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Legislature

One-Third Of Wyoming Legislators Unopposed In Re-Election Bid

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By Tim Monroe, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s primary election won’t be held until August 18, but a flurry of candidate filings for office Friday added to the size of the primary ballot.

Friday was the deadline for potential candidates to submit their paperwork to run for office.

As usual, a fairly large number of candidates for the state Legislature find themselves unopposed in their efforts to be sworn in for a new term. This happens when only one candidate files from either party.

In the Senate, five Republicans and three Democrats face no primary or general election opposition. In the House of Representatives, 19 Republicans are unopposed, as are seven Democrats.

On the national level, there is high interest in becoming a U.S. Senator to succeed retiring Senator Mike Enzi.

A review of the Secretary of State’s website shows 10 Republicans filed to run in the primary election, including two who do not live in Wyoming.

Star Roselli of Scottsdale, Arizona, and Devon Cade of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, both filed for the office held by Enzi for three terms, joining former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis on the candiate roster.

Others seeking the Republican nomination for the field are Bryan Miller of Sheridan, Donna Rice of Casper, John Holtz of Laramie, Josh Wheeler of Casper, Michael Kemler of Lander, R. Mark Armstrong of Centennial and Robert Short of Douglas.

Democrats on the primary ballot include former gubernatorial candidate Rex Wilde of Cheyenne, James Kirk DeBine of Evansville, Kenneth Casner of Elk Mountain, Merav Ben David of Laramie, Nathan Wendt of Jackson and Yana Ludwig of Laramie.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney is being challenged in her primary bid by Blake Stanley of Banner.

Three Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination for Wyoming’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as well, including South Dakota resident Carol Hafner. Other candidates are Carl Beach of Saratoga and Lynnette Grey Bull of Fort Washakie.

A review of filings for legislative seats turns up some interesting facts. In Senate District 18, held by Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, four Republicans filed for the office, but no Democrats did. Coe did not file for re-election.

A pair of long-serving state senators are facing primary challenges, Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette and Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper. The two, who have almost 60 years of legislative experience between them, each face one primary opponent.

This is the same situation in Senate District 28, held by Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Casper, where challenger Ryan Jackson has filed for the Republican primary.

Other than the U. S. Senate and House races there are no other statewide contests. The five state elected officials are up in 2022.

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Public Can Watch Wyoming Special Legislative Session On YouTube

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Although only legislators, staff members and media will be allowed in legislative chambers during the Legislature’s upcoming special session, members of the public will be able to watch the proceedings online, according to state officials.

Gov. Mark Gordon has called the Legislature to a special session beginning Friday, primarily to determine how to spend $1.25 billion provided to the state through the federal coronavirus relief program.

The Legislative Service Office, which handles administrative duties for the Legislature, announced that while legislators will take part in the session through an online video meeting app, members of the public can watch all the debate at the Legislature’s YouTube site

Members of the public can express their concerns or raise questions by using the Legislature’s online hotline or by contacting their legislators directly.

The session is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Friday and resume at 8 a.m. Saturday if a second day of work is needed.

Four measures authorizing Gordon to spend the money and laying out specific guidelines for spending some of it have already been filed for legislative consideration. Legislative leaders have adopted special rules to allow those bills to be reviewed quickly in both chambers.

The Senate and House will begin with identical versions of the bills. After approval in one chamber, the bills will be sent to the other for a review of changes made. Any differences in the two versions of the bills will be resolved by a joint conference committee. The result will be one bill that will be submitted for final approval by both chambers.

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Wyoming Bipartisanship on Display in Wall Street Journal

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It’s one thing political observers say they don’t see much anymore: bipartisanship.

Judging by last year’s impeachment and even the reaction to this year’s coronavirus pandemic, it’s easy to agree with that assessment.

But one example of the two parties actually getting along occurred just last week in a Wyoming-focused video published on the Wall Street Journal.

The news story entitled “How Women in Wyoming Are Fighting to Boost Representation” touches on a story residents of Wyoming read a lot about last year with the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

This story, however, takes a unique twist when following a Cheyenne Democrat, Brittney Wallesch, who has never run for office before and is challenging a Republican incumbent.

Wallesch is getting help from a Republican: former State Rep. Rosie Berger.

“You are a Republican. Brittney is a Democrat. Why are you, a Republican, helping a Democrat?” asked Journal reporter Shelby Holliday.

“Because I want commonsense, capable individuals who love their state to represent our people and to get the work done,” Berger said.  

“Brittney brings another perspective to the table. She brings a young perspective to the table,” she said.

Berger added that the decline in both the number of women and Democrats in the Legislature is “not healthy for any institution.”

More than a decade ago, Berger founded the“Leap Into Leadership” program — an organization which helps female candidates run for office. 

You’ll see bipartisanship here as well as this year’s conference was co-chaired by a bipartisan trio: Republican lawmakers Sen. Affie Ellis and Rep. Sue Wilson, both of Cheyenne, and Democrat Rep. Cathy Connolly of Laramie.

As for the 11 1/2 minute news clip, Wallesch put the video on her Facebook page and is, by far, the most popular post she’s added.

Regardless, what candidate — especially a Democratic candidate in a red, red state — wouldn’t love to have a positive, bipartisan Wall Street Journal video introduce people to his or her campaign?

Whether Wallesch wins or not, it’s a heck of a way to launch a campaign.

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The Press Must Be Allowed In The State Capitol For The Special Legislative Session

in Coronavirus/Legislature/News
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Cowboy State Daily Editorial

Wyoming is heading into a historic special legislative session in a week. And the public needs to have someone in the Capitol to watch that history being made.

