wyoming legislature

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The final report from the Wyoming Legislature’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force has been released, after two years of studying the benefits and challenges of improving old and creating new pathways and natural trail surfaces.

Among its recommendations, the task force advised the Wyoming Legislature to invest $10 million annually in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, like enhanced walkable main streets and rural cycling routes across the state.

Ten months and $800,000 later, the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration has completed its in-depth look at how Wyoming finances education. Members of APA Consulting, who were tasked with examining the equity and adequacy of the school funding model, told lawmakers the state’s current approach works but pointed out areas for improvement. Despite a recommendation to spend more, lawmakers are opting to spend less.

Bob Beck

This week, after months of discussion, a legislative committee defeated a number of tax increase measures. The Joint Revenue Committee was hoping to find money to pay for a revenue shortfall that some thought could reach a billion dollars. Then a funny thing happened over the summer, the revenue picture improved just enough that taxes could be avoided. 

Wyoming Legislature

Later this month the Wyoming Legislature will be asked to consider a bill that will hopefully stabilize Wyoming’s Air Service. Senate Vice President Michael Von Flatern of Gillette is the main sponsor and he joins Bob Beck to explain the concept.

Kamila Kudelska

As lawmakers are discussing whether to add computer science and computational thinking to the state educational curriculum, they are looking to Powell as an example. Powell is one of only five school districts teaching computer science. Wyoming Public Radio’s Kamila Kudelska takes a deeper dive into how their curriculum has developed and persisted throughout the years.

Wyoming Legislature

After hearing that the state’s revenue picture is improving thanks to rising oil prices, the legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee rejected five tax proposals. 

They were intended to help address a $500 million shortfall in education funding. The committee defeated a one percent leisure and hospitality tax on a tie vote and refused to consider four other proposals that included raising sales and property taxes. 

House Minority Leader Cathy Connolly says when the short-term funding crisis disappeared this fall, there was no longer an appetite for taxes.                     

Tennessee Watson

Despite 10 months of work, a legislative committee has rejected changes to the school funding model. After examination, APA Consulting produced a similar price tag for funding K-12 education as what the state was spending before the last round of cuts.

 

In its last meeting before the legislative session, the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration refused to adopt the new model suggested by APA.

 

Tennessee Watson

During the upcoming budget session, lawmakers want to take a closer look at transportation and special education funding, as a part of a larger effort to reform and possibly reduce spending in the K-12 finance model.

 

Most of what school districts spend on education is covered in a block grant they receive from the state. But transportation and special education are outside that model, and districts instead bill the state for a 100 percent reimbursement.

 

Several orphan sites listed on the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality online page
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

Factories and dry cleaners used to dump contaminated waste wherever was convenient. Over the past thirty years, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has identified the locations many of these contaminated sites, also known as orphan sites, but the polluting companies are no longer around to pay to clean them up.

APA Consulting

Small changes in enrollment can mean big changes in funding for Wyoming’s smaller K-12 schools.

 

The difference in funding resulting from the loss of one student has the biggest impact on middle and high schools. Currently, a drop in enrollment from 50 down to 49 students, means a school can lose funding for an entire teacher and a reduction in resources. Instead of using fixed cut-offs, state-hired consultants are recommending using a mathematical curve to smooth out funding.

 

Sample of Wildlife Conservation Plate via Muley Fantatic Foundation
Muley Fanatic Foundation / Muley Fanatic Foundation

A state legislator wants to help prevent vehicle collisions with wildlife with the help of new wildlife conservation license plates. Representative Stan Blake of Sweetwater County is sponsoring a bill where individuals could purchase the $100 plates to generate new revenue for conservation efforts along big game migration corridors.

Pinedale, WY at sundown with a rig in the background
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

When you look past the light brown brick courthouse in downtown Pinedale, there are rolling hills dotted with sage brush and thin dark shapes in the distance. Those are oil and gas rigs. They are the largest contributor to revenue out here, but sometimes, when those companies that own those rigs remove resources from the ground, they don’t follow through on paying a key tax to the county. 

Miles Bryan

Four years ago a judge ruled that Wyoming’s drug laws only deal with plant forms of marijuana which means that people with large amounts of edible marijuana could not face felony charges. Law enforcement agencies have asked the legislature to address the matter, but it’s been a tough battle. As Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck reports neither side has been willing to budge. 

In Wyoming, pot is illegal. Not so in neighboring Colorado, where recreational marijuana is available in a variety of different forms.

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A proposal to increase the recommended average class size in Wyoming schools is part of what lawmakers are reviewing in preparation for the 2018 Legislative Budget Session. Increasing class size has been discussed by policy makers as way to reduce costs.

 

Kevin Law

Would you be in favor or against keeping Wyoming on daylight savings time year round and why?

For information on the proposal, refer to the Wyoming Legislature HB-45 site.

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

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Kamila Kudelska

Most of those who spoke at a public hearing Monday night in Cody told the Park County District #6 school board that they did not support a proposal to allow armed personnel in public schools.

Two-thirds of those testifying said that guns should be the last, not first security measure. Instead, money should go into introducing smarter security technologies in school buildings. Yetzi Daren Jobaner said even in Wyoming there are places guns don't belong.

Following a legislative meeting a few weeks ago where some citizens verbally attacked a legislator, the Wyoming legislature’s management council says it will better train committee chairmen to properly handle such attacks. 

Wyoming Legislature logo
Wyoming Legislature

An effort to become more efficient within state government could generate several million dollars in savings.  

 

The legislature’s management council was told that consolidating human resources, using technology more effectively, and more aggressively going after grants in education could provide the state millions of dollars.  

 

Screenshot from the APA Consulting survey

Leading up to the 2018 budget session, Wyoming lawmakers hired education consultants to study the school funding model.

 

The idea was to find ways the state can save money while still meeting its constitutional obligation to provide all students with a proper education. The consultants have released a 552-page draft of their recommendations and they’re taking public feedback through an online survey.

 

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On Monday the group ENDOW, which stands for Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming, will release its preliminary findings on ways to diversify the state’s economy. 

ENDOW has been working while many have been quietly skeptical, but those involved in the effort think they will finally break through.

Bob Beck

This week the legislature’s Revenue Committee pushed off a number of tax measures until the end of January.

The committee has been trying to find revenue to offset losses in revenue that led to massive budget cuts, including a renewed effort to reduce education funding. Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard speaks with News Director Bob Beck about this. 

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. 

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