Politics

As Wyoming welcomes Ed Murray as its new Secretary of State, longtime public official Max Maxfield will leave state government. 

Maxfield was Wyoming’s Secretary of State since 2007 after serving eight years as State Auditor. As Secretary of State, Maxfield was known for combating fraud in Wyoming businesses, and for filing the case that ultimately repealed term limits for the top 5 elected officials in the state.

Maxfield says that even though he did not seek a third term as secretary of state, repealing term limits was a matter of principle. 

Mike Smith / Wyoming News dot com

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead said that state leaders should look to the future in an effort to improve the state. In his inaugural address, Mead said he is excited about a number of things as he heads into his second term.

A legislative committee has rejected the Wyoming Department of Health's proposed Medicaid Expansion plan in favor of a bill crafted by the committee.  The Share plan was also endorsed by the governor.

The bill  approved by the committee would provide participants with a Medicaid-funded health savings account that they could use to purchase private insurance.  Senator Charles Scott said that he believes that will encourage participants to be careful with their health care spending.

Gillette Representative Eric Barlow said that remains to be seen.

Associated Press

For the first time, Wyoming employers could face stiff fines if their workers die on the job.   

The state does not currently distinguish workplace fatalities from other kinds of safety violation, but under a bill endorsed by the Joint Health, Labor, and Social Services Committee large employers could be fined up to $250-thousand dollars and those who employ fewer than 250 employees could face fines up to 50-thousand dollars.

Senator Charles Scott says Wyoming’s workplace safety record is among the worst in the country and it’s time to send a message.

Bob Beck

Members of a legislative committee say they plan to support at least one bill that would expand Medicaid services in the state to provide Health Insurance to a low income population that can’t afford health insurance.

The committee is looking at two bills and there is a chance they may be combined into one piece of legislation.   The state has proposed a plan where it would use federal dollars to provide health insurance.  Senator Charles Scott has crafted a plan that uses Medicaid dollars to fund a health savings account that participants would use to purchase private insurance.

Wyoming Legislative Service Office

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead presented his 156-million dollar budget to the Joint Appropriations Committee and said that he wants to focus on a number of building projects in an effort to invest in Wyoming.

Mead argued that the state has enough money to pay for his budget, but Casper Representative Tim Stubson says he’s not so sure.

“The governor’s focus on one time spending is appropriate.  I don’t think there will be enough to cover all of his requests as well as legislative priorities, so there’s going to have to be some trimming along the way.”

Newsday.com

The Senate Judiciary Committee will introduce a new bill to the Wyoming Legislature this January that would offer death by firing squad as an execution alternative.

Five legal execution methods exist in the United States: lethal injection, electric chair, hanging, gas chamber, and firing squad. Currently, no one is on Wyoming’s Death Row. But if an inmate were to be executed, the state would use lethal injection with the gas chamber as a backup.

According to a new study by the National Institute for Money in State Politics, Wyoming has the third lowest number of contested races for state legislature, tying with Arkansas for the spot. In 36% of its state races, there’s only one name on the ballot.  Only Georgia and South Carolina have less competition in their state elections. Researcher Zach Holden says, yes, it’s because Wyoming is dominated by strong partisan politics. But it’s also a state without term limits.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead is asking the legislature for what he calls a modest budget increase of roughly 156 million dollars. 

His supplemental budget request features funding for a number of one time projects that includes improving the safety of Highway 59 near Gillette, millions in matching money for the University of Wyoming, and 25 million for local governments. 

After months of negotiations with the federal government, the Wyoming Department of Health unveiled a plan today/Wednesday for using federal dollars to expand Medicaid in the state. The proposed state plan is called Share and it includes provision for work training, Co-pays and Health Assessments.  Laramie Democrat Chris Rothfuss is a supporter of expanding Medicaid. He says he's okay with the requirement that some people pay a small amount into the plan.

State of Wyoming

Wyoming legislators will look to amend the state constitution in order to invest reserve account money in the stock market.  While there is risk associated with the move, State Treasurer Mark Gordon says that risk can be minimized with proper investing.

“Take some of those savings and invest them more broadly, into stocks not only bonds, so balancing the risks to make sure that the state’s savings actually not only return a little bit more…but are more defensibly invested.”

He says Wyoming’s investments overcame the economic downturn in the last decade.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead says the federal agencies in charge of Medicaid are open to innovative expansion proposals. He says that could convince legislators to adopt a Medicaid Expansion program in Wyoming. The proposal the state is working on would require those eligible for the program to contribute to it. 

In a press conference Thursday, Governor Matt Mead says he’s instructed the Attorney General to remove the sheriff of Campbell County from office. County commissioners submitted a complaint last week saying Sheriff Pownall tampered with drunk driving charges against his son, Seth. The sheriff is accused of coercing his deputies into changing it to a pedestrian under the influence charge.

Governor Mead says he was troubled by the report since he recently supported Pownall’s nomination for legislature.

Wyoming Democrats

The Wyoming Republican Party's sweeping victories on Election night left the chairman of the Wyoming Democrats disappointed. 

Ana Cuprill says she is especially disappointed that Mike Ceballos lost his bid for State Superintendent. She says Ceballos would have had the ability to bring the State Department of Education, the legislature, and the Governor’s office together.

“He’s just that kind of guy and it will be interesting to see if we have to continue with another four years of not being able to work together with the Department of Education.

Charlie Hardy

Facing an incumbent like Senator Mike Enzi, who has been in the U.S. Senate since 1997, is a daunting task. But Democrat Charlie Hardy says he took on the challenge to give better representation to those people in Wyoming without the money or connections to represent themselves, like children, the elderly and working families.

