The Wyoming House gave final approval to a nearly 260 million dollar remodeling of the State Capitol Building and adjoining Herschler building. The project will bring about infrastructure improvements to both facilities and will create larger legislative committee rooms and develop office space for all elected officials.
Cheyenne Representative Dan Zwonitzer said the Herschler Building will become a more useful location for state government and a much nicer work space.
The Wyoming House of Representatives gave initial approval to a bill that would provide more funding to the State Game and Fish Department.
The bill would, for the first time, allow health insurance for Game and Fish employees to be paid for by the state. Until now, that’s been covered by the Department. It would also help cover the Department's costs for managing the state's Grizzly Bear population. The total impact to the state budget is estimated to be around seven million dollars a year.
Wyoming Republican John Barrasso is leading a fight in the U.S. Senate to change regulations on timber harvesting in national forests. Matt Laslo reports from Washington that environmentalists and foresters are suspicious of his idea.
The Wyoming Beef Council is launching an online campaign in an effort to improve beef’s image with the millennial generation. That’s anyone born between 1980 and the early 2000’s. The campaign will feature recipes on social media sites popular with millennials.
Wyoming Democrat Mike Ceballos has announced he’ll be running for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Ceballos is a business man without direct experience in education, but he’s been involved in various education foundations and sits on several education-related boards. He says his skill-set is appropriate for the job.
After a lengthy debate the State Senate approved a bill setting up a super committee to address a Supreme Court ruling about the duties of State Schools Superintendent Cindy Hill. The legislature passed a law last year that removed Hill’s authority to manage the State Department of Education among other things. The court ruled that law unconstitutional. Some lawmakers want to see if either the Supreme Court or a District Court will help them fix their law. But Senator Phil Nicholas says that lawmakers should be prepared to move forward without any additional guidance.
The Wyoming Senate has voted 26 to 4 to approve a bill that will help recruit a company to Cody and establish a loan program to recruit other large businesses.
Roughly $25 million in state loans will be used to help the Lannett Company expand a lab in Cody, but in an effort to avoid violating a constitutional provision against benefiting a single entity, the Senate broadened the bill with a series of amendments.
This concerned Lander Republican Cale Case, who opposed the bill.
A bill that would allow the federal government to trade mineral rights and federal land for two parcels of state land inside Grand Teton National Park has passed the Wyoming Senate.
The swap is needed after the federal government backed out of a previous deal to pay the state for the two parcels. Laramie Senator Phil Nicholas added an amendment that the land would have to be mineral property with proven reserves, so that the swap is worthwhile for the state.
Walt Niekamp and his wife, Dorothy, lived in Casper years ago where they taught in the Natrona County schools. He has never forgotten Wyoming’s hospitality and landscape. Walt describes how his love for Wyoming, as well as his own career in media, inspired him to support Wyoming Public Media.
A Wyoming company is in trouble with North Dakota officials for improperly disposing of filter socks used in oil and gas drilling. Filter socks capture sediment in flowback water, and can concentrate naturally-occurring radioactivity. The North Dakota Department of Health says inspectors detected radioactivity at above-background levels on two flatbed trailers piled high with filter socks that are owned by Riverton-based R.P Services.
Wyoming is now offering a new program to victims of crimes that will allow them to request a facilitated meeting with the offender of the crime. The Victim Offender Dialogue Program is the first of its kind in the state for adults.
A bill that would change the way the state handles those who may need to be hospitalized due to mental illness was defeated by the Wyoming Senate.
Right now, a Judge needs to rule on involuntary commitment within 72 hours of a person being detained. The bill allowed a medical professional to require someone to be hospitalized and receive treatment immediately. A court hearing would later determine if someone should be held longer.
Senator Larry Hicks told the Senate that approach violates due process.
The Wyoming House of Representatives began working on a bill that would fund a $269 million renovation of the State Capitol building and the adjacent Herschler Building.
It would repair and modernize both buildings and enhance office space. Some lawmakers questioned the need for the upgrade, but Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau says it is long overdue. Lubnau noted that the building features a number of hazards and limitations.
The Wyoming Senate is continuing to work on a bill that will set up a so-called super committee to attempt to fix the law that took powers away from Superintendent Cindy Hill. The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that in particular Hill should run the Department of Education and not an appointed Director.
During debate on the bill Senator Curt Meier of LaGrange suggested that the Senate provide specific suggestions to the committee.
The Wyoming Senate killed a bill that would have required DNA testing for those charged with a crime. Information from the DNA tests would then be stored in a database. Senator Drew Perkins of Casper told the Senate that such action violates people's rights.
