In Congress, Wyoming lawmakers are laying down their legislative priorities for the New Year, but the state’s Republicans doubt they can get much done with a Democrat in the White House. Matt Laslo has the story from Washington of what to expect in this election year.
Just one percent of Wyoming students take K-12 virtual education classes, and the vast majority of those online learners are full-time at one the state’s two virtual schools. Last year, the State Department of Education launched a task force to expand and improve online learning. The group found a number of things that need to change. As we heard in the previous story in our virtual education series, one is the lack of transparency in student performance data for full-time, virtual schools. Another—as Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank reports in the final story in our series—is a lack of part-time virtual education.
Across the country, there are thousands of abandoned coal mine sites needing cleanup. And around HALF of the money collected to do that work comes from Wyoming coal production. Over 100 million dollars in 2014. But that funding is getting harder to come by largely because the government pays to reclaim old mines by exacting a fee on *new* mines. With coal production slowing down in Wyoming and other energy-rich regions, there’s less money to clean up the sins of coal mining's deep and dirty history. For Inside Energy, Reid Frazier of Allegheny Front shows us what coal has left behind in Pennsylvania.
Thanks to a downturn in energy prices, Wyoming lawmakers are in a bind. As legislators prepare for the upcoming legislative session they will likely have to cut the budget, dip into reserves, and possibly divert money from flowing into reserve accounts in order to pay for the next two years. The problem is that the economic downturn may last awhile. So how will the state find money to pay for things? This week Wyoming learned that Wyoming residents rank 48th in the nation in the amount of tax money they pay. Buck McVeigh is the Director of the Wyoming Taxpayers Association and he says the state may need to revisit its tax structure.
For victims of violent crime on the Wind River Indian Reservation, finding help and safety after an attack can be hard. A lack of funding means there are very few services for crime victims there. Recently, the only safe house for victims of sexual assault on Wind River closed down when its funding went dry…forcing victims to risk traveling to shelters in nearby towns off the reservation. But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards reports, a new bill recently introduced in Congress would make it easier for tribes to get money to run their own safe house.
Since the 1960s federal law has said people who have been committed to a mental institution, or found mentally defective by a legal authority, can’t buy guns. This month the feds announced new rules clarifying that states aren’t violating patient privacy when they submit mental health records to the national background check system. Without getting those records, that system can’t catch people who aren’t allowed to purchase firearms. But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Miles Bryan reports, Wyoming is one of six states that does not regularly submit mental health records.
As we continue our series looking at serious mental health issues we turn our attention to a workbook intended to help those with these serious issues change their outlook. Doctor Victor Ashear was a long time clinical psychologist at the Sheridan VA and a current private practitioner in Sheridan who deals with those who have serious mental illness. He is joined by his editor and former Suicide prevention specialist Vanessa Hastings. Dr. Ashears book is called Self-Acceptance: The Key to Recovery from Mental Illness. He explains the purpose behind the workbook.
A new position at the Wyoming Arts Council is working to grow the state’s independent music scene. Danee Hunzee is the council’s Community Development and Music Specialist. She spent last fall traveling Wyoming and talking with musicians, venues, and policy makers. Now, the Arts Council is launching several new initiatives to strengthen independent music. Hunzee spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Micah Schweizer.