wyoming legislature

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The Wyoming Senate has starting working on a bill that is intended to clarify a student's digital privacy. Senate File 20 would prohibit an officer or employee of a school district from accessing a current or prospective student’s digital accounts – like their personal email or Facebook. 

It also prevents a student from being punished for not divulging such information. The legislature defeated a similar bill last year. 

Proponents say the bill protects students’ rights to privacy.

How Wyoming holds its teachers, principals and school district leaders accountable is up for discussion this legislative session. House Bill 37 amends how teachers are held accountable, while Senate File 36 focuses on administrator accountability.

Under the proposed accountability system, data reviewed by the state will tie student performance only to school buildings and districts, and not to individual teachers. Data connecting student performance to teacher performance will then only be evaluated at the local level. 

Department of Education

During his State of the State address Wednesday, Governor Matt Mead asked the Wyoming legislature to broaden the public discussion for the education budget.

Public school funding is estimated to fall around $400 million dollars short. Governor Mead said the legislature needs to act quickly to try to solve the shortfall, while also slowing down so that the public can better participate in decision making.

The Wyoming legislative session is underway, and one of the main challenges facing lawmakers is a revenue shortfall due to a downturn in the energy industry.

House Majority Floor Leader David Miller defended the state’s reliance on the energy industry for revenues in a speech to the House of Representatives.

“Diversifying the economy will not diversify the tax base. In fact, every non-mineral job is a further drain on our limited revenues. Minerals can support Wyoming in perpetuity, however that requires access to the minerals,” Miller said.

Bureau of Land Management

On Monday night, about 20 legislators met with the Wyoming Wildlife Federation to discuss an alternative to a proposed public land transfer bill. The amendment is scheduled for introduction at the legislature and would allow the state to take over federal land management from agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

In late December the Joint Education Committee released potential solutions to the K-12 education funding deficit. In the week-long public comment period that followed, the legislature received close to 600 comments.

The Wyoming School District Coalition for an External Cost Adjustment came out in support of comprehensive approach taken by the Subcommittee on Education Deficit Reduction Options, but expressed concern that the process was happening too fast. 

The Wyoming Legislature's Joint Education Committee released a document outlining possible solutions to Wyoming’s education funding crisis and has asked for immediate public input.

The Subcommittee on Education Deficit Reduction Options was tasked with offering strategies to address the current funding model, while maintaining the quality of public education.

Wyoming State Legislature

The Wyoming legislature's Joint Judiciary Committee has drafted a bill that aims to enact criminal justice reform.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman David Miller said the bill would reduce Wyoming’s prison population through a variety of sentencing reforms.

“[Through] not as strict sentencing, letting the prosecutors have a little more leeway, the judges have a little more leeway, and when people are up for parole, giving them possibly more credit for time served, good time served, or if there is a minor infraction not resetting all that back to zero,” said Miller.

Bob Beck

 

It’s been a rough year for state officials. A greater than expected revenue decline last spring forced lawmakers to cut $67 million out of existing budgets, and the governor was forced to follow-up with an additional $250 million. While revenues are starting to show some moderate improvement, lawmakers will soon be debating the wisdom of even more cuts, especially as a revenue shortfall for education looms.

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In the upcoming session, the Wyoming legislature will consider a Joint Judiciary Committee bill that aims to bring about criminal justice reform. House Judiciary Committee Chair David Miller, a Republican, and Representative Charles Pelkey, a Democrat, joined Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard to talk about the bill.

Melanie Arnett

 

 

Naysayers packed into a legislative meeting Wednesday to express disapproval of a proposed constitutional amendment that would provide guidance to the state in the event that federal lands are transferred to the state. The meeting was meant to clarify language in the amendment and no vote was actually cast.

 

Committee Chairman Tim Stubson said he's voted against such bills in the past, but this one is different.

 

Stuart and Jen Robertson - Flickr: State Penitentiery, Rawlins Wyoming

Members of a task force that reviewed a wide range of structural problems at the Wyoming maximum security prison in Rawlins stressed that they believe using up to $125 million to fix the facility will work.

National Blue Ribbon Schools Program

How should state lawmakers resolve the education funding shortfall?

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

Bob Beck

 

After several months of budget cuts, it was a surprise to some that the governor did not propose any more reductions in his supplemental budget. He will present that budget to the legislature’s joint appropriations committee on Monday. Prior to that meeting the governor agreed to join Bob Beck to discuss his budget strategy.

Bob Beck

  

Over the last several years a number of right leaning activist groups have gotten themselves heavily involved in Republican politics in the state. WyWatch was a group that pushed anti-abortion and family value legislation and Wyoming Gun Owners pushed for expanded gun rights. But the group with perhaps the biggest impact is the Wyoming Liberty Group.  

Wyoming State Archives

In recent years, more and more bills have been introduced in Wyoming’s legislature that would transfer the management of federal public lands into the state control. In fact, legislators will discuss a constitutional amendment to allow state management of public lands in Cheyenne on December 14.

