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Gordon Won’t Issue Another Mask Mandate

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon will not issue another statewide mask mandate and won’t require Wyoming school districts to implement one, either, he announced Wednesday.

Gordon said he is standing behind the authority of local school districts to make their own decisions about how students can return to the classroom safely.

“Wyoming was first in the nation in having a safe and successful in-person school year last year,” Gordon said. “My focus is on supporting local school boards as they take into account conditions in their community and work to assure students learn safely this year too.”

Gordon will work with the Wyoming Department of Education and the Department of Health to ensure all districts are prepared to respond to changes in local coronavirus conditions with equipment, testing and expertise.

Gordon and First Lady Jennie Gordon have both been vaccinated and encourage eligible Wyomingites to choose to be vaccinated to protect themselves, their neighbors and their families.

“As our hospitals continue to see more COVID-19 hospitalizations, and as long-term and child care facilities are forced to close due to COVID-19 infections, it is time to remember all the things we learned last year and consider getting vaccinated as the most effective way to protect yourself against severe illness,” Gordon said. “And let us not forget the Wyoming way and work to be kind to one another.”

Gordon also supported the rights of private businesses to operate in the manner they deem best. In May, he issued a directive preventing state agencies, boards and commissions from requiring “vaccine passports” to access state services and spaces.

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Wyoming Joins Pro-Life Lawsuit With 24 Other States

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon announced today that the state of Wyoming has joined the Texas and 23 other states in filing an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the decision to regulate elective abortions should be left to states.

That brief was filed in support of Mississippi in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

In the case, Mississippi challenges lower court rulings that deemed unconstitutional the state’s “Gestational Age Act,” which prohibits elective abortions at 15 weeks’ gestation. Mississippi asks the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn past rulings which protected abortion as a constitutional right, subjecting state regulations on abortion to heightened scrutiny. 

In the brief joined by Wyoming, the 24 states agree that nothing in the text, history, or tradition of the U.S. Constitution supports a right to elective abortion.

The tests currently applied to state abortion regulations – which look to fetal viability and “undue burdens” imposed on abortion access – are unworkable and applied inconsistently, even by the U.S. Supreme Court, leaving states uncertain as to how they can or cannot regulate abortion. Ultimately, the states conclude, whether and how to regulate elective abortions, including prior to fetal viability, should be left to each state and its voters rather than to federal judges.

“This year has made abundantly clear that federal overreach harms Wyoming and its citizens,” Gordon said. “Wyoming must stand up for states’ rights. I am happy to extend support to Mississippi in order to properly keep state control over state issues, especially in the fight to protect the unborn.”

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Biden Appoints Gordon to Bipartisan Council of Governors

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

President Joe Biden has appointed Gov. Mark Gordon to a bipartisan Council of Governors, the governor’s office announced on Thursday.

Gordon is one of nine governors appointed to a two-year term on the council, which was authorized and required by the National Defense Authorization Act in 2008 under President George W. Bush. The council serves as a forum to strengthen partnerships between federal and state governments to better protect the nation from threats to homeland security and other types of hazards.

The council focuses on matters of homeland security, homeland defense, civil support, synchronization and integration of state and federal military activities in the United States and other matters of mutual interest, including those involving the National Guard.

“From the very founding of our country, Americans have depended on our National Guard,” Gordon said. “The men and women who serve in our Army and Air Guard are always there for us, and we should always be grateful for their service. I am honored and humbled to have been asked to serve on the Council because of the important role it plays.”

The council includes leaders across the Federal government: the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, the Deputy Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs, the Commander of U.S. Northern Command, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Other key federal officials such as the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are regular participants.

The current council is:

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Co-Chair
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, Co-Chair
Delaware Gov. John Carney
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon

The nine newly appointed Governors will join Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on the council. Lee’s term expires in 2022.

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Wyoming Still Evaluating Ways To Help Border Crisis; Troops Still Not Mentioned

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

If Wyoming’s governor is thinking about sending troops to help with the crisis on the U.S. – Mexico border, he’s not announcing it publicly.

Last week when asked if Gov. Mark Gordon might follow the lead of other states by sending personnel to the border to help the governors of Arizona and Texas, his spokesman said the office was “evaluating specifics of the requests.”

On Wednesday, the governor’s office published a press release providing a bit more insight on the thinking in the capitol but not mentioning troop deployment either.

So far the governors of Ohio, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Florida have said they will deploy troops or law enforcement officers to assist the two southern states.

That’s not to say Wyoming isn’t doing anything. What’s right for one state may not work for another state. 

The governor, as was told to Cowboy State Daily last week and in today’s press release, is looking for the right way to help with the border crisis.

The release stated that the governor’s office did offer “aerial assets” but upon further review, it appeared those assets “may not precisely match the needs of the requested border mission.”

Specifically, the state offered up its Cessna 208 surveillance aircraft equipped with a digital mapping camera.

If not the plane, then how could Wyoming help?

Wednesday’s announcement doesn’t provide any clues but does reiterate Gordon believes the change in policy at the border brings with it significant risks — even to the Cowboy State.

