During debate on a Medicaid reform bill, the Wyoming House of Representatives rejected an amendment that would have expanded Medicaid for over 17,000 uninsured state residents. Supporters noted that the state has looked for ways to reduce health care costs and they say the expansion would accomplish that. House Labor and Health Committee Chairwoman Elaine Harvey says the issue requires more study. The federal will pay 100 percent of the first three years of the expansion. Harvey says Wyoming can join at a later date.
The State Senate has approved a bill that allows Wyoming to enter into a multi-state lottery. Senators amended to move money that would be generated from the lottery from cities and counties to a fund that benefits schools. Opponents of the lottery say it will hurt the poor. But Senator Hank Coe says there is a lot of support for the measure.
“The citizens of this state want this bill. I saw a poll in the last 12 months, 62 or 63% of the people in that poll support this lottery,” says Coe.
A massive bill that attempts to reform Wyoming’s current Medicaid program was given initial approval in the State House of Representatives. One of the goals of the bill is to establish caps on how much is spent in the developmental disability program. What lawmakers want to do is limit spending to what’s really necessary for clients in the program. Evansville Republican Kendall Kroeker says his son receives services from the program and only requires a minimal amount of money, so he supports the new limits.
A bill that would legalize the practice of tip sharing has failed after a conference committee of House and Senate members could not reach agreement on the bill. Sponsor Ruth Ann Petroff of Jackson says lawmakers also heard a lot of negative feedback on the bill, so conference committee members agreed to drop it for the year.
The Wyoming Senate has given final approval to a bill that would focus accountability in education on individual schools in the state. The statewide education accountability phase one bill would establish benchmarks for schools. If schools don’t meet those benchmarks, they will have to develop a school improvement plan. Senator Chris Rothfuss says that lawmakers hope to measure student performance in coming months.
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has line item vetoed three areas of the state supplemental budget. The governor vetoed a section that involved the management of surplus state money and he vetoed a section that required state agencies to consider more budget cuts. Mead says it doesn’t make sense for agencies to re-do that exercise, especially since it’s possible that the state may get more revenue.
The Wyoming Senate is close to approving a bill that would allow the state to enter into a multi-state lottery. The Senate spent the second day of debate on the bill clarifying language to make sure that the lottery is run properly and that the state is protected. The Senate has not spent as much time on the moral issues that were the focus in the House. Senator Michael Von Flatern of Gillette says the Senate noted that those concerns were already aired in the House.
A Wyoming Senate Committee has watered down a bill that was intended to arrest federal officials if they enforced federal gun bans in Wyoming. The House version of the bill would have allowed local law enforcement to arrest federal officials and charge them with a misdemeanor. But several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee worried that the bill was unconstitutional. Jackson Senator Leland Christensen successfully changed the bill to allow the enforcement by federal law enforcement officials, but keeps Wyoming law enforcement from helping.
The State Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would remove the ability for Political Action Committees to give unlimited donations to candidates running for office. The bill limits the spending of a PAC to $5,000 in statewide races and $2,500 in local races. Individuals would be allowed to spend up to $2,500 dollars on a campaign. Supporters of the bill have complained that political action committees are used as a way to get a significant amount of money into a campaign. Casper Senator Bill Landen says right now people contribute through PACS because it allows them to contr
The Wyoming House and Senate have reached a budget agreement on a $78 million supplemental budget and will send it to the Governor for his consideration. While there was no discussion in the Senate, several representatives in the House were concerned that instead of cutting government…the legislature is spending more. But House Appropriations Chairman Steve Harshman says most of the money is one-time spending.
The State Senate has approved a bill that will study ways to keep the Life Resource Center in Lander open. The facility serves those with extreme disabilities. The House version of the bill looked at ways of phasing residents out of the facility with the option of closing it down. Senator Cale Case of Lander says the Senate wants to take a different approach.
The Wyoming House has passed a bill that will allow hunters to use silencers and suppressors for various types of hunting in the state. Before passing the bill, the House removed an amendment that would not have allowed silencers when hunting for big game. But Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau argued that there are plenty of protections if someone violates the law and if they misuse a silencer or a suppressor the hunter can be punished.
The Wyoming Senate has given approval to a bill that will allow restaurants to set up a system where servers will turn in tips, so that they can be redistributed to other service workers at the establishment. Senator Ogden Driskill of Devils Tower says it will allow all service employees to make a greater wage. Driskill says such pooling already takes place in Wyoming, but it isn’t legal. He says workers and employers want it legalized.
The Wyoming House and Senate passed their respective versions of a state budget. Both bodies feature budget cuts of roughly 6% in an effort to deal with declining revenues. Cheyenne Representative Mary Throne says she is generally satisfied with the budget cuts.
Governor Matt Mead has let a bill that would change Wyoming’s Open Records law go into effect without his signature. The Governor expressed concern over the legislation that would allow University of Wyoming Trustees to continue their search for a new President in private. Mead says he is concerned about expanding the exemption of the Open Records law. A Judge recently ruled that the finalists for President needed to be made public. But Senate President Tony Ross defended the bill’s enactment.
The State Senate has given initial approval to a bill that will allow out-of-state health insurance companies to offer policies in Wyoming. The goal of the legislation is to encourage competition and possibly lower health insurance costs.