The Wyoming Legislature's Joint Education committee is drafting two pieces of legislation that could significantly reduce the amount of money that school districts get through the school funding model.  

One would raise the class sizes in the funding model, which would lead to the reduction of millions of dollars that currently flow to school districts. Sweetwater County School District two is based in Green River. 

Shelley Simonton

With the economic downturn, sales tax income has plummeted and local government finds itself in a world of financial hurt. Hiring freezes, layoffs, decisions not to move forward with road repairs, and the reduction of other services have either been approved or contemplated across the state.

Recently the Wyoming Association of Municipalities, or WAM, urged the legislature’s revenue committee to consider ways to allow communities to generate more revenue. Bob Beck asked WAM Executive Director Shelley Simonton how dire the situation is.

After some losses in Tuesday’s election, the Wyoming State Legislature’s Democratic count is down from 13 to 12. However, there were a couple of victories over Republican incumbents, like Debbie Bovee’s defeat of Gerald Gay in Casper.

Wikipedia

It was a good election night for the Republican Party, not just nationally, but in Wyoming as well. The party added a seat in both the state house and senate and elected Liz Cheney to replace Cynthia Lummis in the U.S. House. GOP party chairman Matt Micheli said they also added new faces and a bit more diversity.

“Affie Ellis and Tara Nethercott are two new people coming to the state senate, but I think both are going to be outstanding legislators and leaders of this state.”

Wyoming State Legislature

There will be fewer women serving in Wyoming's legislature after Tuesday's election. A large number of women ran for seats in the state house and senate, 37 total. But only 10 won their races.

Currently, Wyoming has the lowest representation of women in its legislature in the country, with just 12 women currently in office.

Cathy Connolly, the House District 13 representative, said she is at a loss for why the state ended up losing female representatives.

Bouchard

Republican Anthony Bouchard beat Independent Kym Zwonitzer in the race for Senate District 6 by about 300 votes. The seat represents rural Laramie and Goshen Counties.

Zwonitzer entered the race after her husband David lost in the Republican primary. Bouchard leads a gun rights organization and calls himself a fiscal conservative.  He says the state must reduce its spending.   

“I think the biggest problem that we have had since the time that I have been watching the legislature very closely, is that it’s just been a spending spree,” said Bouchard. 

Melodie Edwards

  

Look around Lynette St. Clair's Shoshone language and culture classroom at Wyoming Indian Middle School, and you’ll see this isn’t the usual Wyoming social studies class. There’s vintage photos of famous Shoshone people, a miniature tepee, and the white board is scribbled with Shoshone words and translations. And what the kids are learning is unusual too. The students are reading a speech by Shoshone chief Washakie from the 19th century. St. Clair teaches them key words from the speech in Shoshone.

American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming has named Sabrina King as its new Policy Director in hopes of increasing its presence in Wyoming, after financial pressures forced the organization to shrink about a year and a half ago.  

Caroline Ballard

On a hot and sunny July day Julie McCallister readied herself for a day of campaigning at Saratoga Days, decked out in her “Elect Julie McCallister” polo.

McCallister was running for the Wyoming State House seat in House District 47.

In the art show at the Platte Valley Community Center, McCallister approached potential voters, chatting about everything from the art to why she is qualified to serve.

Bob Beck

Earlier this year the Wyoming legislature cut $36 million from money they provide to school districts. Since that time districts have been trying to get that money back and convince lawmakers that additional cuts would hurt their ability to adequately teach students.  

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

After hearing more than five hours of public testimony, the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee rejected a bill Thursday that would have increased the tax on wind energy production.

Wyoming currently taxes production at $1 per megawatt hour, the only such tax in the nation. The state is facing a major budget shortfall because of the downturn in coal, oil and gas production. Raising the wind tax came up as a possible way to generate revenue for school construction. Rep. Mike Madden, R-Buffalo, introduced the failed proposal to raise the tax to $3 per megawatt hour.

Wyoming’s tobacco tax will remain among the lowest in the nation—at least for now. The Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee overwhelmingly rejected a bill Thursday that would have raised the cigarette tax from 60 cents to 90 cents.

 

Committee co-chair Representative Mike Madden says the proposed increase would have allowed Wyoming’s tax to keep up with inflation. The last cigarette tax increase was in 2003.

 

Wyoming Legislative Service Office

Tuesday night long time Sheridan County State Representative Rosie Berger not only lost her bid for re-election, but also her chance to be the Speaker of the House. 

Berger was defeated in the Republican primary by Bo Biteman, who painted her as anti-gun and was critical of her support of the state capital renovation project. The loss was shocking to Cheyenne Representative Dan Zwonitzer.

Four state residents are calling for an ethics investigation of State Senator Eli Bebout saying that his support of the Abandoned Mine Lands bill improperly benefited a company that he partially owns. 

The company called Nucor received AML funding as a result of the legislation, but the bill did not pay Bebout directly and for that reason the Senate rules committee allowed him to vote on the legislation. Senate Minority leader Chris Rothfuss is a member of the rules committee and said Bebout’s vote was proper.

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