Laramie, Wy – Warm, dry weather is predicted over the next two weeks for Wyoming. State climatologist Jan Curtis says that could erode Wyoming's snowpack ahead of schedule and delay any recovery from the drought. Curtis says precipitation and snowpack so far this year have been better statewide than during the past several years. But that could be lost quickly with several weeks of warm, dry weather. During March and April, snowpacks can decrease by about one percent for each warm, snowless day.
Laramie, Wy – An online news service is reporting officials from several states would like to change how the national terror alert system works. They are saying they would like regionalized alerts rather than just a single warning for the entire country. The director of the Wyoming office of Homeland Security, Joe Moore disagrees saying the current system works. He says a national alert system keeps terrorists at bay because then they don't know where the American intelligence community is looking.
Laramie, Wy – The Wyoming Insurance Commissioner has no regrets about the state failing to pass a bill that would have allowed the state to either help or put a foot into the medical malpractice business. The Ohio Insurance Company, one of Wyoming's major medical malpractice providers is leaving Wyoming in a few months, but Insurance Commissioner Ken Vines thinks that other providers may be able to step in to replace them. Lawmakers had considered legislation that could have gotten Wyoming into the Insurance business.
Laramie, Wy – Wyoming motorists should prepare for higher gas prices this summer. That's the message from Triple-A, which says lower supplies will drive prices at the pump up across the country. California is already seeing record prices of almost two-dollars and 20 cents a gallon for regular unleaded. Wyoming is at a dollar-64 currently. And while Triple-A Spokeswoman Charity Watt-Levis saystwo-dollars a gallon in Wyoming isn't out-of-the-question.
Cody, WY – When the Wyoming Business Council decided not to spend any of a $3 Million air service enhancement fund it looked like a deal to start summer service between Cody and Denver was in trouble. But it appears those flights will happen, thanks in part to a bill passed this legislative session. House Bill 60 gives the State Aeronautics Commission some authority over the fund, and makes communities match the state's share. The Cody Yellowstone Air Service Organization will make an application under the new set-up.
Pinedale, WY – A significant number of deer and pronghorn have already died this winter in Western Wyoming. And the Wildlife Supervisor for the Game and Fish Department in Jackson and Pinedale, Bernie Holz, says more animals could meet the same fate. Holz says a harsh winter is partly to blame with some animal freezing to death. He adds that reduced amounts of food from years of drought conditions are finally taking their toll. Holz says they won't know for sure what percentage of the population died until this spring when they do a survey of deer and pronghorn.
Columbus, OH – It doesn't appear the failure of tort reform is to blame, but Wyoming's largest medical malpratice insurance carrier is leaving. OHIC Insurance Company will no longer write policies for doctors in the state after August. The pullout leaves just three companies providing medical malpractice coverge in Wyoming. The company says the decision was based on internal financial reasons and not because the Legislature voted against a proposed cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.
Cheyenne – One of the goals of the legislative session was to pass some type of health care reform. But when the legislature ended its work Friday, only a couple of bills passed and the most controversial, a proposal to cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, failed. Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck reports only time will tell what this means.
Cheyenne, WY – The legislature was able to use the state's surplus to help economic development efforts according to a Cheyenne Representative. Pete Illoway says the most impact will come from a bill creating sale tax exemption for manufacturing equipment. Illoway thinks that tax break will generate jobs for the state. He says when trying to attract manufacturers Wyoming is now on par with other states. Illoway says increases to the Business Council's funding and funding for enhancing air travel will also help economic development in Wyoming.
Newcastle, WY – A newly re-started oil drilling project could provide Weston County with an economic shot in the arm. Operations on the LAK ranch east of Newcastle resumed last month after being shut down a couple years ago due to financial difficulties at the company behind the project, Derek Oil and Gas Corporation. Derek has teamed with Ivanhoe Energy to resurrect the development. Dave Spencer, the Northeast Director for the Wyoming Business Council, says this couldn't come at a better time for the county, which has suffered declining revenues for the last 15 years.
Ft. Washakie, WY – A proposed on-line charter school in Fremont county could eventually serve high school students from across Wyoming. Fremont County District 21 Superintendent Karl Berlin says his district currently has no high school. He says the plan calls for serving at-risk students or whose who may have dropped out of his school district. Berlin says his district already has most of the technological infrastructure in place to handle the virtual school. He says there may be some additional costs, but it would be cheaper than constructing a building.
Cheyenne, Wy – A Cheyenne Representative says the legislators were able to use the surplus to benefit economic development, but Pete Illoway thinks a tax break will do a lot of good. The Governor signed a bill that provides a sales tax exemption for machinery. Illoway has worked on the bill for six years and he thinks it will finally help create jobs in Wyoming because it puts the state on par with our neighbors. He says Wyoming is now back in the manufacturing business.
