wyoming legislature

The House Judiciary Committee voted 5 to 4 to recommend a bill that would allow executions by firing squad in the state. 

The Department of Corrections says acquiring the drugs to provide lethal injections has become more and more difficult. Lawmakers says they need to find another option in case someone ends up on death row. 

Thermopolis Representative Nathan Winters voted against the bill because he has concerns that such executions might be cruel and unusual.

Efforts to raise fines for workplace safety violations and deaths will fail in the Wyoming legislature. The Senate has decided not to hear a bill that would have increased penalties for workplace safety violations that result in deaths and the House defeated two workplace safety bills on Friday.

Representative Mary Throne of Cheyenne was the main sponsor.  

“I think it would send a message to those small number of companies who don’t have a commitment to safety, that we care. And if they don’t change their ways, they’re going to pay for it.”

The Wyoming Senate gave initial approval to a bill that would extend the state anti-discrimination protections to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.  The Senate started work on language to expand exemptions for religious charities, religious non-profits and groups such as the Boy Scouts.  Senator Dave Kinskey says they are trying to strike a balance.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Media

The Wyoming Senate has killed a bill that would have provided Medicaid Services to nearly 18 thousand people.  Only 11 of the 30 Senators voted for the bill.   Riverton Republican Eli Bebout said the time was not right, but Laramie Democrat Chris Rothfuss disagreed.  He said the need for expansion is great.

“For the last three years we’ve have the lives of 17,600 folks here in Wyoming in our hands to some degree with their access to affordable health care.  And we’ve worked hard over those years to come up with the best approach for Wyoming that we could put together. “

Bob Beck

The Wyoming legislature is approaching the halfway point and if you have spent any time around the House of Representatives you’d hear a lot of conversation about personal rights and freedom. This ranges from protecting people’s religious beliefs to gun rights. It’s not unusual for Wyoming legislators to be anti-government, but this year the house has discussed several bills that could make that anti-government stance law.

The State Senate gave initial approval to a bill that would remove binding arbitration in collective bargaining cases between cities and firefighters. That is when an arbitrator rules on a dispute and both sides must accept the decision. 

Republican Dave Kinskey, the former Mayor of Sheridan, says his community has too often been forced to live with the ruling of an arbitrator who lives out of state. 

He says non-binding arbitration would lead to quicker negotiations and return accountability to local government.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has given approval to a bill that bans discrimination for gender identity and sexual orientation in the workplace and a variety of other areas. 

The committee voted 4 to 1 to support the bill after voting down an amendment that tried to strengthen the exception for religious institutions. Sheridan Senator Dave Kinskey says he supports the bill, but notes that some religious organizations have concerns.

The State Senate gave initial approval to a bill that would remove binding arbitration in collective bargaining cases between cities and firefighters. That is when an arbitrator rules on a dispute and both sides must accept the decision.  

Republican Dave Kinskey, the former Mayor of Sheridan, says his community has too often been forced to live with the ruling of an arbitrator who lives out of state.  

He says non-binding arbitration would lead to quicker negotiations and return accountability to local government. 

The Wyoming House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow guns in schools, college campuses, and government meetings.    

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

The Wyoming Senate gave initial approval to a Medicaid Expansion bill, but added an amendment that could keep the state plan from being adopted by the federal government. 

Riverton Republican Eli Bebout added a requirement that participants work up to 32 hours a week unless they’re disabled. The government has previously refused to consider such requirements, and Gillette Republican Michael Von Flatern called it a poison pill that hurts the bill. 

The Wyoming House of Representatives gave final approval to a bill that is intended to force people from doing things that are against their religious beliefs. 

The House made an amendment to make it clear that the bill does not apply to government employees. For instance, if they oppose something like same sex marriage, a government employee must still issue a license. 

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The State Senate has started debate on legislation that expands Medicaid to more people in the state. The bill is based on the SHARE plan that was developed by the State Department of Health. It provides health care services to participants who pay into the program like typical health insurance. 

The Senate rejected a plan by Casper Republican Charles Scott to require Health Savings Accounts. Bill Sponsor Michael Von Flatern of Gillette says he supports an amendment that requires the expansion be paid for mostly with federal money.

Bob Beck

For the last few years Wyoming has considered taking advantage of part of the Federal Affordable Care Act which pays states to expand Medicaid services to the so called working poor. While states have some up-front costs, the federal government pays for 100  initially and 90 percent after that. In Wyoming it would pay for close to 18,000 additional low income people to get health care coverage. Despite the federal money, lawmakers have consistently refused to adopt expansion. Why? The answer is varied.

A bill that would allow those with concealed carry permits to have guns at schools, colleges, athletic events, and government meetings has received initial support from the Wyoming House of Representatives.

The House has approved a similar bill in the past and Thursday the bill passed with no debate. Evansville Republican says that’s because it’s been debated before. 