Wyoming consumers have limited health insurance choices and supporters hope the bill will fix this. However, Senator Bill Landen of Casper says he is worried that the legislation could harm Wyoming insurers, by bringing in unwanted competition.
After hearing from whistleblowers and attorneys that there may have been irregularities in spending within the State Department of Education, the Wyoming House of Representatives has set aside money to perform a whistleblower audit of the department.
Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau says Superintendent Cindy Hill has denied that money was spent improperly, but he says the legislature is obligated to determine if there is any truth to the charges and the House will ask for a complete audit.
The Wyoming Senate has given final approval to a bill that could trump a Judge’s ruling and once again keep the finalists for the University of Wyoming Presidency secret.
A Judge told UW trustees that they must make the search public following a lawsuit from three media organizations. Supporters say that in order for U-W to attract a sitting President or Provost for the job, they need to keep their names private, so they don’t jeopardize the candidate’s current job.
While Wyoming Governor Matt Mead favors gun rights, he said that he is very concerned about a couple of gun rights bills making their way through the legislature.
One bill would allow school employees, parents of a student or their guardian, who hold a concealed weapon permit, to have guns in schools. Mead said that there are better ways to ensure school safety and he wants the state to look closer at those solutions.
State lawmakers have started reviewing the proposed supplemental state budget. The budget features an average of six and a half percent cuts and limits new spending.
House Appropriations Chairman Steve Harshman says the legislature will have some money that can be added to the budget if needed.
“So after accounting for other bills with appropriations in them, today there is 13 million dollars on the table for saving or spending. And the smallest supplemental budget in a decade…in ten years…in terms of expenditures.”
The State Senate has moved quickly in giving initial approval to a bill that would allow the University of Wyoming and community colleges to have a secret search for their presidents. A judge ruled that UW must open up its search for President, but the legislation is intended to allow the university to resume the search in secret. A Senate committee approved the bill this morning and by this afternoon the Senate gave the legislation initial approval. Senator Charles Scott says executive sessions are used in personnel discussions across the state and this is no different.
The Wyoming House of Representatives has passed a series of gun rights bills. The House amended one bill that will allow guns in schools, allowing not only full-time school personnel to carry concealed firearms but parents and guardians, well. Everyone must have a concealed carry permit. Evansville Rep. Kendall Kroeker says it's a good day.
"One this that we've seen that has been the case with 100% of the shooting that have taken place on school campuses is that every single one of them was in a gun free zone," said Kroeker.
Wyoming Secretary of State Max Maxfield has won a year-long law suit to remove term limits for most statewide elected officials. Nearly a decade ago, the Wyoming Supreme Court overturned a voter initiative that instituted term limits – but the reversal only applied to state legislators. Secretary of State Max Maxfield says he believed that term limits were also unconstitutional when it came to his own office, and those of other statewide elected officials. So, he waited until he was in this – his final term – to file suit as an individual.
The State Senate defeated a bill that would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It would have given gays and lesbians protections in the workplace. Opponents said it could have led to unfair burdens on employers and infringe on religious freedoms. Senator Chris Rothfuss says he’s sorry that the bill would be inconvenient for certain employers, but he added that was the point. But Baggs Senator Larry Hicks says the legislation would do little.
The Wyoming House of Representatives continues working on a bill that would allow concealed weapons in Wyoming schools and colleges. It would only apply to people who have permits to carry concealed guns. Casper Representative Steve Harshman successfully amended the bill to say that only permanent employees of a school district who hold a concealed carry permit may carry a concealed firearm within a school district building and they must notify administrators. The amendment also made it clear that K-12 students shall not carry concealed firearms. The district superintendent will also in
The Wyoming House of Representatives has given final approval to a bill that would let the University of Wyoming and Community Colleges keep their candidates for president secret. House Majority Floor Leader Kermit Brown says that releasing names of finalists will compromise candidates who have jobs on other campuses.
“You’ve got people in similar positions where they are and they want to make discreet applications, but they don’t want to totally wreck their situation back home if they are not selected. And that’s where the rub comes,” says Brown.
The State Senate has soundly defeated a bill that would have led to the state expanding Medicaid Services for nearly 30 thousand more Wyoming residents. States can opt to expand the services under the Affordable Care Act and the federal government will pay the total cost for the first 36 months of the expansion starting in 2014. Senator John Schiffer of Kaycee says Medicaid costs have hurt the state, but if the state expands, it means the federal government will pay for services that Wyoming currently pays for. He says that is a good deal.
The Wyoming House of Representatives has given initial approval to four bills that would address gun rights in the state. Among the bills is a measure that would attempt to block a federal gun bill banning semi-automatic weapons and limiting the size of gun magazines. Sponsor Kendall Kroeker of Evansville says this would apply to guns in Wyoming.
“Because of that I believe there is no federal authority in the Constitution to give the federal government the ability to ban such weapons or place restrictions upon them.”
After a passionate debate, the Wyoming House of Representatives defeated a bill that would have allowed adults to enter into a domestic partnership. Supporters of the measure say that the legal agreement would have given all non-married couples a legal contract that would provide them with a range of legal tools to use in health care situations and in cases of a partner's death. But others strongly opposed the measure. Thermopolis Republican Nathan Winters says it’s clear what the bill is trying to do.