“Law-enforcement issues at the border and uncontrolled illegal immigration threaten every part of our nation, including Wyoming,” Gordon said.  

The U.S. Border Patrol told NBC News that over the last month it has encountered an average of 5,000 undocumented immigrants a day.

The agency further said that the rate in which Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent, is being smuggled from the deserts of Mexico through the town of El Paso is up 355% since last year and up 4,000% since 2019.

The Border Patrol said Mexican cartels are behind the explosive increase.

“It is clear that the Biden Administration is not addressing this problem with the level of seriousness it requires. Wyoming is ready and willing to provide support to address this critical issue,” Gordon said.

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Gordon Evaluating U.S. – Mexico Border Situation For Ways To Help

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon is evaluating the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas before responding to a request from the governors of Texas and Arizona for help, he said Thursday.

Gordon told Cowboy State Daily that while it is important to keep America’s southern border secure, he has not determined how to answer the request from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Greg Ducey for help at the border.

“Together with the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, I am currently evaluating the specifics of the request to see what resources we can provide to assist these border states,” he said. “It is absolutely essential that our nation’s borders are secure.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported earlier this week that more than 1 million undocumented immigrants have been arrested since October after crossing the Mexico border into the United States

Abbott is pushing for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and has even declared states of emergency for various counties in the southern part of the state. Abbott and Ducey have called on their fellow governors to send help to secure the border.

In response to the request, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem this week ordered 100 National Guard soldiers be sent to the border in Texas to help with the influx of undocumented immigrants crossing the border.

A billionaire Republican donor from Tennessee actually paid $1 million to offset the costs of the South Dakota National Guard going to Texas, according to an article from the Associated Press.

Gordon said the work by Abbott and Ducey was necessary because of the failure of the federal government to take necessary action.

“Our country is threatened any time we cannot secure our borders, and I applaud these two governors for taking action in the absence of federal leadership on this issue,” Gordon told Cowboy State Daily. “I, along with other Governors, are working to aid our colleagues as best we can. It is clear that the Biden administration is not addressing this problem with the level of seriousness it requires.”

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Gordon, Buchanan Invite National Rifle Association to Relocate to Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon and Secretary of State Ed Buchanan are inviting the National Rifle Association to explore relocating its Virginia operation to Wyoming. 

The two, in a letter sent to the NRA earlier this month, pointed to the state’s business-friendly tax environment, available workforce and the population’s strong support for Second Amendment rights as reasons to move to Wyoming. 

“We embody the ideals that are fundamental to the National Rifle Association,” the letter said. “Wyoming citizens appreciate their freedoms, especially when it comes to their Second Amendment rights.”

The organization has been looking to relocate from Virginia since the beginning of the year, following a bankruptcy declaration. Other states have previously courted the NRA, including West Virginia.

The letter also pointed to other firearm businesses in Wyoming, such as Magpul, Weatherby and Gunwerks.

Gordon is a lifetime member of the NRA and believes the right to bear arms is fundamental. Owning guns was part of a way of life growing up on his family ranch in Kaycee and remains so today, he said.

Gordon also signed multiple pieces of legislation this year that reinforced existing firearms laws in Wyoming, and he has also helped facilitate the relocation of several firearms manufacturing businesses to Wyoming.

“Wyoming citizens value our state’s customs, culture and  pro-second amendment laws,” Gordon said in a statement Tuesday. “We will always protect personal freedoms, and those of businesses involved in the firearms industry. All of this, plus our great hunting and other outdoor opportunities, make Wyoming an ideal place for the National Rifle Association to consider home.”

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Gordon Reintroduces Wyoming Meat Processing Grant Program

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon has relaunched a program designed to boost the capacity of the state’s meat processing facilities and ease the impact of meat supply chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, he announced Wednesday.

Gordon relaunched the Wyoming Meat Processing Expansion grant program, which allocates up to $2 million in federal CARES funds to increase Wyoming’s local food supply chain security and capacity across the state.

“The significant processing bottlenecks that surfaced last year have not gone away,” Gordon said. “This program will continue to help improve our meat processing capacity and ensure Wyomingites have access to high-quality products. Our work assisting independent processors is important to our overall agriculture diversification efforts and helps to expand an important sector of our ag economy.”

During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, major meat processing facilities across the country were forced to close, reducing the amount of meat reaching grocery store shelves and making it difficult for ranchers to get their meat processed.

In response, Gordon in September launched the meat processing plant relief program, setting aside money so processing plant operators could expand tehir operations.

The Wyoming Department of Agriculture is currently accepting applications for the program. The program offers grants of up to $500,000 to eligible businesses with a 50% match component for funding.

Initial priority will be given to entities and businesses that did not previously receive funding from the grant program in September.

Following this priority batch, applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve rolling basis until funds have been expended.

Applications will be reviewed for accuracy, eligibility, and completeness by the Wyoming Business Council, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and the governor’s office.

