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Mark Gordon

Gordon Grants 180-Day Extension For Expired Drivers Licenses

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Good news if your drivers license has expired in the last few months: You have additional time to get it renewed.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation announced on Monday that Gov. Mark Gordon has signed a 180-day grace period which will give residents more time to get it done.

The extension, which applies to credentials expiring between March 15, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2020, allows members of high-risk groups to wait to renew.

“We are open for business and encourage people that can, to come in and renew their driver license prior to their expiration date.  However, we realize our high-risk citizens, those with underlying health conditions and those who are older, may want to take advantage of this extension so they remain safe,” said Misty Dobson, WYDOT’s Driver Services program manager.

What if you get pulled over for a traffic infraction?

WYDOT advises those who have an expired license to go to its website to download and print the 180-day grace period letter and take it with them.

Word of caution: The grace period letter may not work for other transactions which require proof of identification.

One Cowboy State Daily reader said his banking transaction was not allowed because his drivers license had expired.

One other cautionary note: If you are flying soon, it would be advantageous to get your drivers license updated as TSA agents are notorious sticklers for proper identification.

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Gordon Upset By Closure Of Lamb Processing Plant

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The impending closure of the country’s second-largest lamb processing plant in Colorado is more evidence of unhealthy consolidation of the country’s meat packing industry, Gov. Mark Gordon said in a letter to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Gordon, in the Thursday letter, said he was distressed about the announced purchase of Mountain States Rosen’s lamb processing facility by JBS USA Holdings, a Brazilian company.

“This transaction marks the end of on-site lamb processing and represents further consolidation of the packing industry and increased foreign influence on American markets,” Gordon’s letter said.

JBS was the winning bidder for the Greeley, Colorado, plant in bankruptcy proceedings. JBS, the largest importer of lamb in the country, said it has no plans to process lambs at the plant in the future.

The MSR plant serves sheep ranchers in at least 15 states, Gordon said, and the JBS takeover leaves sheep ranchers in Wyoming and elsewhere with nowhere to process their sheep.

Gordon said he is worried about what the closure will mean to the agriculture industry.

“As a businessperson, today I see a giant getting bigger; as a rancher, I wonder where my neighbors will take their lambs; as a father, I worry for those next generations; and as Governor, I worry about what this loss means to the state and our producers as a whole,” he wrote. “I do not believe there is any realistic way to avoid repeating what is happening today unless we set our eyes on the future.”

Gordon said MSR was itself created in an attempt to resolve the consolidation of the meat packing industry in the hands of a few large companies.

“They rose to become the second-largest lamb processor in the nation and yet, at the end of the day, they are trampled by a monolithic foreign corporation,” he said. “I question whether or not this becomes an antitrust issue. We can dismantle AT&T but cannot look at the companies that supply food to our citizens?”

U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso in May joined members of Congress from other states in urging Attorney General William P. Barr to look into allegations of price manipulation and anti-competitive behavior in the beef packing industry.

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Gordon Extends Current Public Health Orders Again, To Last Until Aug. 15

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon announced Tuesday afternoon that Wyoming’s current public health orders will remain in place until at least Aug. 15 as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the state.

According to a news release from Gordon’s office, the continuing orders allow gatherings of up to 50 people in a confined space to occur without restrictions and permits outside events of up to 250 people with social distancing and increased sanitzation measures in place.

Faith-based gatherings such as church services and funeral services will continue to be permitted to operate without restrictions, with appropriate social distancing encouraged. The public health restrictions that apply to restaurants, bars, gyms and performance spaces will remain in place.

“It is important for all of us to remain vigilant as we continue to see case numbers increase statewide,” Gordon said in the release. “We are approaching a critical time for our state’s economy. So far, Wyoming has been able to keep our businesses open and our citizens safe. That’s good for our economy and good for the health of our people.”

Over the past 14 days, Wyoming has averaged 37 new lab-confirmed cases of the coronavirus per day, with 523 new cases confirmed since July 12.

From June 28 to July 12, Wyoming averaged 28 new cases per day and there were 385 lab-confirmed cases reported. On Tuesday, the state reported 64 lab-confirmed cases, the highest single-day total since the pandemic began. 

