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Income tax, party switching dead, lodging tax alive

in Criminal justice/News/Taxes
992

By Cowboy State Daily

The last of three bills that would have put restrictions on when voters can change party affiliations was among a number to die this week as the Legislature neared the end of its general session.

Legislators looking to wrap up their general session by Wednesday put in long hour this week finishing their work on a number of bills, eliminating several controversial measures.

HB 106 was the last of three bills that would have set time limits for people to change party affiliation. It would have set a deadline of May 1 for such changes. It was defeated in a 14-11 vote in its first Senate review.

Another bill killed would have imposed an income tax on large retail companies headquartered outside of Wyoming. HB 220 died without getting a review in a Senate committee.

Moving ahead, however, was a bill that would set a statewide lodging tax of 5 percent. HB 66 is set for a final vote in the Senate on Monday.

Approved with significant changes by the Senate was a bill originally designed to create a felony crime for animal abuse. HB 235 was amended to remove all language about the felony crime.

Animal abuse measure amended to remove felony language

in Criminal justice/News
974

By Cowboy State Daily

A measure that would have made it a felony to repeatedly abuse animals is heading for a Senate review, but without the felony penalty language.

The Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday approved HB 235, but removed all language strengthening the penalty for animal abuse.

As originally worded, anyone convicted more than once on a charge of cruelty to animals could have been charged with a felony and sentenced to up to two years in prison. Currently, animal abuse is a misdemeanor.

Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, proposed the amendment stripping the felony language out of the bill. She said as written, the language did not specifically define what an animal is and she feared it would not be approved by the Senate.

Steinmetz said if enforced, existing laws would be sufficient to address the problem of animal cruelty.

“There are a lot of penalties and statutes on the books that deal with that,” she said. “I think that they’re probably not being enforced as much as folks would like to see.”

The bill still contains language that would let a judge bar a person convicted in a domestic abuse case from owning or caring for an animal.

The bill is on the list of measures to be considered in the Senate’s “Committee of the Whole.”

Senator predicts effort to repeal death penalty will continue

in Criminal justice/News
Wyoming death penalty repeal Senator Brian Boner
936

By Cowboy State Daily

Efforts to repeal Wyoming’s death penalty will probably continue despite the Legislature’s decision this week to kill a bill that would have eliminated the penalty, according to a Douglas legislator.

HB 145 would have made life without parole the harshest sentence that could be handed down in criminal cases. The bill was approved by Wyoming’s House, but defeated by the Senate in an 18-12 vote.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas, said he believes the repeal effort will continue and gain more support in the future.

“As time goes on, I’m sure that we will continue to gain ground and eventually the death penalty will be repealed,” he said.

Supports of the bill had argued that the death penalty is too expensive for the state, given the number of appeals that generally accompany such cases.

Boner attributed the death of the measure this year to legislators who may remember when the death penalty was an effective deterrent to violent crime.

“Especially some of our older members probably remember when the death penalty was effective, when we did use it,” he said. “But that’s no longer the case.”

In Brief: Death penalty repeal killed in first Senate review

in Criminal justice/News
927

By Cowboy State Daily

A measure that would have repealed Wyoming’s death penalty failed to pass its first review by the full Senate on Thursday.

HB 145 would have made life without the possibility of parole the harshest penalty that could be handed down in a Wyoming criminal case. It died in the Senate on a vote of 12-18 in its review in “Committee of the Whole,” the first reading of a bill by the full body.

Proponents of the bill argued that the death penalty is too expensive for the state, given the large number of appeals usually surrounding such cases and the cost of housing death row inmates.

The bill cleared the House last week on a vote of 36-21 and won unanimous approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee before being rejected on the Senate floor.

Death penalty repeal headed to Senate floor

in Criminal justice/News
917

By Cowboy State Daily (updated: Feb. 13, 2019 7PM MT)

A proposed repeal of Wyoming’s death penalty is moving to the Senate floor for debate by the full body.

HB 145, already approved by the House, was passed on a 4-0 vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. If approved in its Senate review, it would make life without parole the harshest penalty possible in Wyoming.

Testimony in support of the bill before the committee focused largely on the cost of death penalty cases due to the multiple appeals involved and the cost of housing death row inmates.

Others, however, noted that since the death penalty has been reinstated nationally, 164 death row inmates have had their penalties or convictions overturned.

Gary Drinkard, mistakenly held for five years on Alabama’s death row, said life without parole is a far worse prospect than the death penalty.

“You get to spend the rest of your life in there and it’s torment,” he said. “It’s torment every day. You’ve got to deal with idiots every day.”

Matt Redle, the former prosecuting attorney for Sheridan County, said the issue is not one of equal justice because there is no such thing in murder cases.

“No matter what that verdict is and no matter what that sentence is, (families) don’t get their loved one back,” he said.

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