education?

WPM/NPR Community Discussion Rules

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

flickr creative commons

The Wyoming Senate passed a proposed constitutional amendment Friday to give the legislature the power to determine how much the state should spend on public education.  The amendment, if supported by the public, would diminish the power of the courts.

Laramie Senator Chris Rothfuss said he voted against Senate Joint Resolution nine because it would adversely change the nature of the relationship between the courts and the legislature.

pixabay

A bill to lower the penalty for marijuana possession of three ounces or less passed the Wyoming House of Representatives today. The vote for House Bill 157 was nearly unanimous with 52 votes in favor.

Cheyenne Representative Jared Olsen sponsored the bill in an effort to save prison costs.

pixabay

An Omnibus Education Bill received initial approval by the Wyoming House of Representatives Friday, but not before a heated tax debate. The House rejected a proposed 2-percent tax increase that was part of the bill and instead approved a half penny tax that kicks in when the rainy day fund falls below $500 million dollars.

Encampment Representative Jerry Paxton supported the larger of the two tax increases and said the state needs to act now to produce more revenue.

Wyoming Legislature

The Wyoming House of Representatives gave initial approval to bills that touched on the topic of abortions. House Bill 182 requires physicians to tell a woman that they can see an ultra-sound and hear the unborn child’s heartbeat and provide other information.   

Laramie Representative Charles Pelkey said the bill goes too far.

People with concealed carry permits could soon be able have guns on college campuses, in certain schools, and in government meetings.  

The Wyoming House of Representatives overwhelming supported all three bills Wednesday. The only serious debate surrounded whether concealed carry should be allowed on the University of Wyoming campus. 

House Minority Leader Cathy Connolly is a UW professor. She says the bill takes away local control by forcing the University to accept guns. Connolly says a number of faculty are worried about the bill.

The Wyoming Legislature

The Senate Education Committee is continuing to work on Senate File 165 that proposes a number of reductions to school funding. The measure is one of several being considered as the legislature looks to make up a $400 million shortfall in K-12 funding.

Among the bill’s proposals, it would freeze special education funding and offer early retirement to teachers within five years of retiring. The committee has heard over five and half hours of public input.

Wikimedia Commons

A bill to raise Wyoming’s cigarette tax failed in the House of Representatives today, but will be voted on again Wednesday, after Pinedale Representative Sommers asked for a reconsideration. 

House Bill 151 would raise the tax from 60 cents a pack to 90 cents. Opponents of the bill say the increased taxes would hurt small business across the state, and would not deter smokers from buying cigarettes. 

Bob Beck

An effort to add a three day waiting period to handgun purchases has been defeated by a Wyoming legislative committee. The House Judiciary Committee voted 8 to 1 against the bill from Laramie Representative Cathy Connolly.

The waiting period was requested by Laramie resident Jim Kearns whose son used a handgun to commit suicide in August. Kearns says his son bought the gun to kill himself.

Wyoming Legislature

The Wyoming Senate is debating a bill that could lead to a long awaited 20 year plan to diversify Wyoming’s economy. The bill sets up the Economically Needed Diversity Options For Wyoming Council, or ENDOW Council.

Senate President Eli Bebout said it’s difficult to get legislators to think long term, but he thinks the current economic climate will help.

On the list of recommendations to reduce Wyoming’s education budget deficit is a cap on special education funding. That means moving forward, districts that need to spend more than their allocated budget will need to cover those additional costs on their own.

Wyoming highway patrol

The Wyoming Senate has passed a bill that enhances the penalties for fleeing a police officer or attempting to flee a police officer. 

The bill makes it a felony if a driver tries to elude a police officer and drives recklessly. The penalty is further enhanced if the driver injures someone or causes property damage. 

LaGrange Senator Curt Meier said someone who is driving recklessly is not necessarily committing a felony, and that the bill goes too far.

Bob Beck

In an effort to bring more young people to the state, Speaker of the House Steve Harshman wants to expand the Hathaway Scholarship to out of state students.

To qualify, a student will need a cumulative grand point average of 3.75 and be in the 96 percentile on either the SAT or ACT. The catch is that students must repay the scholarship either by working in the state or by paying out of pocket after they graduate. Harshman said that he believes if students come here, they will want to stay and that will help the economy.    

The House Education Committee has given approval to a bill that would set up a group of legislators and citizens to find solutions for solving the public education shortfall.

Speaker of the House Steve Harshman says the legislation is a fall back in case other reform measures are defeated. He says the goal is to come up with a thoughtful solution.

To do a reasonable, comprehensive solution that I think where most people in Wyoming where you sit down and have a cup of coffee with in Wyoming would say, that sounds reasonable to me.”

Wyoming Public Radio News Director Bob Beck joins Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard to discuss the latest news from the Wyoming Legislature.

The House Education Committee will welcome public comments on the Omnibus Education Bill on Monday at 6 p.m.

In anticipation of a large turnout, Representative David Northrup requested the meeting take place at the Cheyenne East High School Auditorium.

He said it’s because: “We anticipate having a lot of district personnel show up and ask questions. I am probably expecting 300 to 400 people.”

This exceeds the capacity of legislature’s temporary home in the Jonah Building.

Melodie Edwards

The Wyoming House of Representatives has started working on a bill that is intended to better help social studies teachers teach about the Tribes on the Wind River Reservation. 

The legislation provides the resources so that teachers across the state help students learn a number of things about the tribes and Native Americans. Some have expressed concern that it could burden already overworked teachers, House Floor Leader David Miller says it won’t.

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.

LSO

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.

Pages