The Department of Health and the governor continue to recommend the use of face coverings in public settings where it is not possible or reasonable to stay physically apart. On Wyoming’s COVID-19 dashboard, the categories of number of new cases and new hospitalizations is rated “Concerning.”

Public health order no. 1 has also been updated to provide more specific guidelines for school operations, including a continuation of the requirement that students wear face coverings in situations where 6 feet of separation can’t be maintained.

The Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, the Wyoming Department of Health and the Wyoming Department of Education have partnered to distribute 500,000 cloth face coverings to school districts around the state.

“As we look towards the fall, we must remember that continued business expansion is a fragile thing and depends on each citizen doing their best to keep our economy flourishing,” Gordon said. “I sincerely thank those Wyoming citizens who are taking action to keep our businesses open by voluntarily wearing a mask when you can’t socially distance.”

As of Tuesday, Wyoming has recorded 2,136 lab-confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, 453 probable cases and 26 deaths. The latest death was attributed to a Uinta County man who died in another state.

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Gordon Reiterates Concern About Coronavirus, Criticizes Lack Of Empathy During News Conference

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon expected to have health orders aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus expire by the end of July, but then a spike in cases in mid-June made him and other state officials reconsider.

Gordon’s comments came during a Wednesday afternoon news conference, where he was joined by State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist as he addressed the issues including the current increase in coronavirus cases in the state.

Gordon noted that the state saw 24 new active cases on Wednesday and commented on the recent coronavirus-related death of a Sweetwater County man, the state’s 22nd death linked to the virus.

But the governor added he’s been receiving nasty emails from residents about the medical conditions or ages of people dying from the virus which he didn’t like or appreciate.

“When someone sends me a note that says, ‘Well, these people are going to die anyway, they’re just going to die sooner,’ I’m offended,” Gordon said. “As an American, most people are going to be offended that people should just get this COVID-19 and get out of the way. I’m sick and tired of that.”

Gordon reiterated that while the state and nation needed to stay open and keep the economy going, residents needed to continue to take precautions, such as wearing face coverings and practicing appropriate social distancing.

On the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, the number of new cases and hospitalizations in the state were listed as “concerning,” but the percentage of coronavirus tests returning a positive result was considered “improved,” although Gordon pointed out that the positive percentage has actually ticked up to 3% and that these reports were “concerning.”

He discussed the extension of the current public health orders, noting that the state was “well on [its] way” to relieving all of them, but now the trends are going upward. Gordon felt this was related to Wyomingites taking a “casual” approach to protecting their fellow citizens.

He also noted the state had seen 700 new laboratory-confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the last month and hospitalizations are also rising. While Wyoming isn’t seeing the spikes in cases and deaths seen in other states, Gordon asked his constituents to help keep Wyoming “safer.”

“There is no constitutional right to go infect somebody else, there is no constitutional right that says you can put others in harm’s way,” the governor said. “Let’s behave and be mindful of our neighbors. That’s the country I grew up in. That’s the neighborhood I grew up in.”

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Gordon: Spending Cuts Of $250 Million Just The Beginning For Wyoming

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Cuts in state spending beyond the $250 million reduction already authorized by Gov. Mark Gordon will be needed going forward, he said Wednesday.

Gordon, speaking during a news conference, said those reductions will involve state employee layoffs and furloughs.

“I am the first governor in quite a while who will actually have to lay off people,” he said. “I know how painful that is. I don’t particularly like it and I particularly don’t like the fact we won’t be able to do the things people have come to count on.”

The state’s top fiscal experts are predicting that between declines in the state’s mineral industries and the economic difficulties created by the coronavirus pandemic, state revenue will fall $1.5 billion short of what had been projected when the Legislature prepared the state budget for the 2021-2022 biennium, which began July 1.

Gordon said the declines in revenue amount to one-third of the money needed to run the state and since he lacks the authority to raise revenue, his only option is to cut spending.

“Simply put, we don’t have enough income,” he said. “We lost roughly a third of what we need to pay our bills. As governor, it is my constitutional duty to balance that budget.”

The cuts announced Monday, about 10% of the state’s total spending, amounted to about one-third of the spending reduction needed, Gordon said, so he ask agencies to look at further spending reductions.He added that the cuts will affect every Wyoming citizen.

“There is no part of the government that isn’t feeling the pain of that 10%,” he said. “There’s no part of the Wyoming citizenry that won’t feel something from this 10%.”

