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Mark Gordon

Gordon Says He Will Get Involved In School Funding Debate

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

It is time for the debate over Wyoming’s education system to move away from simple arguments over spending, so Gov. Mark Gordon will involve himself in the discussion, he said Thursday.

Gordon, discussing the recently completed general session of the Legislature, said the state has failed to address the “fiscal cliff” faced by its schools, largely because legislative discussions about funding problems have focused either on cutting spending or increasing taxes.

“I believe there is a third, perhaps more profitable approach, sort of taking a customer service approach,” he said. “What is it that our customers really want? What do our parents want from education, what do our businesses, what do our students want?

Gordon said he was disappointed lawmakers were unable to reach a compromise on school funding during the session that ended Wednesday.

According to state estimates, the state’s schools will face a funding shortfall of about $300 million a year, due largely to declining tax revenues from the state’s mineral sector.

Gordon said moving forward, he will take a role in the discussions, creating a group to focus on what services the state’s schools should be providing and then determining a budget to meet those needs.

“I think the discussion has moved from (what schools should deliver) to more of one that more money equals more education,” he said. “I’m looking at sending people out into the community … to get to know what people want from education.”

Gordon also said said he hopes the Legislature does not decide to use federal money awarded the state under the American Rescue Plan to make up shortfalls in state agencies.

The Legislature is expected to meet this summer to look at ways to spend the $1.1 billion the state is expected to receive from the program.

But Gordon said lawmakers should focus on how to solve the state’s financial problems in the long-term rather than use the federal funds for short-term relief.

“I really hope they don’t put off the substantial conversations that have to take place today, tomorrow and the next day to build that sustainable future,” he said.

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Gordon Says Wyoming Will Defend Second Amendment Rights

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming will resist any attempts to weaken Second Amendment rights, Gov. Mark Gordon said Thursday.

Gordon, speaking with reporters, said he was disappointed with the executive orders signed Thursday by President Joe Biden that the president said were aimed at slowing gun violence.

“I just want to say how disappointed I really am at the Biden administration and their actions today, because the Second Amendment is something that is absolutely fundamental to Wyoming,” he said. “There is no question the Second Amendment is a constitutional right and Wyoming will stand firm against any attempts to erode that right. We will protect our firearms at all costs.”

Biden’s six orders included one to tighten restrictions on “ghost guns,” weapons that can be built from parts purchased online and that do not carry serial numbers, and one to tighten restrictions on stabilizing braces used with handguns to improve their accuracy.

He also ordered the Justice Department to prepare model “red flag” legislation for states that may want to adopt such laws. “Red flag” legislation allows family members or law enforcement agencies to ask courts to temporarily ban people who may pose a threat to themselves or others from possessing firearms.

During his meeting with reporters, Gordon said Wyoming is a “Second Amendment state,” pointing as an example to legislation he signed Thursday that would prohibit financial institutions from discriminating against firearms businesses.

No bank in Wyoming has taken such a step, Gordon said, but some institutions in other states have refused to take firearms companies as customers.

“There have been some larger banks that have taken some extremist points of view when it comes to Second Amendment rights and we don’t appreciate that,” he said. “We just want to make it abundantly clear that Wyoming stands for Second Amendment rights.”

Earlier this week, Gordon signed into law a bill that would extend Wyoming’s privilege to carry a concealed weapon without a permit to any law-abiding American citizen.

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Wyoming Likely to Receive More Than $1B In COVID Relief

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming is likely to receive more than $1 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds later this year, Gov. Mark Gordon’s office announced Thursday.

Gordon has appointed a diverse group of stakeholders to develop a blueprint for using and distributing the funds provided to the state through the American Rescue Plan, President Joe Biden’s stimulus bill.

Current estimates show the state will receive $1.1 billion in addition to the millions of other dollars being distributed to citizens through tax rebates and to local governments and other entities from the federal government.

Gordon said he wants to identify needs and opportunities that could be addressed with the funds, as well as develop a budget to optimize the distribution.

“Wyoming will survive the impacts of COVID, drive through our period of recovery and set up the conditions for us to thrive in the long-term,” Gordon said. “It is imperative to emphasize long-term benefits because this funding has increased the debt for future generations.”

He stressed collaboration between the Legislature and the executive branch will be required to maximize the benefits of these resources for the people of Wyoming.