Bob Beck

The Wyoming House of Representatives began debate Thursday on a bill that could allow people in Wyoming to deny services to individuals when they have a religious conflict with their behavior or actions. 

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is modeled after legislation approved in other states, but opponents say it allows discrimination.

Wyoming Legislature

 The State Senate has given initial support to a bill that aims to fix Wyoming’s Tribal Liaison program. 

The two liaisons work with the tribes and state government, but there’s been disputes over funding and other matters.  The legislation provides 200 thousand dollars for the liaisons and makes them an appointee of the governor.

Republican Cale Case of Lander says the bill empowers them to be a more important part of state and tribal government. 

Concealed guns would be allowed in schools, on college campuses, and in government meetings under a bill that will be considered by the Wyoming House of Representatives. 

The bill would repeal gun free zones and was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on an 8-1 vote. Gun supporters say the legislation could keep schools safe, but education organizations and State Superintendent Jillian Balow oppose the measure. Chris Boswell of the University of Wyoming says the bill is problematic.

The Senate Labor and Health Committee has approved a Medicaid Expansion bill on a 4 to 1 vote.

The bill models the Wyoming Department of Health’s Share plan, but also includes a Health and Wellness account that participants would use for medical co-pays. Despite the vote, the bill continues to have lukewarm support. 

Casper Republican Bill Landen voted for the bill in committee, but he may not support it on the Senate floor.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Media

A legislative committee considering legislation to expand Medicaid will now consider a second expansion proposal. 

This proposal is one favored by Governor Matt Mead and crafted by the Wyoming Department of Health with help from federal health officials. The so-called Share plan legislation is sponsored by Gillette Republican Michael Von Flatern and three other Republicans.

"To show those in the legislature as well as the rest of the public that the Republicans, there is actually quite a few of us that consider this the way to go, and we need to expand Medicaid.”

Bob Beck

A controversial piece of legislation intended to let people practice their religious beliefs in daily life received approval from the House Judiciary committee. House Bill 83 is called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

Republican Nathan Winters of Thermopolis wants to keep the government from forcing people to do things that are contrary to their religious beliefs. 

Linda Burt of the American Civil Liberties Union fears it could go too far.

The Wyoming House Education Committee has voted down a proposed Constitutional Amendment that could have led to an appointed State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The 7-2 vote to kill the bill likely ends a two year effort to remove the Superintendent as an elected state official.

Noting heavy public opposition to the bill, Encampment Republican Jerry Paxton said it’s time to stop the discussion.

The State Senate is continuing work on a Constitutional Amendment that allows the State Treasurer to invest various state funds in common stocks. The state currently invests permanent funds in common stocks, but the state constitution does not allow such investment of other state funds.

Senator Chris Rothfuss says the return on those state funds is very low. He says this change would do a lot for the state savings.

The State Senate has reversed itself and passed a bill that includes a requirement that Wyoming public high school students must take four years of math. Last week the Senate voted to keep the math requirement at three years.

Cody Republican Hank Coe successfully amended the bill to allow a student to take a math related elective in their senior year. Many had argued that students who aren’t going to college don’t need an extra year of math, but Casper Republican Charlie Scott says a math elective would be valuable for that group of students.

The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill Monday that removes a controversial budget footnote keeping the State Board of Education from considering the Next Generation Science Standards. Gillette Republican Scott Clem called the Next Generation Standards junk science, mainly because they require the study of climate change.

“We want something that is unique for Wyoming, we don’t want cookie cutter standards. We are committed to the success of our children when it comes to their education and if we do anything less than that then we are contributing to their failure.”

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A bill that would have allowed the use of medical marijuana was killed in a Wyoming House Committee on a 5 to 4 vote.  The bill was sponsored by Casper Republican Gerald Gay. 

He said cannabis use would have been regulated by medical providers and the goal was to help address a number of pain issues.  A Doctor testified that it has a number of pain benefits. Gillette Republican Bill Pownall says Wyoming is not ready for this yet.

The Wyoming House of Representatives took the first step towards removing a controversial budget footnote that kept the State Board of Education from considering the Next Generation Science Standards.  Speaker of the House Kermit Brown says that legislating via a budget footnote is improper.  Thermopolis Republican Nathan Winters challenged that statement.  Winters says that many publications rated the Next Generation standards as average at best.  He says the State Board of Education was moving too quickly towards adopting those science standards.

The Wyoming Senate has rejected an attempt to require four years of math in public high schools.  The debate came during a discussion on a bill addressing education accountability and assessment.  Currently the state requires three years of math and Senator Hank Coe says increasing it to four years will help improve education.       

“You know this is a global economy…big time.  And the United States is not getting it done and honestly we aren’t getting it done in Wyoming either.  Rigor is what we need.”

The second week of Wyoming's state legislature is wrapping up today. Wyoming Public Radio News Director Bob Beck speaks with Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard about what we've seen so far this session.