In addition to spending cuts and layoffs, the state will furlough for one day a month some staff members with higher salaries, Gordon said, those making about $65,000 a year.

The governor also took the opportunity to address critics questioning why the state is looking at the possible purchase of 1 million acres of land in southern Wyoming from Occidental Petroleum in the face of falling state income.

Gordon noted the money that would be used for the purchase, if approved by state officials, would come from state investment funds, not money used to pay the state’s bills.

“We’re not using any of the money that would pay for any of these programs, any of these salaries or any support for cities, towns or counties,” he said. “These monies are fully within our investment portfolio.”

If the purchase is approved, it will only be because the land will generate returns for the state, he added.

“We’re not taking any crazy bets and we’re not going out on any limb,” he said. “We’re making sure Wyoming will have the absolute best returns for the most safe investments it can have.”

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Gordon Approves $250M In Budget Cuts, $600M To Go

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon has approved a number of cuts to state agency budgets totaling more than $250 million, nearly 10% of the budget for the state’s main bank account.

The cuts, announced in a news release Monday, were necessitated by projections that the state’s revenues in the coming two years would face a shortfall of almost $1 billion for the “general fund” and another $500 million for school funding.

Budget reductions will include state employees losing jobs, mandatory furloughs, a reduction in major maintenance spending and the consolidation of human resources personnel across state agencies, Gordon said.

“This is an incredibly difficult task but we must respond to the financial circumstances the state is facing,” Gordon said in the release. “These cuts will impact families across the state, will affect the services we provide and will have an effect on dollars that flow into the private sector.”

Gordon approved 10% cuts for most state agencies, boards and commissions. The Department of Health, which has the state’s largest budget, will see a 9% cut, totaling $90 million.

Gordon stressed the impacts of the budget cuts will be felt outside of state government. These cuts include significant reductions to state government dollars that enter the private sector in the form of contracts and mean that some services available to the state’s seniors, disabled and low-income residents will be reduced or cut entirely.

“The repercussions to our communities and the businesses of our state are significant,” Gordon said. “While they are necessary, these cuts weaken our ability to deliver the critical services and functions of our state government that Wyomingites depend on.”

Gordon has also instituted a mandatory weekly furlough day for a six-month period beginning August. This will apply to executive branch employees with a high pay rate.

The governor also signed an executive order on Friday that instructed the director of the Department of Administration and Information to coordinate the immediate move of all human resources personnel from various departments across the state to the department. The process is expected to take several months and will lead to a reduction in the state’s human resources personnel.

The budget cuts still leave a forecasted budget shortfall of more than $600 million, Gordon said. He has directed agencies to prepare preliminary proposals to cut an additional 10% from their budgets and submit those concepts to him.

Gordon previously stated that he was considering a range of options to fund an appropriate level of government services, since merely cutting services won’t be enough to address the entire shortfall.

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Gordon: Coronavirus Cases Increase “Concerning”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon described the current spike of coronavirus cases across the state of Wyoming as “concerning” during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Gordon started off the conference by listing off the current facts about the virus in Wyoming: 1,404 lab-confirmed cases and 336 probable cases and 1,291 recoveries as of Wednesday.

“The numbers keep rising and that’s of concern,” Gordon said. “Many counties are reporting increases. We have 26 news cases today and there are hundreds of people under quarantine just here in Laramie County.”

Gordon pointed out a specific incident in Big Horn County in which a day care center had to close, forcing parents to take time off from work and impacting grandparents.

The governor reiterated that Wyoming residents should continue to wear masks, practice social distancing and use good hygiene to protect both national security and business liabilities.

Gordon discussed his recent trip to Dubois over the holiday weekend, noting “most” people were respectful and practiced social distancing or wore masks while he and First Lady Jennie Gordon were in town.

“I think Wyoming understands it is important that we make every attempt to make sure that we wear a mask if we can, social distance as much as we can, make sure we use good hygiene to protect … our business vitality,” he said. “Wyoming people have a sensibility about them, a common sense nature.”

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Gordon Says State Will Cut Staff

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon and his state agency heads will begin their work this week to cut the state’s biennium budget to deal with projected revenue shortfalls of $1.5 billion, he said Wednesday.