“I am committed to working with the Legislature to ensure that we use the funds effectively and responsibly, and that we seek to develop big ideas that will have significant and long-lasting impacts” Gordon said. “Wyoming won’t see these funds for some time, allowing us to develop a plan to ensure these dollars benefit citizens for years to come.”

The American Rescue Plan included $350 billion in aid to states and local governments. Guidance from the federal government on the use of the funds is expected to be issued in May, but unlike the federal CARES Act funding distributed last year, Wyoming will have nearly four years to spend the money.

The governor wants to focus on three areas in identifying the most significant problems Wyoming is facing due to this pandemic and then use the federal money to address the highest priorities within those areas. The areas are:

  • Health and Social Services
  • Education and Workforce
  • Economic Diversity and Economic Development

Reviews into each focus area will be led by a member of the executive branch in collaboration with the governor’s office.

Gordon stressed the importance of using these one-time funds for one-time expenses.

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Gordon Lets Ag-Related COVID Bill Become Law Without Signature

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon is warning Wyoming’s farmers and ranchers to think carefully before taking advantage of a new law that would let them collect coronavirus relief funds.

Gordon, in a letter to state Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, explained why he allowed Senate File 50 to become law with out his signature, saying he is worried agriculture producers might be forced to repay the grants they receive under the law.

“I understand that some producers might want to get a chance at the federal one-armed bandit, and therefore will let the bill pass into law without my signature,” he wrote. “In my view, caveat emptor should be the watchword of the program: if producers are willing to take advantage of this program, they should be prepared to possibly have to pay back the grants — a decision that could cripple additional Wyoming industries.”

The bill would allow ranchers and farmers to seek federal coronavirus relief grants given to the state if they claim a loss incurred due to COVID-19.However, Gordon said he is not sure the program will meet federal requirements for the money to be used to compensate businesses for losses caused by COVID-19 or restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the illness.“

Rather than reimburse individuals or businesses for impacts related to an emergency, the program created in this legislation seems to seek some way to give money to agricultural producers simply because they are producers,” he wrote. “I remain concerned about what an unfriendly administration that appears to be preparing for war could do to Wyoming’s key industries, including agriculture.”

Gordon urged legislators to clarify and strengthen the program in the future and to investigate whether the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to offer a coronavirus relief program.

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Gordon Calls UW Water Bill Best Outcome Of Poor Options

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A bill allowing the University of Wyoming to develop its own water system without regulation by the city of Laramie is a poor solution to the ongoing dispute between the university and the city, according to Gov. Mark Gordon.

Although he signed the bill into law on Monday, Gordon said he had many reservations about it.

“My decision to sign this bill into law is simply an outgrowth of selecting the best outcome out of a suite of poor options,” he wrote in a letter to House Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette.

The bill stems from a years-long debate over water used to irrigate the Jacoby Golf Course.

According to testimony during committee reviews of the bill, while Laramie allowed the university to use its water to irrigate the course for more than 50 years, the city started charging for the water in 2007 and the university is now paying almost $200,000 a year for the water.

The university developed two wells on land adjoining the golf course, but was prevented from using it to irrigate the course by a Laramie ordinance that banned water from being imported into the city’s boundaries without city approval.

The bill, House Bill 198, would allow the university to develop and use its own water without restrictions by the city.

But Gordon said the bill amounted to using legislation to address a local issue, a practice state Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, referred to as “litigating through legislation.”

“I agree that compelling legal arguments were made on both sides in committee and on the floor,” he wrote. “But this matter also involved the state engineer and some authority of an executive branch entity. Broadly, I am disappointed that this is the outcome in front of me today.”

He added the bill provides a solution only for the university, not other private property owners whose rights to use their water may be affected by Laramie’s ordinance.

In addition, the bill did not address the issue of whether Laramie can regulate water use within its boundaries, a responsibility he said state law gives to the state engineer, Gordon said.

“These and other questions will have to go unanswered for the time being,” he said. “I hope you will continue to look into this situation and offer solutions.”

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Gordon Vetoes Limits On State Rent In Budget Bill

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Limits on the amount the state spends to rent office space proposed by the Legislature are unnecessary because the state has already committed to reducing that cost, Gov. Mark Gordon said.

Gordon, in signing the supplemental budget bill approved by the Legislature last week, also issued eight “line item” vetoes, using his constitutional authority to cut specific items from the budget.

