wyoming legislature

It will take a conference committee to determine whether the State Board of Education may adopt the Next Generation Science Standards for Wyoming schools. The standards say students should learn about climate change — and last year the House passed a budget amendment barring the State Board of Education from considering the standards.  

The Wyoming House of Representative has approved a cost of living increase for teacher salaries. The amendment was part of the debate on the state supplemental budget. Called the External Cost Adjustment or ECA, it provides extra funding for districts to use for teacher pay increases. 

Pinedale Republican Albert Sommers says teachers have not received a cost of living increase since 2009, mainly due to budget concerns.

Wyoming Public Radio's news director Bob Beck checks in with Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard to discuss the session as the state legislature passes the halfway mark.

The Wyoming legislature will begin work on the state supplemental budget next week. 

Lawmakers asked several questions after hearing a two day presentation on the budget. Some are concerned about a lack of new funding for such things as teacher salaries, local government, and some nursing home services. There’s also a reduction in the governor’s request for highway 59 near Gillette. 

But an ongoing concern is over how much of the budget is funded using projected revenue. Senate Minority Leader Chris Rothfuss says that funding model has people nervous.

The Wyoming Senate has given final approval to a bill that allows the State Board of Education to consider the Next Generation Science Standards. But the Senate also added an amendment that has some concerned. 

Senator Eli Bebout changed the bill to say that the state board may consider NGSS in addition to others in order to -- quote -- "develop quality science standards that are unique to Wyoming." 

Bebout says his amendment requires nothing, but Senate President Phil Nicholas says it implies that the state board should come up with standards unique to Wyoming.

After an emotional debate the Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill that allows the state to execute prisoners by firing squad if drugs for lethal injections remain unavailable. 

The House passed the bill 31 to 29. Republican Senator Eric Barlow of Gillette thinks there are still ways to avoid a firing squad. For instance the House version of the bill already requires the prisoner to be unconscious prior to the execution.    

The Wyoming House of Representatives has given strong support to a bill that would allow the state to use a firing squad in a prisoner execution. Wyoming cannot currently obtain the drugs used to execute someone by lethal injection and a firing squad would be the backup method of execution.

Cheyenne Republican Bob Nicholas strongly opposes the approach and successfully amended the bill to say that if the state uses a firing squad, the condemned person will not be awake.

The State Senate continues debating a bill that would provide money to public hospitals in the state to help pay for uncompensated care.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Tony Ross tried to reduce the 5-million dollars in the bill down to two-point-five million, but the Senate rejected that amendment.

Supporters say many hospitals are struggling with so-called “charity care”, but Ross worries that the bill may open the door to a long term commitment.

Without any debate, the Wyoming Senate gave initial support to a bill that would allow the State Board of Education to consider adopting the Next Generation Science Standards for Wyoming schools. Last year the House of Representatives added a budget footnote that kept the Board from considering the standards, in part because of concerns about how they address climate change.

The Senate never debated the issue. Senator Jim Anderson of Glenrock says removing that footnote will allow the State Board of Education to do its job.          

After killing Medicaid expansion on Friday, the Wyoming Senate began work on legislation that would help hospitals in the state pay for emergency room services or so-called charity care they provide to people who cannot pay. 

The Senate voted to put five million dollars into a fund to help hospitals address some of these debts. Cowley Republican Ray Peterson called it a one year band aid that doesn’t adequately address a more serious problem.

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.”

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