And the governor warned residents during a news conference that they will have to expect both program and personnel reductions.

“Some of the things that are on the (list for cuts) will be funding for things like mental health, sex offender programs, children, elder care … travel out-of-state for some of our agencies,” he said. “These are some of the many very difficult choices we will have to make and there will be reductions in force. None of that is good.”

Wyoming’s Legislature approved a budget for the 2021-22 biennium, which began on July 1, during a budget session that ended in March.

Shortly after, a collapse in mineral prices led state officials to predict that tax revenues for the biennium would fall $1.5 billion short of earlier projections, requiring budget cuts.

Gordon asked all of his agency heads to submit ideas for reducing their budgets by 20% and said Wednesday he has asked the officials to propose additional cuts of 10%.

“The cuts we’ve talked about here are getting close to the bone,” he said. “In some cases we really are talking about the bone. We will talk about some very precious programs and some very valuable people. I don’t look forward to any of this.”

The state’s agencies will work to improve the efficiency with which they provide services, Gordon said, to avoid reducing those services more than necessary.

In the upcoming election, Gordon said, candidates for the Legislature need to understand the challenges the state faces so they can be prepared to act accordingly during the Legislature’s general session in 2021.

“This election is essential to make sure we have quality candidates who understand the challenges and choices we have to make … in a way we can emerge from this, as I know we can, successfully and stronger,” he said. “Our session coming up in January will be one of the most important sessions that this state has ever seen.”

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Gordon Accepts “Wear A Mask” Challenge From Colorado Governor, Challenges Idaho

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon took to Twitter on Tuesday afternoon to tell the world why he wears a mask to protect the spread of the coronavirus.

Gordon’s tweet came in response to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ challenge, where he asked governors across the country to make a short video stating why they wear masks during the pandemic.

Polis sent the challenge out to Gordon on July 2.

“I’m wearing a mask as a sign of respect to my fellow citizens, a way to help keep them safe,” Gordon explained in the short video. “Wearing a mask when you can’t social distance is an easy courtesy to your neighbors and fellow citizens. It’s a way to keep our businesses open and our economy on the rebound.”

Gordon then challenged Idaho Gov. Brad Little to participate in the challenge next. As of late Wednesday morning, Little hadn’t responded.

Wyoming officials have never issued a statewide order requiring the use of face masks. However, Jackson officials recently approved a city ordinance requiring those inside of town shops to wear masks. Laramie officials are considering a similar ordinance.

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Wyoming Health Orders To Remain The Same Until July 15

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s current public health orders will be extended through July 15, since the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise, Gov. Mark Gordon announced Monday.

The number of coronavirus cases confirmed in the past two weeks, makes up 25% of Wyoming’s total number of lab-confirmed cases diagnosed since the illness was first detected in Wyoming in mid-March. Of a total of 1,144 cases seen since March, 288 new cases have been confirmed since the current orders went into effect on June 15.

New cases of the virus have been reported in 15 counties, indicating increased transmission within Wyoming communities.

Gordon continued to emphasize personal responsibility and stressed a cooperative effort by business owners and patrons is required to prevent businesses from being forced to close in the face of growing case numbers.

“It is clear from the recent increase in cases statewide that the dual threat of COVID-19 to both the health of our citizens and the health of our economy is not going away,” Gordon said in a news release. “No one wants to see the progress we have made vanish, but that requires each of us to make a concerted effort to slow the spread of the virus. It is really simple and depends on everyone practicing good hygiene, social distancing and doing their best to wear a mask in public where social distancing isn’t possible. It’s the way you and our economy will both stay healthy.”

The Wyoming Department of Health and Gordon continued to recommend the use of face coverings in public settings where it’s not possible or reasonable to stay physically apart.

The continuing orders allow gatherings up to 50 persons in a confined space to occur without restrictions and permit events of up to 250 persons to proceed with social distancing and increased sanitization measures in place.

Faith-based gatherings such as church services and funeral homes will continue to be permitted to operate without restrictions, with appropriate social distancing encouraged.

All public health restrictions that apply to restaurants, bars, gyms and performance spaces will remain in place.  Those restrictions include seating no more than six people at a table, making sure tables are at least six feet apart, requiring staff who get close to customers to wear face masks and disinfecting the business three times daily.

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