One item he removed is a “footnote” from the Legislature reducing the amount the state Department of Administration and Information can spend on rental space from $24.8 million to $17.9 million.

In his veto message to legislators, Gordon said the Department of A&I is already working to reduce rental costs, so the footnote is unnecessary.

“The Department of A&I has committed to making cuts to the stat leasing program,” he wrote. “I have struck the prescriptive language because, on a practical note, an emergency or unanticipated leasing necessity could require more flexibility. Nevertheless, it remains the intent of the executive branch to reduce our leasing budget by 28%.”

Gordon also vetoed a footnote transferring management of the state Veterans Museum in Casper from the state Military Department to the state Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources.

Gordon noted that the museum’s management was given to the Military Department through legislation in 2008 and if the Legislature wants to return management to the Department of State Parks, it should do so with a separate bill, not through a footnote in the budget bill.

“A transfer of responsibility or authority for any particular program is appropriately the subject of a stand-alone bill,” he wrote.

Also vetoed was language requiring the Wyoming Business Council to administer the Wyoming Council for Women’s Issues for the state department of Workforce Services.

The two agencies are already working to give the WBC control over the program, Gordon said, so the legislation just complicates the issue.

The supplemental budget itself, which details more than $430 million in spending cuts to the biennium budget approved by the Legislature in 2020, was signed into law on April 1 by Gordon.

Gordon praised the Legislature for its hard work.

“These are not easy decisions to make, but this discussion on the fundamental question of the role of government has been a necessity,” he wrote. “Now, as more reductions are implemented, the debate will continue.

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Gov Gordon Says No to Vaccination Passports

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Gov Mark Gordon on Friday said Wyoming will not be participating in any vaccination passport program no matter what the federal government says.

“Wyoming has no plans to require vaccine passports or require participation in a vaccine passport program,” Gordon spokesman Michael Pearlman told Cowboy State Daily.

“While the governor encourages residents to get vaccinated, COVID-19 vaccinations are entirely voluntary in the state of Wyoming,” Pearlman said, noting that there hasn’t been any indication the federal government is pursuing such an idea.

Speculation about a possible federal vaccination passport surfaced last week when the Washington Post reported that the Biden administration would be developing standards for how Americans can show proof that they’ve been vaccinated.

A White House advisor later clarified that there would not be a government-issued vaccine credential nor would the government be storing vaccination information in a database.

If there is some sort of vaccination passport, it would come from the private sector, said Andy Slavitt, acting director for the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“We view this as something the private sector is doing and will do,” he said. “What’s important to us, and we’re leading an interagency process right now to go through these details, are that some important criteria be met with these credentials.”

The news of any type of vaccination credential has not set well with many Republican governors.

Leading the way is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who said any type of vaccination passport — whether issued by the government or the private sector — is not ok. He issued an executive order to that effect on Friday.

“It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society,” DeSantis said.

Nebraska Governor Pete Rickets of Nebraska said the idea of any type of medical passport “violates two central tenets of the American system: freedom of movement and health care privacy.”

The Centers for Disease Control issued new guidance on Friday stating that Americans who are vaccinated can travel again without worrying about getting tested or going into quarantine.

“The C.D.C.’s new travel guidance is a major step in the right direction that is supported by the science and will take the brakes off the industry that has been hardest hit by the fallout of Covid by far,” Roger Dow, the chief executive of U.S. Travel, an industry group, said in a statement. “As travel comes back, U.S. jobs come back.”

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Wyoming Launches Lawsuit Challenging Biden’s Energy Lockdown

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The state of Wyoming filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal land issued by President Joe Biden earlier this year.

The suit asserts that Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland’s implementation of the leasing moratorium is invalid under federal law.

“Following a careful review of not only the President’s Executive Order, but its practical effect, it is necessary for Wyoming to protect its citizens and challenge the Secretary’s action,” Gov. Mark Gordon said. “Not only is this federal action overreaching, it was implemented without public input as required under federal law.”

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court of Wyoming alleges that the administration’s action violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the Mineral Leasing Act and the Federal Land Policy Management Act.

The lawsuit asks the court to set aside Haaland’s action and require the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to resume quarterly oil and gas lease sales, which have been suspended since the order was signed.

Gordon emphasized that Biden’s de-facto ban on oil and gas leasing will not meet the climate goals of the administration, as production will simply shift to other countries with less stringent emissions standards.

