wyoming legislature

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.”

Senate votes to keep UW President search secret

Feb 1, 2013

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.

Wyoming State Capitol

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.

Bob Beck

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.”

Bob Beck

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.

The State Senate gave second approval to a bill that would allow the Northern Arapaho Tribe to kill golden eagles for tribal ceremonies as long as it is done in compliance with federal law.  

The Wyoming Senate continued work on a bill that would require companies doing seismic exploration for minerals to post bonds or negotiate a contract with the surface owners.

Proponents say seismic operators sometimes trespass on private property.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

After two weeks of discussion, the Wyoming Legislature has voted to remove some duties from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  The legislation awaits the signature of Governor Matt Mead. 

The bill would hand over administration of the State Department of Education to a Governor appointed Director of Education. 

Opponents of the bill once again complained that they were going against voters who supported the election of Superintendent Cindy Hill by a two-to-one margin. 

Rock Springs Republican Stephen Watt again asked the House to slow down.

Food Freedom Act passes

Jan 24, 2013
Irina Zhorov

The Wyoming House of Representatives has passed a bill that would de-regulate the sale of homemade foods at farmers markets and between producers and consumers.  Republican Sue Wallis of Recluse says it would allow the sale of meat and unpasteurized, raw milk.  Lawmakers considered removing meat from the bill, but the amendment was defeated.  Wallis says if consumers buy locally, that money will get spread throughout communities.    

The State Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would allow the State of Wyoming to investigate those suspected of Medicaid fraud.  Currently, the state can only launch such an investigation with federal approval.  Senator Ray Peterson of Cowley says that the state believes it could recover millions in fraud if the legislation is approved. 

The Wyoming House of Representatives has given initial approval to a bill that would remove key powers from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and give them to an appointed Education Director. 

The House debated the bill for almost two hours. Many representatives expressed concern that the legislature was taking power away from the voters and others were concerned about how quickly the legislature is moving to pass the bill. Lyman Republican Allen Jaggi says he’s heard from constituents who share those concerns.

The Senate Health and Labor Committee has voted down a measure that would expand Medicaid services in the state.  The program would allow more low income people to qualify for health insurance coverage. 

The Senate Health and Labor Committee has voted down a measure that would expand Medicaid services in the state.  The program would allow more low income people to qualify for health insurance coverage. 

The House Appropriations Committee voted unanimously to endorse a bill that would remove duties from the State Superintendent and transfer them to an appointed Director. Lawmakers say that Superintendent Hill has not met deadlines and has delayed execution of duties such as creating education accountability programs. 

The State Senate has given initial approval to a plan to develop an energy and natural resource curriculum for Wyoming schools.  The program will be based on a current agriculture curriculum that helps students learn more about that industry.   Glenrock Senator Jim Anderson, a retired school teacher, says the curriculum will help students learn more about the biggest industry in the state.  But some Senators are uncomfortable with the state dictating an industry curriculum for schools.  Anderson pointed out that districts only have to adopt the program if they want to.

The State Senate has approved a bill that gives the Wyoming Supreme Court the authority to reduce the number of full time Circuit Court magistrates. A magistrate is appointed by a Judge to oversee court duties when the Judge is not present.  In rural areas a magistrate handles minor judicial duties.

An effort to require all students to take four years of math will be considered by the State Senate.  The Senate Education Committee recommended passage of the measure sponsored by Laramie Democrat Chris Rothfuss. He says too many students who go on to attend college either struggle or have to take remedial classes.  The bill will require students to pass four years of math-based classes in order to graduate.

After several days of discussion, the Senate Health and Labor Committee approved a bill that is intended to reform Medicaid in Wyoming.  Medicaid is an expensive program for the state to run and lawmakers have been looking at how to reduce costs, but not take away services.  One significant change would be how the state handles those with developmental disabilities and brain injuries.  The state spends $120 million a year on those services. Cheyenne Senator Leslie Nutting says they would reduce costs without eliminating services by trying to focus coverage on services that people actually n

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.