Wyoming’s Legislature will convene for a special session May 15, primarily to determine how to spend $1.25 billion in federal funds — taxpayer dollars — awarded the state as part of the coronavirus relief program.

In the interest of safety, most of the state’s lawmakers will take part in the session through a video meeting application. A few legislators will be at the Capitol in Cheyenne to conduct business in what has been called the “people’s house.”

But the people for whom the building is nicknamed, in another historic development, won’t be allowed to watch their elected officials in person. Legislative leaders have decided only lawmakers and select staff will be allowed in the building. The public will be able to watch the proceedings online.

But the public needs someone in that building watching the proceedings that aren’t broadcast, the hallway meetings that will inevitably take place, the conference room negotiations that determine the fate of important legislation. 

In short, reporters, the eyes and ears of the public, need to be allowed into the Capitol to watch this special session.

For centuries, reporters have been the “watchdogs for democracy,” paying attention to those who handle the public’s funds and wield great authority to manage governments on the public’s behalf. 

With more than $1 billion in taxpayer money on the line, it is important, now more than ever, that reporters continue to do that job.

With all due respect for the interests of safety, it must be noted that since journalism has existed, reporters have been putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure the public has a clear idea of what is going on. Wars, riots, civil upheaval, floods, earthquakes, bombings — reporters will always be found in the thick of it.

The historic nature of next week’s special session makes it imperative that Wyoming’s reporters be found there, too.

Reporters stand ready to abide by any social distancing guidelines that may be placed upon them in exchange for access to the Capitol. But access must be given if the public is to know what is happening in its house.

Perhaps James Madison put it best: “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.”

Wyoming Special Session Set For May 15, Legislators Say

in Coronavirus/Legislature/News
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s legislators will meet in a little more than a week for a brief special session to address how to spend federal money given to the state to soften the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to several lawmakers.

The Legislature’s Management Council is to meet Friday to set the rules for the special session that legislators said will be held May 15.

“Special Session on the 15th,” Rep. Stan Blake, D-Green River, said in a post on his Facebook page. “Not sure if it will be some in the Capitol and the rest at home or what.”

Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, confirmed the date of the session in an interview with the Cowboy State Daily.

Anthony Sara, a spokesman for the Legislative Service Office, said he could not confirm the dates of the special session until it is officially called by Gov. Mark Gordon through the issuing of a proclamation.

The bulk of the Legislature’s work will be determining how to use $1.25 billion in federal funds the state is to receive through the coronavirus relief act. Gov. Mark Gordon has proposed using most of the money to provide assistance to the state’s businesses 

Gordon also asked that part of the money be used to create a program within the Wyoming Community Development Authority to help renters who have been unable to work avoid eviction.

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Gov. Gordon Vetoes “Born Alive” Bill

in Legislature/News
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday vetoed a bill aimed at guaranteeing medical care for any child born alive after an attempted abortion.

The bill was one of four vetoed by the governor as he took action on the final 11 bills on his desk from the Legislature’s recent budget session.

The “Born alive infant” bill, Senate File 97, would require that doctors “shall take medically appropriate and reasonable steps to preserve the life and health of an infant born alive” after an unsuccessful abortion.

The bill was approved in the House by a vote of 44-16 and in the Senate by a vote of 23-7.

But Gordon, in his veto message, said the legislation was unnecessary because existing law guarantees appropriate medical care.

“This bill will not do anything to improve on those laws which already exist,” he wrote.

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Wyoming’s Smoking Age To Rise To 21

in Legislature/News
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s legal age for consuming nicotine products will match up with the federal government’s under a bill signed into law by Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday.

Senate File 50 was one of 29 bills from the Legislature’s recent budget session signed into law. It would prohibit the sale of any products containing nicotine, including vaping materials, to people age 21 and older.

Prior to the bill’s approval, the legal age for people to use nicotine was 18. When the federal government set the age at 21 earlier this year, there was no way for Wyoming authorities to enforce the law because Wyoming’s law set the age at 18.

Under the law, anyone caught selling or delivering nicotine products to a person under the age of 21 could be fined up to $250 for a first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.

Tax On Vaping Materials, E-cigarettes Becomes Law

in Legislature/News
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A new tax on vapes and vaping materials will take effect in July under legislation signed into law by Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gordon on Tuesday signed 28 bills into law, including House Bill 73, which imposes an excise tax on electronic cigarettes and vaping materials of 15 percent.

The measure was promoted by sponsors as a way to make sure that e-cigarettes and vapes are taxed in a way similar to other nicotine products.

Also signed Tuesday was a bill creating a state coal marketing program to promote Wyoming coal to potential consumers. HB 4 also set aside $1 million for use in marketing.

The bills were signed as the Legislature neared the end of its budget session. The session was scheduled to end Thursday.

House, Senate Let 14 Bills Die Without Review

in Legislature/News
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A bill that would have required Wyoming’s school districts to adopt safety and security policies for their schools died Monday as the Legislature entered the final week of its 2020 budget session.

Senate File 79 was one of a handful of bills to die in the House and Senate on Monday as legislators reached the deadline for the review of bills on the “general file,” those returned to the floor of each chamber after approval by committees.

SF 79, proposed by Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, was approved in the Senate despite objections it would place a burden on local school officials. It then cleared the House Education Committee, but was not reviewed on the floor of the House by the deadline for the general file.

It was among seven bills to die without House debate on Monday. Also allowed to die was SF 54, a bill that would have let schools give surplus food to children who might otherwise not have enough to eat.

Senators also failed to review seven bills on the “general file,” among them a measure that would have prohibited the blades from wind turbines from being disposed of in landfills and one that would have named Wyoming Highway 59 between Douglas and Wright the “Wyoming Law Enforcement Memorial Highway.”

The budget session is scheduled to end Thursday.

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