“The world will continue to need and use oil and gas for the foreseeable future,” Gordon said. “The question is whether it will be produced under the environmental safeguards in place on federal lands in Wyoming, or overseas without equally stringent regulations.”

A recent economic study indicated that a moratorium on oil and gas development on federal land will cost the state thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of state revenue.

Gordon said he anticipated other states will consider intervening after Wyoming’s action is filed.

Wyoming recently also joined a multi-state lawsuit in an attempt to block Biden’s ban of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Once the Keystone pipeline was completed, the project was expected to help free up pipeline space in Wyoming, increasing oil export capacity. The project is projected to create 42,100 jobs with $2 billion in associated earnings throughout the United States.

Biden on Jan. 20 issued an executive order revoking the permits for the pipeline.

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Gordon Joins Bipartisan Group Of Governors In Support Of Carbon Capture Legislation

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By The Center Square For Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon joined other governors in writing a letter of support to Congress on the Storing CO2 and Lowering Emissions (SCALE) Act.

The act, which is co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, promotes the buildout of necessary infrastructure to transport carbon dioxide from its source to manufacturers or be safely stored underground.

The letter is co-signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana and Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania.

The goal of the legislation is “to develop an interconnected CO2 transport and storage infrastructure to help the U.S. reach net-zero emissions and meet mid century climate goals,” according to a news release from Gordon’s office.

“We urge Congress to prioritize the inclusion of this critical legislation in any broader infrastructure package, given its essential role in helping to achieve net-zero emissions economywide,” the letter reads. “As a group of collective states with a shared interest, we stand ready to work with you to implement policies that scale up the regional and national CO2 transport infrastructure to achieve net-zero emissions goals.”

In a statement, Gordon said, “Wyoming has always been a leader in Carbon Capture, Utilization and Sequestration (CCUS) and we are committed to making Wyoming the next state to have a CCUS facility. I recently set the goal for Wyoming to not only be carbon neutral, but actually carbon negative while continuing to use fossil fuels.”

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Colorado Gov Declares Meat-Free Holiday; Wyoming Gov Declares Eat More Meat Holiday

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

What a coincidence.

The governors of Wyoming and Colorado have each designated Saturday, March 20 as a holiday of sorts. And both holidays have something to do with meat.

But that’s where the similarity ends.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, whose partner is a longtime vegan, declared Saturday “MeatOut Day” to promote meatless diets to his constituents.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, whose partner is a longtime not-vegan, declared Saturday “Hearty Meat Day” to promote the consumption of meat products to his constituents.

Gordon went a step further, however, as he encouraged citizens of Colorado to join in on the Hearty Meat Day celebration.

“I don’t know what those folks are doing down south, but a good barbecue is a great way to enjoy a Saturday,” Gordon said.

It’s certainly safe to speculate that citizens of Weld County, a Colorado district that borders Wyoming, might follow Gordon’s lead.

A group of citizens from the county have been organizing to secede from Colorado and join Wyoming.

In fact, the group of more than 6,200 people calls itself “Weld County, Wyoming” on its Facebook page.

The Polis “no-meat” holiday has been brought up many times on its page — never in a very positive light.

Like when the Weld County Board of Commissioners proclaimed Saturday “Meat-IN” Day in response to Polis’ proclamation.

“When Governor Polis declared March 20 as MeatOUT day, it was a slap in the face to the thousands of ranching and farm families across this state,” Weld County Commissioner Steve Moreno said. “It was yet another hit against rural Colorado.”

Moreno said Weld County has long been the state’s leading county in agricultural products sold, bringing in $2 billion dollars annually. Approximately 85% of that revenue comes from the sale of livestock, poultry and products alone, he said.

Gordon said he hoped Wyoming citizens (and beyond) would purchase and eat beef, lamb, and other meat products on Saturday.

“Our Wyoming farmers and ranchers are amazing stewards of our environment. The meat they ethically produce is the best, and part of a healthy, balanced diet. It’s just downright good to eat,” Governor Gordon said. “Folks here know how important our ranching heritage is.”

Incidentally, Cowboy State Daily reader Ed McCarthy deserves a round of applause for his observation.

On our Facebook page, McCarthy asks: “When a vegan governor gets into an argument like this, can it still be called ‘a beef’?”.

LOL.

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