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Gordon Will Work With Legislature To Consider Juneteenth As Formal State Holiday

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

In response to the new federal “Juneteenth” holiday which was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Thursday, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said he will work with the state legislature to examine making it a formal state holiday as well.

Gordon signed a proclamation recognizing the significance of the new holiday noting that while most federal employees will get the day off of work on Friday, state workers will be at work as normal as only the state Legislature can set state holidays.

The holiday recognizes the emancipation of Blacks who had previously been held as slaves.

Wyoming has recognized Juneteenth since 2003 and has established it as a holiday on the third Saturday of June.

“Freedom is always a cause for celebration and this is a momentous day in our nation’s history. I encourage people to observe this commemoration of the full enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation, which embodies the values of all Americans,” Gov. Gordon said.

The legislation making Juneteenth a national holiday passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate and by a 415 – 14 vote in the House.

It’s been 35 years since the last federal holiday was created. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was first celebrated federally in 1986.

There are now 10 federal holidays in the U.S.

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Gordon Criticizes Biden Royalties Proposal

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A plan to abandon a proposed mineral royalty reduction that never took effect is being criticized by Gov. Mark Gordon as the latest in a pattern of steps being taken against fossil fuels.

Gordon, in a news release, criticized the administration of President Joe Biden for trying to withdraw the royalty reduction plan offered by the administration of former President Donald Trump as another example of Biden working against fossil fuels without consulting with the country’s governors.

“The list of anti-fossil fuel actions implemented by the Biden Administration without prior consultation with fossil fuel governors just keeps getting longer,” he said. “This announcement is clearly a pattern, and the effort to justify this withdrawal based on harm to the U.S. taxpayer is disingenuous.”

The Trump administration last year proposed changes in the way oil and gas is valued for royalty payments to the federal government. The changes would have reversed some rules put in place by the administration of former President Barak Obama in 2016.

The latest rules were finalized in January, but were blocked from taking effect by the Biden administration.

The Office of Natural Resources Revenue Office on Friday announced it is proposing the withdrawal of the Trump administration rules, saying the process for their adoption “arguably was without observance of procedure required by law, as well as in excess of ONRR’s statutory authority.”

The ONRR estimated that had the Trump rules taken effect, mineral royalty payments to the federal government would have been released by $64.6 million annually.

The ONRR, in its formal proposal, also noted the reductions proposed by Trump were designed to encourage mineral production on federal lands.

“ONRR has no explicit mandate to increase production,” the proposal said.

The ONRR told E&E News that if the changes had been allowed to take effect, communities would be hurt by a reduction in their shares of royalties.

However, Gordon argued if the Biden administration was truly concerned about taxpayers, it would not have put a halt to oil and gas lease sales on federal property.

“Fossil fuel companies can only pay royalties if they are producing,” he said. “Increasing royalty rates when the coal, oil and gas industries are still attempting to recover from 2020 is just kicking the industry when it is down.”

“When those companies go out of business, no royalties are collected, less money is set aside for reclamation activities and the price of gasoline will continue to rise,” he added.

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Gordon Details Plan for Spending Federal COVID Funds

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon has broken the framework of spending federal coronavirus-related funds into two categories: survive and drive.

Gordon wants to ensure the federal funds are spent in a strategic manner in order to maximize benefits to the state.

“We have the opportunity to use these funds to help shape the Wyoming of the future and make our state an even more desirable place to live, work and visit,” Gordon said. “We have identified some critical areas where we should focus our efforts, and which will maximize the opportunity that we have before us. Since it is our great-grandchildren who will be paying for this government funding, it is that generation that deserves to benefit from it.”

In the “survive” phase, several immediate problems were identified that will be addressed with the remaining CARES Act dollars or other available federal funds, which include funding to address increased needs for mental health and substance abuse services; tax relief for businesses; identifying underserved areas needing improved broadband connectivity; expanding camping at Wyoming State Parks to address overcrowding and increasing employment opportunities in the oil and gas industry through the Energy Rebound program. 

In the “drive” phase, several goals were identified for further study and planning. These included:

  • Strengthen Wyoming’s economy by activating new economic sectors and creating new jobs, as well as identifying ways to add value to Wyoming’s current businesses and core industries.
  • Create better alignment among workforce, economic development, and educational opportunities to achieve balance between available workforce and available employment opportunities.
  • Expand outdoor recreation and enhance wildlife populations.
  • Focused efforts to retain and attract working families and young adults to permanently live and raise families in Wyoming.
  • Promote and enhance Wyoming food supply, distribution, and markets.
  • Identify and complete necessary and beneficial infrastructure projects.

Gordon will continue working with his cabinet, policy staff and the strike team on planning and study efforts for each of the second phase’s goals.

Some areas are so complex and robust that the study/planning period may last well into next year.

In addition to this plan, the governor asked the Wyoming Department of Health to prepare its plan for continued COVID-19 response.

Gordon asked a team of key individuals to develop this strategy and they worked with the governor’s policy team, cabinet, and many stakeholders to develop a plan to best maximize the COVID-19-related federal funds in the near-term, mid-term and long-term.

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