2018 Legislative Session

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If the Wyoming Department of Education has its way, kids across the state will be guaranteed access to computer science education. Bills have passed in both the House and Senate, which would require districts to offer computer science courses.

 

But those bills differ slightly. Dicky Shanor, Chief of Staff for the Wyoming Department of Education, said the Senate’s version of the bill is stronger because it treats computer science has a stand-alone knowledge area, where as the House places it under career and technical education.

Wyoming State Historical Society

The Wyoming House passed a bill to create a day commemorating Estelle Reel. She was the first woman elected to a statewide office in 1894, as the Superintendent of Public Instruction.  

 

While the majority of lawmakers wanted to recognize Reel’s accomplishment, House Minority Leader Cathy Connolly said Reel’s discriminatory attitude toward Native Americans and women should make them think twice.

 

Connolly said she researched Reel and read multiple articles.

 

The Wyoming Senate made major changes to a bill that would allow someone to use deadly force if their life is in danger or they face the threat of bodily harm. 

The biggest change to the Stand Your Ground Bill removed immunity from prosecution and civil liability for someone who uses deadly force. Senator Drew Perkins says his amendment moves the bill closer to what other states are doing. Senator Anthony Bouchard said the Perkins amendment guts the bill. He added that people in Wyoming have gone to prison for just defending themselves.

Wyoming State Legislature

It’s the halfway point of the Wyoming legislative session, and Wyoming Public Radio News Director Bob Beck joins Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard to discuss what the big issues are for the state's lawmakers.

Bob Beck

The Wyoming House and Senate wrapped up budget work Friday. As predicted the Senate made several reductions to education spending. Senate Education Chairman Hank Coe says the cuts were outside of the classroom and were necessary when you look at the state’s fiscal situation. 

“If all the cuts take place that we are talking about here with what we did last year, we are talking about 5 percent in cuts total. Most agencies have taken ten and 12 percent, community colleges have taken 15 percent cuts, the University has cut $41 million. So, I think there’s room for reductions.”

Bob Beck

The Wyoming Senate heard its version of a Stand Your Ground gun law and gave it initial support despite a lot of concern over a presumed innocence provision. The House is considering a similar bill.

EQC Funding Restored

Feb 25, 2018

The Wyoming Senate on Friday voted to overturn a decision by the Joint Appropriations Committee to remove future funding from the state’s Environmental Quality Council. 

The funding was removed over the fact that the EQC opposed a coal mine in Sheridan County. Senator Cale Case says the issue was clearly payback.

“And Mr. President you and I both know that’s not the best way to handle an appellate agency that has such an important role in our state.”

Tennessee Watson

Legislation to further cut education funding is making its way through the Wyoming legislature. Wednesday a bill sponsored by Senator Ray Peterson proposing approximately $140 million in cuts was discussed in committee.

 

Those reductions would be achieved through increased state control over district expenditures. Currently school districts have block grants, which they spend how they see fit. State accountability measures are in place to guarantee that spending benefits the educational needs of kids.

 

 

Powder River Basin Resource Council's Shannon Anderson speaking to the Senate Minerals Committee about SF-98
Tennessee Watson / Wyoming Public Radio

A bill looking to cut future severance taxes for oil and gas companies was approved by the Senate Minerals Committee. Senate File 98 would cut severance taxes in half during the third year of production until the end of its fourth year.  

Cody Senator Hank Coe said the goal is to attract new energy operations to Wyoming over another mineral producing state. Coe said that it's worked before. 

Wyoming State Legislature

Wyoming’s House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would sharpen anti-stalking laws.

House Bill 8 raises the maximum penalty for misdemeanor stalking from six months to one year, with up to three years of probation. The maximum penalty for felony stalking is 10 years under existing state law.

Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site

Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site near Worland in the Bighorn Mountains has been occupied by people for over 10,000 years and visitors have long flocked there to see panels of ancient rock art.

Wyoming State Parks administrator Domenic Bravo said traffic has also increased there thanks to staff-led programs, like youth hunting camps and a groomed ice rink.

CC0 Creative Commons

An effort to better coordinate early childhood education is underway in the Wyoming legislature. It’s part of policymakers’ efforts to streamline funding for education.

 

Digest For SF-98
Wyoming Legislative Service Office

Proposed legislation passed introduction in the State Senate last Friday that would cut the severance tax rate in half for petroleum and natural gas companies for a certain period of time. The reduction from 6 percent to 3 percent would take place during the project's third year until the end of its fourth. 

Marion Orr

An effort to pass legislation to help smaller communities get high-speed internet is getting pushback from those in the industry. Lobbyists presented a substitute bill presumably intended to keep communities from forming their own internet operations. 

