wyoming legislature

For years, Wyoming’s Juvenile Justice system has received low grades from national groups.  Part of the problem is that the state locks up many juvenile offenders, but local groups say that prevention and intervention services aren’t available in all communities in the state.  A bill being debated in the state senate is intended to change that. 

Another effort to change Wyoming’s mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court Justices and State Court Judges has gained initial support from the state House of Representatives.  The current retirement age is 70 and a number of groups have called for that mandatory age to be raised because they say that too many good judges are being forced into retirement.  The most recent was Supreme Court Justice Michael Golden.  But in the past, the House and Senate could not reach a consensus on what the retirement age should be.  Sponsor, Cheyenne Republican Dan Zwonitzer, says he is taking a differen

A bill that would allow for the building of a nuclear waste storage facility in Wyoming received an initial go ahead in the State Senate, despite concerns that it isn’t needed yet.  The bill would get the process of permitting a storage facility started, so that if a nuclear power plant was considered for Wyoming, the storage facility would already be permitted.  But some think that the Senate is getting ahead of itself.  Sheridan Republican Bruce Burns worried that this could open the doors for something the state doesn’t want.

A state lawmaker from Jackson is proposing some changes to Wyoming's tipping laws.

One bill introduced by Rep. Ruth Ann Petroff would make all tips exempt from sales tax. Currently tips automatically added to a bill, usually for large groups, are subject to sales tax.

Another bill from the Republican would allow restaurants to pool tips from everyone waiting on tables and then split the money among its employees. However, an employee couldn't be forced to contribute more than 15 percent of their tips to a tip pool.

Senator Ross urges cooperation

Jan 8, 2013

The Wyoming Senate President is urging cooperation after what he calls an ugly campaign season. 

Tony Ross of Cheyenne urged the Senate to work together and not let the public get cynical.  Ross says that’s important because this will be a difficult session with lots of important issues to address.

“Supplemental budget cuts, our response to the affordable care act, expansion of Medicaid, education accountability and a fuel tax just to name a few.  Many people are looking to the Senate to be THE body of reason and measure.”

In early 2013 the state legislature will discuss cutting the state budget.  While some say only minimal cuts are needed, others are not so sure.  State Senator Tony Ross says the so-called fiscal cliff could add to the loss of federal money the state is already dealing with, starting with the loss of abandoned mine land money last fall.

“As a result of the loss of AML funds or there is even talks that there may be a push to cut back on federal mineral royalties.  If they do something like that it effects us here in a very big way.” 

Republican Legislative Leadership Chosen

Nov 19, 2012

Republicans in the State Senate have elected Cheyenne’s Tony Ross to serve as Senate President and Laramie’s Phil Nicholas to serve as majority floor leader.   

The House previously announced its makeup, choosing Tom Lubnau to be speaker and Kermit Brown to be majority floor leader.  Steve Harshman  of Casper will become the new chair of the House Appropriations Committee.  The Senate also added some new committee chairman, the most notable being Riverton’s Eli Bebout who was chosen to serve as its Appropriations Committee Chairman.  

Democrats lose two legislative seats

Nov 7, 2012

Republicans have increased their clout in the Wyoming Legislature as a result of yesterday’s election. The GOP gained two House seats in Rock Springs and another in western Wyoming, though Democrats gained a seat in Cheyenne.

One of the Democrats’ key losses was Rep. Joe Barbuto, an incumbent from Rock Springs. He lost to Republican Mark Baker.

Several other Democratic incumbents had fierce competition as well. Rep. Mary Throne, Sen. Floyd Esquibel, and Rep. Patrick Goggles each won re-election by only a narrow margin.

UW wants money for a pay hike

Aug 23, 2012

Noting that it’s been more than three years since employees last saw a pay hike, the University of Wyoming board of trustees has approved a supplemental budget request to resolve that situation.  

Trustees unanimously approved a request of more than five million dollars to allow U-W to provide merit-based pay hikes that would average around three-percent.     

A push by the conservative arm of the Republican party mostly fizzled in last night’s primary election.  Most incumbents won their elections and will advance to the general election. 