"Through technology we continue to find more, and more, and more, and more information about us that's stored. We already have in our statutes that if you are convicted of a crime of felony, we store and maintain that DNA. This takes it another step further."
The number of jobs in Wyoming related to solar energy has increased by almost 600 percent in just over a year. That's according to a report from the Solar Foundation. The report shows that out of 340 solar-related jobs in the state, 290 of them were added since 2012.
Ten solar energy companies are operating in the state. But Bruce Parkinson with UW's School of Energy Resources says many of the installed systems are privately owned and off the grid.
Although the final attempt to expand Medicaid in Wyoming was defeated by the State Senate on Friday, a House budget amendment would direct the executive branch to work with the federal government to try and resolve the issue.
The Governor would ask for a waiver so that lawmakers might have another chance to vote on a specified Medicaid expansion program next year. Because there are federal funds involved, states must get approval from the feds in order to move forward with their own plans. Pinedale Republican Albert Sommers likes the idea.
The Wyoming House and Senate approved their versions of the state budget on Friday and will now work on reaching a compromise to send to the Governor. One of the entities that received a lot of attention was the University of Wyoming. Senate Appropriations Chairman Eli Bebout said that UW was treated well.
“We made some cuts, that’s what we do. But we gave some endowment money, we are moving ahead on a tier 1 Engineering College, we did the double-A, looking at the Corbett pools, we did that endowed chair for petroleum engineering.”
The Wyoming Senate has given initial approval to a bill allowing the legislature to work on a solution to the Supreme Court ruling that declared the removal of duties from Superintendent Cindy Hill unconstitutional.
The attorney general is appealing the ruling, but the bill would allow a group of legislators to address the constitutional issues raised by the court. Senator Curt Meier worried that language in the bill giving the legislative committee 90 days to find a solution could draw out the process. But Senate President Tony Ross says the goal is to move quickly.
The State Senate easily defeated a proposed budget amendment that would expand Medicaid Services in the state by a vote of 21 to 9. Laramie Democrat Chris Rothfuss says it’s a chance to bring health care to over 17 thousand people in the state. Senate Health and Labor Chairman Charles Scott continued his opposition to Medicaid expansion by saying that it will encourage people to over utilize health care. Rothfuss says his proposal actually would address that.
The Wyoming House and Senate finished up budget work today. Leaders in both bodies say they probably spent more than they should, but they are generally satisfied. Senate Appropriations Chairman Eli Bebout says they addressed some important needs including funding for public employee raises and the University of Wyoming. Bebout remains concerned about the future, but he says this budget is more encouraging than past ones.
Increasing volumes of coal and oil being shipped to the Pacific Northwest are putting pressure on rail capacity in the region, according a new report from the Western Organization of Resource Councils.
In an effort to reduce spending in the budget, the State Senate has cut in half the money available to school districts to increase public school teacher salaries. Teachers will get a pay hike in the first year of the biennium, but not the second.
Appropriations Chairman Eli Bebout said that Wyoming teachers are the highest paid in the region. But Laramie Democrat Chris Rothfuss countered by saying Wyoming is losing purchasing power.
The WPM Forum on Coal, a moderated discussion about the challenges coal is currently facing politically, economically and environmentally, how that could impact Wyoming in the future, and ways the state is innovating to keep coal relevant, will air on Open Spaces. WPM guests included Wyoming Treasurer Mark Gordon, Rocky Mountain Power VP Rita Meyer and Clean Energy Action co-founder Leslie Glustrom. The forum was held February 26, at 7pm, in front of a live audience at the Laramie County Library in Cheyenne will rebroadcast on Open Spaces Friday Feb.
The 24/7 Sobriety Program Bill has passed general file in the Wyoming Senate.
The bill would create the option for people who have been arrested for substance abuse misdemeanors to be tested regularly for drug or alcohol use instead of staying in jail. If the offender fails to complete or pass a test, he or she would be arrested and appear in front of a judge.
The program would mainly be funded by fees paid up-front by the offenders themselves.
Natural gas prices hit a 5-year high this week in response to news that another bout of extreme cold weather will hit the Northeast and Midwest in coming days. Previous cold snaps this winter have led to record consumption of natural gas, which in turn has drawn down reserves. In response, prices have climbed more than 40 percent since the beginning of the year, reaching over $6 per million BTU Wednesday.
Doug Hock is a spokesman for Encana, the largest natural producer in Wyoming. He says the upswing is a welcome change of pace, after years of low prices.