wyoming legislature

The State Senate has reversed itself and passed a bill that includes a requirement that Wyoming public high school students must take four years of math. Last week the Senate voted to keep the math requirement at three years.

Cody Republican Hank Coe successfully amended the bill to allow a student to take a math related elective in their senior year. Many had argued that students who aren’t going to college don’t need an extra year of math, but Casper Republican Charlie Scott says a math elective would be valuable for that group of students.

The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill Monday that removes a controversial budget footnote keeping the State Board of Education from considering the Next Generation Science Standards. Gillette Republican Scott Clem called the Next Generation Standards junk science, mainly because they require the study of climate change.

“We want something that is unique for Wyoming, we don’t want cookie cutter standards. We are committed to the success of our children when it comes to their education and if we do anything less than that then we are contributing to their failure.”

Aaron Schrank

What do you think about a proposal to require four years of math in Public High Schools?

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A bill that would have allowed the use of medical marijuana was killed in a Wyoming House Committee on a 5 to 4 vote.  The bill was sponsored by Casper Republican Gerald Gay. 

He said cannabis use would have been regulated by medical providers and the goal was to help address a number of pain issues.  A Doctor testified that it has a number of pain benefits. Gillette Republican Bill Pownall says Wyoming is not ready for this yet.

The Wyoming House of Representatives took the first step towards removing a controversial budget footnote that kept the State Board of Education from considering the Next Generation Science Standards.  Speaker of the House Kermit Brown says that legislating via a budget footnote is improper.  Thermopolis Republican Nathan Winters challenged that statement.  Winters says that many publications rated the Next Generation standards as average at best.  He says the State Board of Education was moving too quickly towards adopting those science standards.

The Wyoming Senate has rejected an attempt to require four years of math in public high schools.  The debate came during a discussion on a bill addressing education accountability and assessment.  Currently the state requires three years of math and Senator Hank Coe says increasing it to four years will help improve education.       

“You know this is a global economy…big time.  And the United States is not getting it done and honestly we aren’t getting it done in Wyoming either.  Rigor is what we need.”

The second week of Wyoming's state legislature is wrapping up today. Wyoming Public Radio News Director Bob Beck speaks with Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard about what we've seen so far this session.

Ohio Governor John Kasich was at the Wyoming’s Capitol Building Thursday as part of a national tour promoting a federal balanced budget amendment.

Kasich spoke to a full house of Wyoming legislators, but he directed his remarks to two 11-year-old boys in the audience as a way to make a point about leaving federal debt for the next generation.

“What would you think if we all went to lunch and we spent 40 dollars and gave you the bill. Would that be very good?,” Kasich asked the boys. “Yeah, we gave you the shaft right? Well that is what we are doing [with the deficit].

The Director of the Wyoming Department of Health says if the state approves Medicaid expansion it could be awhile before it gets implemented.  

Tom Forslund told the Joint Labor, Health, and Social Services Committee last night that he predicts that it wouldn’t take effect in Wyoming until January 1st of 2016. Co-Chairman Elaine Harvey said she was told that if Wyoming adopted a simple plan that it could be approved by the Spring. Forslund said a simple plan would help.

Wyoming Senators had a lot of debate over how stiff penalties should be for those who trespass on private land while collecting data for research purposes. 

Wyoming agriculture interests are supporting the bill to thwart environmental researchers, who, they claim, often collect environmental data to support their legal efforts. The penalties for conviction would include heavy penalties and time in jail. 

A bill that would have decriminalized marijuana in Wyoming was soundly defeated by the Wyoming House of Representatives Wednesday. 

Representative Jim Byrd of Cheyenne had proposed legislation to punish those in possession of small amounts of marijuana with fines, instead of criminal convictions. But a majority of Representatives feared that the change would encouraging marijuana use. Lovell Republican Elaine Harvey had strong concerns.

State support is critical to getting value-added mineral processing facilities to set up shop in Wyoming, backers told a legislative committee Monday. A bill currently under consideration by the Legislature would set up a mechanism for the state to invest in value-added projects. The governor’s office, which sponsored the bill, says it’s particularly targeted towards projects that would convert natural gas to liquids, like diesel, although it could apply to any of the state’s minerals.

Stephanie Joyce

Legislators had lots of questions for oil company representatives at a special seminar convened Monday to discuss the recent oil price slide. Oil prices are down more than 60 percent since June. The State of Wyoming gets roughly 20 percent of its revenue from oil, so prices have been a hot topic in the halls of the Legislature.

Devon Energy representative Aaron Ketter said his company’s best-case scenario has oil prices rising in as little as 6 months. The worst-case scenario is for 24 months. But he cautioned, rising doesn’t mean returning to previous levels. 

The Wyoming House of Representatives has passed a bill that would provide protection orders for victims of sexual assault. Wyoming currently has no such provision.

The protection order would keep the person accused of the sexual assault from having any contact with the victim. Supporters of the bill wanted the protection order to last for a year, but Worland Representative Michael Greear successfully amended the bill which reduced the protection order to three months. He argued that it unfairly impacted someone who’s not yet been found guilty. 

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Media

Business leaders, health care providers, and members of the Wind River Reservation all urged a legislative committee to approve some form of Medicaid Expansion during a hearing today (Monday).  