Hardy says these people also have a harder time voting and that could be why in Tuesday’s election, Enzi retained his seat with over 70 percent of the vote.  Hardy is thankful for the voters who did turn out for him, though.

The race for Wyoming’s schools chief was expected to be a close one, but it wasn't. Republican Jillian Balow defeated Democrat Mike Ceballos in the race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tuesday night with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Despite his party affiliation, Ceballos earned credibility in deep-red Wyoming with his business leadership experience. He racked up a string of key endorsements, and outspent Balow during the campaign, but Ceballos says he didn’t make his case to enough people.

Irina Zhorov

Wyoming Democrats had high hopes of gaining some legislative seats on election day, but in the end, they gained only one in the House.

Democratic newcomers Charles Pelkey in Laramie, JoAnn Dayton in Rock Springs, and Andy Schwartz in Jackson picked up Republican seats, but that was trumped by losses of previously held Democratic seats in Fremont and Laramie County. 

Tuesday night, incumbent U.S. Senator Mike Enzi handily won his race against Democratic challenger Charlie Hardy, taking over 70 percent of the vote. Enzi has served in the U.S. Senate since 1997 and worked on numerous committees including Finance and Homeland Security. While he is considered one of the most conservative senators in office, he’s also given for credit for working across the aisle on many issues. Enzi says he’s signed over 100 bills into law during his tenure in office.

Angus Thuermer / WyoFile

Voters roundly defeated a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would have allowed non-residents to serve on the University of Wyoming’s Board of Trustees.

The Wyoming Constitution specifies that anyone serving on the Board of Trustees should be eligible to vote in the state. The amendment would have allowed the Governor to appoint up to two non-residents to the 13-person Board. 

In Tuesday’s election, U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis won her fourth term in office, beating out Democrat Richard Grayson with almost 70 percent of the vote. She says Wyoming people were clear in their message that they prefer stronger state control.

"I’m looking forward to working with a Republican Senate to keep government at the federal level focused on what it was designed to do," she says. "Which is protect our borders and provide for the defense of this nation. And allow states to function in the areas of air, land, water, wildlife."

Governor Mead handily beat Democratic Challenger Pete Gosar. A strong economy generally favors the incumbent, and Mead undercut one of Gosar’s main criticisms when he came out in favor of Medicaid expansion earlier this year. Governor Mead says this term he wants to expand Medicaid in Wyoming.

“We are going to present an expansion plan to the Legislature for their consideration,” he says. “It's going to be a better plan than we had last year going into session.”

During an election season, people often doubt how much their votes count. But according to a new study by WalletHub.com, voters in Wyoming have more influence than any other voters in the country. Spokesperson Jill Gonzalez says that’s because Wyoming has the lowest population of any state and rural states with low populations still have the same number of senators as other more urban states.

While Wyoming residents strongly oppose the Affordable Care Act, residents are supportive of expanding Medicaid to provide health care to those who cannot afford it. A University of Wyoming election year survey conducted in mid - August found that only 24 percent of state residents approve of the Affordable Care Act, while 70 percent oppose it.  

University of Wyoming Political Scientist Jim King says people have a different opinion about Medicaid expansion.

Kim Via Flickr

The Wyoming League of Women Voters is now providing survey results that will help voters decide about whether to retain judges when they go to the polls next Tuesday.

The problem in the past has been that judges who are up for retention aren’t allowed to campaign like other elected officials.

Wyoming’s Congressional Delegation is drafting legislation that would remove wolves from the endangered species list in the state. 

Montana and Idaho had their wolves de-listed via federal legislation and U.S. Senator Mike Enzi says the delegation is gathering support for its own bill. The proposed legislation would put Wyoming’s wolf management plan into law. That plan allows wolves to be shot on sight in most of the state. 

Wikipedia Creative Commons

Wyoming’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group says there is good news and bad news with this year’s revenue forecast.  General fund revenue is forecast to increase by over 37 million dollars. CREG Co-Chairman Dan Noble says the forecast looks good for sales and use tax and other things.

“Mineral valuations for oil are excellent, we are actually projecting around a 14 and a half percent increase in oil. Gas is continuing to climb as it relates to production, pricing is pretty stable. Coal, we are down from 400-million tons to 380-million tons.”

GOP Disappointed In Haynes

Oct 23, 2014

The Wyoming Republican Party says it is disappointed that Taylor Haynes has decided to run for governor as a write-in candidate despite losing in the GOP primary election. State Party Chairman Tammy Hooper says that Haynes signed a unity pledge saying he would support all the Republican candidates in the general election.

During a debate last night in Riverton, Democratic candidate for Governor Pete Gosar said that governor Matt Mead has lacked leadership. Gosar pointed to the failure to expand Medicaid among other things.

“We have gambled with our economy on one commodities price, the price of oil. And as we benefited as it went up it is now at 80 dollars and looking to go further south. I hope that the governor has a plan. I look at education policy,  under this governor’s term we have stopped teaching science in our schools.”

Candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction agree on several issues, but Democrat Mike Ceballos says his experience as a CEO of QWEST gives him the edge, while Republican Jillian Balow says her background as a classroom teacher makes her the best choice. 

One key difference is over the Common Core education standards which were adopted by Wyoming, but are now under fire. Ceballos says he’s a strong supporter of the standards, but charges that Balow has waffled.

Sushiesque via Flickr

On Thursday, a federal court in Casper heard arguments on whether Wyoming needed to start issuing same sex marriage licenses. The courtroom was packed, but the hearing only went on for about an hour.

Federal Judge Scott Skavdahl heard same sex marriage advocates argue that because the 10th circuit court in Denver ruled earlier that same sex marriage bans were unconstitutional Wyoming needed to allow same sex marriage immediately.

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