Cheyenne, Wy – By overwhelming margins, the House and Senate have approved the state budget -- which will cover the next two years of state government services. Governor Freudenthal proceded to sign the budget, vetoing two sections. The House and Senate chose to let them stand. The budget bill, combined with other measures, would increase immediate state General Fund spending by an estimated 125-million dollars. Spending for the next biennium would increase by about 280-(M)-million dollars over the current level.
Buffalo Grove, IL – States, like Wyoming, could soon be using a tool that would let them test more animals for chronic wasting disease without increasing the cost. This week, the federal government approved use of a new chronic wasting test created by the Illinois company Prion Developmental Laboratories. PDL's Chief Scientific Officer Bob Peterson it costs about 75 dollars to run most CWD tests now. Theirs would be less the 30 dollars. Peterson admits their test isn't as sensitive as others, but thinks the expense difference makes up for the sensitivity difference.
Cheyenne, WY – Despite some new proposals, negotiators on the state budget bill still have not reached agreement and the holdup is still over funding to local government. After Senators rejected a proposal to put $60 million into local governments, Senators verbally opposed a reduced proposal from the House because it takes too much from the states main bank account, the general fund. Senator John Schiffer asked that $9 Million of the $50 million dollar proposal come from the business ready communities program. But that was rejected by house chairman Phil Nicholas.
Casper, WY – Crime scene testimony opened day two of the Casper murder trial of Dale Wayne Eaton. Eaton is charged with the 1988 kidnapping, rape and murder of 18 year old Lisa Marie Kimmel. The prosecution spent much of the morning submitting photographic and blood evidence collected from the alleged murder scene on Government Bridge, about 25 miles southwest of Casper. Retired Natrona County Sheriff's Department Detective Michael Sanford testified to seeing a large, fresh blood pool on the bridge after Kimmel's body was found downstream on the North Platte River.
Cheyenne, Wy – Squeezing more oil from Wyoming's aging fields is the goal of legislation sent to Governor Freudenthal Thursday. Senate File 61 authorizes two-point-four-million dollars from the General Fund to expand research at the Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute at the University of Wyoming. Freudenthal had asked for the funding in his State of the State Address, saying a "vast resource" remains untapped.
Torrington, WY – It's been more then two months since the first US case of mad cow disease was found. And the owner of the state's largest cattle sale barn says producers are still getting less money for cattle they sell. Lex Madden from Torrington Livestock Markets says beef prices bounced around a lot. Before the BSE case, cattle ready to go to slaughter sold for $94 per 100 pounds. That price plummeted to $74, then climbed up to $80 and $88, before falling back down into the 70s again. Madden says the volatility of the market has been tough on producers.
Laramie, Wy – A mystery still surrounds the death of 280 elk near Rawlins. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is investigating and has ruled out all likely causes. Tom Reed from the agency says stress or running is a possibility, but is not the leading suspect. He says right now nothing stands out as a probable cause, though they are still looking into toxins and a virus as possibilities. He says the theory that they were run to death is being overblown.
Cheyenne, WY – The last major medical malpractice bill standing in the Legislature passed the Wyoming Senate Wednesday. When the 2004 Session started, those interested in trying to reign in rising medical malpractice insurance costs had hoped for an array of solutions. But Suzy Wacker of the Wyoming Medical Society says unfortunately just this single one is left. The measure tries to make a medical review panel constitutional and Wacker says it could provide some relief. But for it to be adopted, it must first be approved by the voters.
Laramie, Wy – A jury is expected to be seated Wednesday in Casper in the capital murder trial of Dale Wayne Eaton. Forty-eight potential jurors have been chosen from a jury pool since February 23rd. Prosecutors and defense attorneys will make their final selections from among the 48 to seat a jury. Opening arguments could begin as soon as it is seated. Eaton is accused of the 1988 kidnapping, rape and murder of Lisa Marie Kimmell.
Cheyenne, Wy – The last major medical malpractice bill before the legislature will come up for a final time Wednesday and it could face some trouble. House Joint Resolution 11 would ask voters to make a medical review panel constitutional. Senator Charlie Scott added a major amendment to the proposal to make up for some bills that failed earlier in the session. But, Scott says he will try to get it removed because the amendment only had 15 supporters and the resolution needs 20 votes to pass.
Cheyenne, Wy – The House will vote for a final time on a bill that puts over two million dollars into a new process for extracting oil from existing wells. The funding was restored on second reading, despite continued concerns over whether the state should give money to the University for research. Casper Republican Roy Cohee admits that is a concern because because perhaps they should not give the school more money for something it should be doing anyway.
Cheyenne, Wy – Governor Freudenthal has so far signed 27 bills from this year's legislative session. One bill makes the Sacajawea golden dollar the official state coin. Another bill exempts public fireworks displays from the laws that prohibit fireworks in state parks.