The Senate Labor, Health, and Social Services Committee is considering a bill that would provide health care services to some 18-thousand people who currently cannot afford health insurance. If Wyoming’s plan is approved by the federal government, 100-percent of it would initially be paid for with federal money. 

Bob Beck

The Wyoming legislative session is underway and it features 3 new Senators in Cheyenne and 14 newly elected Representatives. It’s a big stage for the newly minted lawmakers and 31-year-old Tyler Lindholm is excited. He is a tall, thin, and confident 1st year Representative from Sundance. Lindholm served in the Navyhas, chaired the Crook County Republican Party and is ready to jump into the legislature with both feet. But legislative protocols and the abundance of legislation can be a challenge for newcomers.

State of Wyoming Legislature

The Wyoming House of Representatives gave initial approval to two bills that would remove limits on campaign spending. One removes an aggregate limit on individual spending. That bill is required following the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The other removes financial limits that Wyoming currently imposes on Political Action Committees. 

As they await an updated report on Wyoming’s revenue forecast, Republican legislative leaders are becoming more concerned about a downturn in energy prices. During a news conference following the governor’s state of the state message, Senate President Phil Nicholas says it’s time for the state to prepare for a long term reduction in mineral money. Oil and other commodity prices have fallen and Nicholas doubts those prices will rebound anytime soon.

The Wyoming legislative session kicked off yesterday and this morning Governor Matt Mead will give the annual state of the state address. Wyoming Public Radio News Director Bob Beck is attending his 31st legislative session and joined Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard for a preview of the action.

The President of the Wyoming Senate said that falling energy prices are a concern, but he says the state must still be able to grow. 

During his opening speech to the Wyoming Senate, Phil Nicholas urged Senators to look ten years out and determine where Wyoming should be.  He said that the state will likely see little revenue growth in the near future, but he says that shouldn’t stop Wyoming’s development plans.               

Wyoming Legislature

Wyoming Republican Legislative Leaders say they plan to begin an extensive review of all state revenues and spending. During his opening day speech to the Wyoming House of Representatives, Speaker of the House Kermit Brown says he and Senate President Phil Nicholas will embark on a rigorous look into Wyoming’s budget picture called Vision 2020.

legisweb.state.wy.us

Wyoming’s leading Democrats expect a lot of discussion concerning falling oil prices in the upcoming legislative session.  Those price drops negatively impact Wyoming’s revenue picture.

House Minority Leader Mary Throne says that while prices are down, the state does have a robust savings account.  She says over the past several years lawmakers have overreacted to revenue swings.

Bob Beck

For the next two months the State’s 90 legislators will gather in Cheyenne to consider a wide range of bills. Some ideas will be dead on arrival while others should generate considerable debate. One bill that will begin in the Senate would provide Medicaid health insurance to those who cannot afford health insurance and who do not qualify for subsidies under the affordable care act.

Senator Chris Rothfuss who is the Minority Leader in the Wyoming Senate and House Minority Leader Mary Throne say that legislative savings and Medicaid expansion will be among the top discussion items during the upcoming legislative session.

A bill drafted for the upcoming Wyoming legislative session would attempt to lower penalties for possession of small amounts of Marijuana. Representative Jim Byrd of Cheyenne is sponsoring the bill which would make possession of less than an ounce of Marijuana a civil fine instead of a felony.

House Bill 29 would only fine citizens up to $100 for one ounce of the drug.  A third possession offense could carry jail time and probation, but that punishment would not be mandatory and would be left up to the judge.

What do you think the Wyoming Legislature's top priority should be?

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In Wyoming the energy industry accounts for nearly 70 to 80 percent of the state’s wealth. Wyoming builds its budget around energy prices and sales taxes that are connected to energy. When commodity prices fall, it’s difficult to fund government services.

After the oil downturn of the 1980’s funding the government was a challenge and Wyoming’s incoming Speaker of the House Kermit Brown remembers that it got especially bad in the late 90’s. 

A legislative committee has rejected the Wyoming Department of Health's proposed Medicaid Expansion plan in favor of a bill crafted by the committee.  The Share plan was also endorsed by the governor.

The bill  approved by the committee would provide participants with a Medicaid-funded health savings account that they could use to purchase private insurance.  Senator Charles Scott said that he believes that will encourage participants to be careful with their health care spending.

Gillette Representative Eric Barlow said that remains to be seen.

Associated Press

For the first time, Wyoming employers could face stiff fines if their workers die on the job.   

The state does not currently distinguish workplace fatalities from other kinds of safety violation, but under a bill endorsed by the Joint Health, Labor, and Social Services Committee large employers could be fined up to $250-thousand dollars and those who employ fewer than 250 employees could face fines up to 50-thousand dollars.

Senator Charles Scott says Wyoming’s workplace safety record is among the worst in the country and it’s time to send a message.

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The federal government has provided millions of dollars to states to offer Medicaid Health Insurance to what’s known as the working poor. Last week, after months of discussion, the Wyoming Department of Health unveiled its plan for expanding Medicaid in the state. 

Low income people who do not currently qualify for Medicaid and do not make enough money to be able to get insurance via the Affordable Care Act would be eligible. Governor Matt Mead and several health care organizations support the plan, but it still has the difficult task of getting through the legislature.

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