wyoming legislature

State of Wyoming Legislature

The legislature’s joint Labor and Health Committee praised state health officials for their quick response when two nursing homes threatened to close last month.

The state took over the facilities in Rock Springs and Saratoga after the company that owned them said it was suddenly closing them. Senator Bernadine Craft of Rock Springs said Monday that it was a terrifying time in her community. 

State Health Director Tom Forslund noted that the state was criticized by some for getting involved with a private business. He said that leads to policy questions for the future.

Wyoming lawmakers want more flexibility in how schools are assessed under the federal education law, No Child Left Behind.

Members of the Legislature’s Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability met in Saratoga Wednesday to discuss how to reform Wyoming’s system for evaluating schools. A rework of the state’s accountability system is required by legislation passed this year.

Governor Matt Mead and other state officials are spending the summer watching energy prices as they make plans for a new budget next year. 

The governor says his priorities range from local government to health care. Mead expects that projected revenue may be down for the next two years, but he doesn't want budget cuts.          

"To cut another six percent as we did before I think would be very difficult, I think just not hiring people to fill jobs would be difficult and even together it may not make up the difference."

Bob Beck

Despite a heavy push by hospitals and businesses the Wyoming legislature once again voted down Medicaid Expansion this year.  It means the state will not receive 120-million dollars in federal funds a year to address some 17 thousand people who do not have health care coverage and it will also not help address the millions of dollars of uncompensated care faced by hospitals who are forced to treat those without insurance.  The Legislature’s Joint Health and Labor committee will spend the next several months trying to find a Wyoming solution to these issues without federal dollars. 

Getting doctors to move to Wyoming has long been a big problem, but maybe just borrowing them could be an alternative. A new interstate compact law could make it easier for more out-of-state doctors to practice in Wyoming by fast tracking their licensing process. The state continues to wrestle with a severe shortage of physicians that’s left many rural communities without adequate health care. Representative Sue Wilson of Cheyenne sponsored the bill and was excited to see Wyoming be the first to pass the law.

Bob Beck

A few weeks ago the Wyoming legislative session came to a close and Governor Matt Mead admitted that he had a number of concerns. The biggest was the failure of the legislature to pass Medicaid Expansion. The governor tells us that he knew it would be a tough sell, but it was tougher than he thought.

Bob Beck

Five years ago the Wyoming legislature embarked on its latest attempt at reforming education in the state. Lawmakers said Wyoming was spending a lot  of money on education and students were underperforming. After rejecting drastic changes such as getting rid of teacher tenure, the legislature settled on coming up with a way to score school districts, schools, teacher leaders, and teachers themselves.

Melodie Edwards

When it comes to the spread of disease from domestic sheep to bighorn sheep, it’s not that different from the arrival of Europeans in the Americas when small pox and other diseases killed millions of indigenous people. Without a built-in immunity, pneumonia can wipe out an entire bighorn sheep herd in no time. And that’s why, last week, the Wyoming legislature passed a pair of historic bills that will effectively keep the two species apart.

Firing Squad Bill Fails

Mar 12, 2015
Newsday.com

A bill that would make death by firing squad an option in Wyoming failed in the legislative session last week.

The bill was introduced and passed in the Senate. The House then amended it to give death row inmates the option of sedation before execution. Back in the Senate, there was disagreement about the language of the sedation clause. The Judiciary Committee then found a compromise. But the bill ultimately failed in the House. 

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

The Wyoming Legislature has approved a bill that is intended to help hospitals in the state cover costs for patients who cannot afford to pay for health care. 

After lawmakers rejected the $100 million a year in federal funds that would have come from Medicaid Expansion, this was viewed as a last ditch attempt to help hospitals. But opponents say the bill just throws money at the problem.

Senate Labor and Health Committee Chairman Charles Scott says the two and a half million dollars in the bill will help some of the small hospitals in the state.

The Wyoming Legislative session ended today and in his closing remarks Governor Matt Mead urged lawmakers to find a solution to a number of health care problems in the state.   The legislature voted against taking more than 100 million dollars in federal money to expand Medicaid and provide health care services to 17,600  people. Mead said legislators need to find solutions.

Wyoming victims of sexual assault will now be able to get a protection order without the necessity of proving their case in court. Governor Matt Mead signed a bill into law that provides victims a protection order of six months that can be renewed up to a year. 

Green River Senator John Hastert says it allows a victim to get protection from their assailant if they choose not to pursue criminal charges. 

A bill headed to the Governor's desk allows the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority to issue up to one billion dollars in bonds to support construction of out-of-state coal ports.  Senator Michael Von Flatern says the bill allows the Authority to borrow money from investors for the bond, which can then be lent to projects elsewhere.

“A great morale booster by the way, so if the state’s showing that it’s willing to put up bonding ability, or allow an authority to have bonding ability it may make a project look more viable than if we weren’t gonna put any skin in the game.”

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

The Wyoming Senate decided that a bill that would have provided a mechanism for guns to be in schools and gun free zones was not ready for prime time. The Senate voted 25 to 3 to kill that bill with no debate. It ends debate on the issue for the year. 

The bill originally mandated that guns be allowed in schools, colleges, and government meetings, but Senator Hank Coe successfully amended the bill to leave those decisions up to local governing bodies. Lander Republican Cale Case favored the House version of the bill.

The House and Senate will convene a conference committee to try and iron out a piece of legislation that supporters say is key to education reform. 

The bill sets up the next phase of a school accountability program that grades educators and provides help if they aren't meeting expectations. The House voted to remove state oversight from the bill. Pinedale Representative Albert Sommers says it goes too far.