Senator Charles Scott of Casper survived the race with perhaps the highest profile in defeating veteran Representative Bob Brechtel.  Scott says his ability to hash out differences with constituents during the campaign helped, along with the fact that voters were familiar with him.  He says the contest told him that there is no need to change his approach.               

Three Wyoming Republicans are facing off in next week’s primary election to become the G-O-P nominee for Senate District 28 in Casper. 

Senator Kit Jennings is the incumbent and he is being challenged by Physician Tom Radosevich and retired businessman Jim Anderson.  Anderson favors local control in most instances, including economic development.  He wants the state to focus on helping what he calls Wyoming’s core industries.

Federal land managers have rejected an application by a Colorado company to use bacteria to produce
methane from northeast Wyoming coal beds.  

The Gillette News-Record reported Thursday the Bureau of Land Management threatened to prosecute Luca Technologies Inc. for trespassing if it continued the work. The company says it will comply but disagrees with the decision and may sue.

The BLM acted after Luca refused to pay an additional $40,000 for the cost of processing the application, on top of $40,000 it paid previously.

Irina Zhorov

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Five years ago the state embarked on an innovative preventive medicine approach called Healthy Frontiers.  It offered a version of health insurance to low income people who cannot afford it.  The idea was to try and keep people off of Medicaid and out of the emergency room.  But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck reports the legislature stripped money from the program essentially killing it.

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A major concern in the state budget is the growing cost of Medicaid.  Medicaid is  matching federal and state funded health coverage for lower income people, children, those with disabilities and elderly nursing home residents.  State officials say that Medicaid costs take up a large chunk of the state budget and recently have been growing between 30 and 40 percent a year.  Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck reports that has pushed legislators to undertake a major study to find ways to reduce costs.

Senators continue debate on Open Records Bill

Feb 21, 2012

A majority of Senators have voted to keep a provision in an Open Records bill that would allow communication between one elected official and one private citizen from being made public. But Senator Bill Landen argued that such communication should be made public, because it could provide insight into why board members voted a particular way.  Landen argued that the bill allows for mischief.

The Wyoming Legislature begins budget work

Feb 21, 2012

    The Wyoming House and Senate have begun discussing the 3-point-2 billion dollar state budget.  It will cover a biennium, or the next two fiscal years.  House Appropriations Chairman Rosie Berger says they are trying to pass a flat budget this year and limit future spending.  Senate Appropriations Chairman Phil Nicholas says agencies will be asked to reduce their budgets by four percent in the second year of the biennium and another four percent in the following year.

Salaries for judges could go up substantially under a bill being debated by the state Senate. 

Senator Phil Nicholas says judicial salaries have lagged behind those in state government and higher education… and is proposing a nearly 34-thousand dollar increase for those on the Supreme Court, a 25 thousand dollar increase for District Court Judges, and Circuit court judges would see a pay hike of roughly 7-thousand dollars. 

However,Senator Charles Scott of Casper fears such increases could take away much needed dollars from important programs like Medicaid.

    Governor Matt Mead says low natural gas prices and a declining revenue forecast was behind his thinking in denying pay hikes for state, University of Wyoming and Community College employees this year.  Mead was concerned about committing to a long term spending item and thought that it was wiser for the state to focus on one time spending. 

The legislature’s Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee is sponsoring a bill that would allow hunters to bait big game animals. The bill is meant to help lure deer herds away from towns where they could be killed safely.
Republican Senator Bruce Burns of Sheridan is co-chair of the committee. He says having too many big game animals near towns and along the highway is dangerous for drivers and animals.

A Wyoming program that helps the disabled has a long waiting list, but a state bill to be introduced next
year could help. 

Jackson representative Keith Gingery is the sponsor of the bill to be introduced during the
upcoming legislative session would provide $28 million in state and federal funding for Wyoming's Home and Community Based Waiver Program.

Lawmakers charged with redrawing Wyoming's
legislative districts say they expect to hash out competing
proposals at a two-day meeting early next week.

     Republican Sen. Cale Case, of Lander, and Republican Rep. Pete
Illoway, of Cheyenne, are co-chairmen of the Joint Corporations,
Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee that meets
Monday and Tuesday in Cheyenne. The Legislature will consider the
committee's final plan in the session starting in February.