Legislative Service Office

Despite some strong opposition, the Wyoming House of Representatives gave final approval to a bill that would set up an investments task force with the goal of getting more money out of Wyoming’s investments. 

Wyoming State Legislature

A Senate legislative committee has approved two bills intended to help address the state’s opioid problem. One bill sets up a task force to determine what the problem is and what could be done about it and the other sets up tracking for controlled substance prescriptions in the state. 

Kemmerer Senator Fred Baldwin says they want to track prescriptions so they know who is getting what and how often. 

code.org

Wyoming is poised to be the first state in the country to require its schools to offer computer science education. Friday, the State Senate passed a bill to add computer science to the basket of goods as a common core knowledge area.

 

Logo is courtesy of the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition

You may have heard a little about Blockchain, but if some people in Wyoming have their way, you will learn a lot about it. Because according to these experts, legislation that Wyoming lawmakers are considering this year could open the floodgates for Blockchain businesses. Some lawmakers are comparing it to the internet boom of the 1990’s and say it could completely change Wyoming’s economic future. 

Tennessee Watson

The Wyoming House of Representatives wrapped up week one of the 2018 Budget Session on Friday shortly before 3:30 p.m., which has some policymakers disappointed.

 

The last day to introduce bills, the early adjournment meant there were over 15 bills that got the ax without even being discussed. House Minority Leader Cathy Connolly said the House never got to discuss a tobacco tax, a sales and use tax rate and changes to a real estate tax, among others.

 

Wyoming Department of Education

In his State of the State address, Governor Matt Mead urged the legislature to find ways to stabilize education funding, which relies heavily on revenues from the energy industry. But attempts to diversify the tax base — to protect school finance from booms and busts — have gone nowhere. Lawmakers who oppose generating new revenue sources say school finance is too opaque. They want more time to settle their uncertainty.

 

Bob Beck

A State Senate Committee voted to unanimously support a bill that will help the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality clean up abandoned contaminated sites in the state. The DEQ has been busy repairing a number of so-called orphan sites around the state where the companies are no longer available to pay for the cleanup.  

Luke Esch of the DEQ says the legislation provides money from an account funded by taxes and fees. 

"Really allows us to get away from general funds and find a sustainable source of funding for these projects."

Kamila Kudelska

There are over 500 open computing jobs in Wyoming, amounting to roughly $30 million in wages not flowing into the state. That’s according to Code.org, a non-profit that has partnered with the Wyoming Department of Education to expand access to computer science in schools.

 

Bob Beck

In his State of the State message, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead said during the economic downturn some budget cuts went too deep, including those felt by the Department of Health and the Department of Family Services.

Laramie Representative Charles Pelkey, a Democrat, said he agrees.

Office of Governor Matt Mead

In his final state of the state message, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead stressed the need to restore some budget cuts, work to diversify the economy, and look for long-term ways to fund education. 

Mead says Wyoming did a good job cutting the budget to deal with a revenue shortfall, but now that the revenue picture has improved, he would like to see the legislature restore funding cuts for agencies such as the Departments of Health and Corrections. 

Governor Matt Mead's 2018 State Of The State Address

Feb 12, 2018
Office of Governor Matt Mead

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead delivered his final State of the State address before members of the Legislature in Cheyenne on February 12, 2018. 

The 2018 budget session gets underway today, and Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck will once again oversee coverage. He joined Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard to preview what might be in store.

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The final report from the Wyoming Legislature’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force has been released, after two years of studying the benefits and challenges of improving old and creating new pathways and natural trail surfaces.

Among its recommendations, the task force advised the Wyoming Legislature to invest $10 million annually in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, like enhanced walkable main streets and rural cycling routes across the state.

Ten months and $800,000 later, the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration has completed its in-depth look at how Wyoming finances education. Members of APA Consulting, who were tasked with examining the equity and adequacy of the school funding model, told lawmakers the state’s current approach works but pointed out areas for improvement. Despite a recommendation to spend more, lawmakers are opting to spend less.

Bob Beck

This week, after months of discussion, a legislative committee defeated a number of tax increase measures. The Joint Revenue Committee was hoping to find money to pay for a revenue shortfall that some thought could reach a billion dollars. Then a funny thing happened over the summer, the revenue picture improved just enough that taxes could be avoided. 

Wyoming Legislature

Later this month the Wyoming Legislature will be asked to consider a bill that will hopefully stabilize Wyoming’s Air Service. Senate Vice President Michael Von Flatern of Gillette is the main sponsor and he joins Bob Beck to explain the concept.

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