On Monday, Governor Matt Mead signed a bill that reopens the debate over teaching climate change science in schools. The Next Generation Science Standards, known as NGSS, include the concept that climate change is real and largely caused by man. In Wyoming, and a handful of other states, that’s controversial. So last year, the state legislature banned discussion to adopt them.  

Pete Gosar, Chairman of the Wyoming Board of Education, says the board now plans to begin debating the standards at their March meeting.  

The Wyoming Senate continues working on a bill that would let school boards, college trustees, and local governments decide whether guns will be allows in their facilities. 

The Senate rejected several amendments, including one by Gillette Republican Jeff Wasserburger to add number of safety measures to the bill. Those measures included 20 hours of safety training for school employees and giving local entities the ability to revoke concealed carry permits.

Wasserburger is a school principal with mixed emotions about the bill.

 

An amendment that would have added gay and transgender people to a bill intended to protect Wyoming residents from housing discrimination—failed Tuesday.

Openly gay Laramie Democrat Cathy Connolly tried to add the two groups of people to the list of protected classes. Connolly, who is also a University of Wyoming Professor, says it’s a serious concern.

“I can tell you that at least once a year, a student comes to talk to me about the fear of losing his or her apartment or trailer, simply because they are gay.”

An attempt to Wyoming to the list of states pushing for a balanced budget constitutional amendment has failed. 

The Senate handily rejected the measure due to fears that with only three congressional members, Wyoming would not have equal footing with other states.

Senator Phil Nicholas also had grave concerns that a balanced budget amendment could entice Congress to balance the federal budget by stealing Wyoming’s mineral wealth. 

Baggs Republican Larry Hicks says that was no reason to vote the measure down.

Billings Gazette

Tuesday, the Wyoming house passed two bills that would lay out a strategy for keeping domestic sheep and bighorn sheep separated. Domestic sheep carry a bacteria that can spread pneumonia to bighorns, wiping out whole herds. But Wild Sheep Foundation Director Kevin Hurley has problems with the bills, especially Senate File 133, which sets aside funds to remove a herd of transplanted bighorns from the Wyoming Range    

A bill that would help hospitals pay for charity care is making its way through the House of Representatives. It would give hospitals 5 million dollars to help cover the cost of unpaid medical bills.

 The Wyoming Senate voted not to override Governor Matt Mead’s veto of a bill dealing with when law enforcement can seize property in a drug case. 

Currently, money or property can be seized without someone being charged with a crime. The bill would have required someone to be convicted of a felony before property could be seized.

Senator Leland Christensen says it was about protecting personal property. He added that the current standard is too low.

facebook.com/markgordon4wyoming

 

The Wyoming legislature is putting finishing touches on a proposed constitutional amendment that will allow the State Treasurer to invest money in equities or common stock. The idea is to enhance non-permanent state savings accounts. State Treasurer Mark Gordon joins Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck to explain why this is a good idea.

Bob Beck

The Wyoming legislative session is coming up on its last week. It’s a session that’s seen the defeat of Medicaid Expansion and some other key issues. Because of that, critics say they really haven’t accomplished much, and some legislators agree.

After each legislative session lawmakers return home to speak to service groups about their accomplishments. Gillette Senator Michael Von Flatern isn’t sure what they did.

“You know some days I really wonder (laughs), because I spent a whole week, at least a week on Medicaid expansion that didn’t go anywhere.”

The fate of the Next Generation Science Standards will soon be back in the hands of the State Board of Education.

Last year, the Legislature, through a budget amendment, blocked the state board from adopting the standards because of concerns about how they addressed climate change. 

A bill removing the budget footnote passed the House easily this year, but got hung up when Senator Eli Bebout added a last second amendment that instructed the board to adopt standards unique to Wyoming. 

Bebout says after a conference committee they came up with new language.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

A bill that would have removed gun free zones from Wyoming schools, athletic events, and government meetings has been substantially changed by the Senate Education Committee. 

The committee voted 3 to 2 to approve an amended bill that lets local school boards, college boards of trustees, and local government officials to decide if guns will be allowed within their facilities. 

Senator Hank Coe of Cody says local officials can better decide whether guns should be allowed in their jurisdiction.

A bill that was opposed by food safety officials has passed the Wyoming Senate. The Food Freedom Act allows Ag producers to sell such things as unregulated eggs and raw milk locally.  

Supporters say the Food Freedom Act will help Ag Producers make more money by allowing them to sell products locally. Senator Ogden Driskill says it legalizes a practice that has been going on for years. 

Casper Republican Charles Scott tried one last time to warn the Senate that selling raw milk is a bad idea because it could lead to disease outbreaks. 

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

A huge effort by business coalitions to pass a bill to provide workplace protections to gay and transgender people came to an end Tuesday.  The Wyoming House of Representatives defeated Senate File 115, a much talked about anti-discrimination measure, 33 to 24. 

Floor debate was between those who say that workplace protections for gay and transgender people would make Wyoming’s business climate more welcoming versus those who say it provided unnecessary special protections. 

A bill that would have banned the sale of powdered alcohol in the state has failed. 

 The Wyoming House of Representatives defeated the bill by one vote after several members said the legislature shouldn’t ban just one form of alcohol.  Riverton Republican David Miller says there appeared to be no reason to ban it. 

"It’s regulated, you have to be 21 to buy this stuff. I don’t know why we’re doing this, I can think of a lot of other things we probably shouldn’t be doing either, but we are not going out and making them illegal." 

Wisconsinwatch.org

The Wyoming Senate has rejected an amendment that would ban the sale of un-pasteurized milk during second reading debate over the Food Freedom Act. The legislation would allow farmers and ranchers to sell unregulated food products to consumers. Casper Senator Charles Scott attempted to remove milk from the bill. Scott says a number of diseases can come from unpasteurized milk sold on a widespread scale.

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