The State Senate approved additional funding for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, but not without discussion.
The bill provides $14 million for the department to pay for health insurance and grizzly management. It’s intended to address financial issues within the Department, after a hunting license fee increase was defeated last year.
Senator Phil Nicholas says the fee hike was defeated because the Game and Fish has incurred the wrath of those who pay the fees.
Wyoming lawmakers are voting on the state budget this week and are considering proposals to strengthen the energy industry in the state.
15 million dollars is proposed for a facility to study the capture, sequestration, and management of carbon emissions from a coal fired power plant. Senator Jim Anderson of Glenrock says it’s important to the future of Wyoming Coal.
“Perhaps bring Wyoming into a new era and it would certainly in regard to our reliance on coal and other things that are carbon based be a blessing if in fact we could do this.”
The Wyoming Senate Rules Committee has passed a bill that would let a group of legislators work on amending the bill that took away the bulk of powers from the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The Supreme Court declared the so-called Hill bill unconstitutional, and now the legislature must fix it.
Cheri Steinmetz with the Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming testified against the bill, saying it's time the legislature stopped wasting money on the issue. But Senator Chris Rothfuss says the bill is necessary to resolve the management of the state's public school system.
Becky and Aaron Maddox own the Snowy Range Ski Area west of Laramie. Becky is a fourth generation Laramie resident, and Aaron grew up in Steamboat Springs.
The couple grew up skiing, and their love for the sport motivated them to invest their lives in Snowy Range. Becky and Aaron describe how the ski area is not only their business, but is their passion, their family, and their life.
Wyoming Mining Association Executive Director Marion Loomis says coal’s future is bright -- but that there’s a need for continued innovation -- both in extraction technology and emissions control.
“We’ve made such tremendous strides in reducing emission levels. We’ve increased coal production about 170 percent in this country in the last 20 years and reduced pollutants by over 85 percent,” says Loomis.
The Wyoming House will consider a bill that would create a committee of educators and parents to determine if the state should continue to use Common Core State standards in K-12 education. The bill would also develop new student assessment options. Several teachers, the school board members, and a business leader spoke on behalf of the common core. Bill Shilling of the Wyoming Business Alliance says that the bill doesn’t help.
“I don’t see in this legislation any advancement in the end product for our students,” says Shilling.
The Senate Minerals Committee approved a bill Monday that would increase the amount of money oil and gas operators have to put up before accessing split estate properties.
A split estate is when a private landowner owns the surface land and not the mineral rights. The bill raises the minimum bonding amount from $2,000 to $10,000. The bond covers any damages to the property from development, when a surface use agreement can’t be negotiated.
The Wyoming House of Representatives has approved a bill that would require school buses in the state to carry video cameras on the outside.
The cameras would help catch motorists who illegally drive by stopped buses, also known as fly-by's. Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau opposed the bill, saying that using cameras to spy on people would make him uncomfortable. Other opponents complained that it should be a local control issue and not something that the state should mandate.
ARK Regional Services will be shutting down their recycling program in Laramie in May, and that could leave a lot of local businesses with a big cardboard problem on their hands. Big Hollow Food Coop Manager, Marla Peterson, estimates that they fill the ARK recycling dumpster twice a week with cardboard. She says there’s no way the city’s smaller curbside bins could handle that kind of volume.
After defeating a series of Medicaid expansion bills earlier this week, the Wyoming Senate voted to introduce a compromise measure.
Laramie Democrat Chris Rothfuss is the sponsor. The bill would enable the state to expand Medicaid for one year, during which time it could ask the federal government for the ability to devise its own expansion plan for the next three years.
The Wyoming Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would require each teacher and school administrator to undergo eight hours of suicide training every four years. Wyoming has one of the nation’s highest rates of suicide, and Senate Education Chairman Hank Coe says they want school officials to look for possible signs in an effort to prevent suicide.
“It is a serious problem," Coe said. "If we can go out with something like this and recognize a couple of…I mean just one…prevent one and its worthwhile.
For over a decade the state has struggled with making sure all citizens had access to health care. Much of this had to do with the fact that many Wyoming citizens can’t afford health insurance. The federal affordable care act was supposed to help.
There’s a fight brewing in Wyoming over the rights of landowners who don’t own the minerals below their properties. In 2005, the legislature passed a Split Estate law, but now, one lawmaker is saying it may be time to revisit the issue, in light of changes in drilling technology and intensity.
Senator Jim Anderson introduced a bill this week that would increase bonding on split-estate properties. Wyoming Public Radio energy reporter Stephanie Joyce joins us to discuss the bill, and its implications.
The National Park Service named a new superintendent for Grand Teton National Park this week. David Vela will replace former superintendent Mary Gibson Scott, who retired last year.
Vela is currently an associate director for the Park Service in Washington DC. He has worked at parks and historic sites in Texas, Virginia, and Pennsylvania and directed the Park Service’s southeast region for four years. He says one of his goals is to listen to visitor feedback.
Author Ben Kilham has studied black bears for decades and has also raised orphan bear cubs. His new book is called “Out on a Limb: What Black Bears Have Taught Me about Intelligence and Intuition.” He spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck, and said his interest in bears came by accident.
Marion Loomis has been with the Wyoming Mining Association, one of the state’s most influential interest groups, for almost 40 years. Earlier this week, he announced that he would be retiring that post in April. Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce caught up with Loomis at the Capitol to discuss his career and what the future holds for the state’s mining industry.
The Wyoming House of Representatives failed to introduce the second of two committee-sponsored Medicaid Expansion bills, essentially ending the chance that lawmakers will approve an expansion this session.
The bill was based on the Medicaid fit program that was created by the Wyoming Department of Health. Cheyenne Republican Sue Wilson urged the House to debate it.
The Wyoming House of Representatives failed to introduce a bill that would have lifted restrictions on carrying guns in school zones, while agreeing to introduce another bill that would leave it up to school districts to decide whether employees with a concealed carry permit can have guns in schools.
The Wyoming Senate reconsidered and passed a bill that would set up a special committee to review the recent Supreme Court decision about Superintendent Cindy Hill.
The court ruled that removing Hill's responsibility to run the Department of Education was unconstitutional. The committee would be tasked with coming up with legislation to respond to the ruling, possibly in a special legislative session.
The Senate at first rejected the bill, but reconsidered after lunch and passed it. Senator Chris Rothfuss says that some education took place during the lunch break.
The spread of mountain pine beetles is slowing in Wyoming, according to a survey from the U.S. Forest Service.
Beetles killed 180,000 new acres of trees in 2012, but only 82,000 acres in 2013.
The Forest Service’s Aaron Voos says it’s not surprising.
“They’ve kind of eaten themselves out of house and home,” Voos said. “All of the trees that were susceptible to attack … have been either eaten and are now dead and dying, or they were able to fend off the epidemic and have developed some sort of resiliency.”