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Marijuana reform bill killed in House committee

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marijuana plant in nature, ALT=marijuan reform
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By Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would have reduced the penalty for many marijuana infractions died in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Currently, state law mandates anyone found with three ounces or more of marijuana be charged with a felony. HB 234 would have reduced that to a misdemeanor, along with the penalty for being caught more than three times with any amount of marijuana.

A misdemeanor is punishable by a jail sentence, while a felony can carry a sentence in prison.

Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill was intended to reduce the penalties faced by youth who may simply have made a mistake.

“Because we can handle crime and punishment with a misdemeanor versus sending someone to (the Wyoming State Prison in) Rawlins for marijuana,” he said.

But opponents said a number of steps must be taken before someone is convicted of a felony-level crime for possession of marijuana.

“To end up with a conviction on marijuana, there’s lots of other things that happen, lots of other circumstances that happen,” said Byron Oedekoven, director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police. “It’s not just a simple mistake.”

In Brief: Death penalty repeal moves to third House review

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An effort to repeal Wyoming’s death penalty won approval in its second reading in Wyoming’s House Thursday, moving it one reading away from gaining full approval.

HB 145 would make life without the possibility of parole the harshest possible sentence that could be handed down in Wyoming. The bill was approved in its second reading by representatives, setting it up for a third and final reading in the House.

Supporters of the measure argue it would save the state money because of the legal costs associated with death penalty sentences. Opponents maintain the repeal would take a tool away from prosecutors.

If approved in the House, the bill would be sent to the Senate for its review.

In Brief: Abortion waiting period bill approved in second reading

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A bill that would impose a 48-hour waiting period on abortions is headed for a third and final reading in Wyoming’s House. 

Representatives on Thursday voted to approve HB 140 in its second reading — meaning it will head for a third and final reading.Current law requires a physician asked to perform an abortion to offer the patient a chance to see an ultrasound of the fetus and hear an audio recording of its heartbeat. Under HB 140, the procedure could not be performed until 48 hours after that offer is made.

The bill would exempt emergency abortions needed to save the life of the mother from the waiting period.

Film incentive program approved for final reading

in News/Tourism
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A program designed to lure film production companies to Wyoming with incentives was sent on Wednesday for a final reading in Wyoming’s House.

HB 164, which would allow the state to reimburse production companies for some of their expenses, was approved in its second reading in the House.

The bill would specify that the Wyoming Office of Tourism could reimburse companies for 15 percent of their expenses while working in Wyoming. The production companies would have to spend a minimum of $200,000 in the state to be eligible for the program.

During testimony before a House committee, Diane Shober, director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism, said the lack of an incentive program and a shortage of trained film production crew members puts Wyoming at a disadvantage to other states when film companies are looking for production sites.

Yellowstone Lodges official wins top tourism award

in News/Recreation/Tourism
Grand Prismatic Hot Springs, a steaming blue natural pool, ALT= Yellowstone, Geothermal, Hot spring
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By Cowboy State Daily

The sales and marketing director for Yellowstone National Park Lodges has been named the winner of Wyoming’s top tourism award.

Rick Hoeninghausen, who has been associated with Yellowstone for 30 years, was awarded the “Big Wyo” award Tuesday during the Governor’s Hospitality and Tourism Conference held in Cheyenne this week.

Hoeninghausen has been one of the leading promoters of Wyoming tourism inside the world’s first national park.

“If you know me, you know that as a kid, I wanted to be a cowboy,” he told members of Wyoming’s hospitality industry gathered for the conference. “And I got a little older and I wanted to be … a park ranger. And I’ve never been any of them, but I live in the Cowboy state and I work in the world’s first national park. How do dreams come true?”

The Governor’s Hospitality and Tourism Conference is held by the Wyoming Tourism Division and the Wyoming Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Death penalty bill clears first House vote

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A bill that would repeal Wyoming’s death penalty won preliminary approval from Wyoming’s House on Wednesday.

HB 145 would make life without the possibility of parole the harshest sentence that could be handed down in the state. It was approved in its “Committee of the Whole” review — the first time a bill is reviewed by all House members. It now moves to its second of three readings in the House.

Bill sponsors have argued the measure will save the state money, given the number of appeals that usually accompany a death sentence. Opponents maintain the bill takes a tool away from prosecutors.

Hathaway scholarship for selected out-of-state students headed for final review

in News/Education
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By Cowboy State Daily

Selected graduates of out-of-state high schools would be able to apply a state Hathaway Scholarship under a bill approved in its second reading in the House on Wednesday.

Representatives voted to send HB 133 on for a third and final House review.Supporters including Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell, said the program would be a good way to lure students from other states to Wyoming.

“We want to try to reach out and grab some of the better students, or real smart students … in the surrounding states,” he said.

The bill would allow two students from each state that shares a border with Wyoming to apply for the scholarship each year. The winners of the “Hathaway expands Wyoming” scholarships would be selected by a committee made up of the governor, superintendent of public instruction, president of the University of Wyoming and the director of the Wyoming Community College Commission and would receive funding for up to four years of college.

For every four semesters of scholarship funds provided, recipients would have to agree to either work in Wyoming for one year or attend graduate school at the University of Wyoming for one year.

In Brief: Plan to prohibit sanctuary cities dies in House

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By Cowboy State Daily

A proposal to bar Wyoming’s cities and counties from declaring themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants was killed in Wyoming’s House on Wednesday.

HB 151 would have withheld state money and state-administered federal money from any local government that adopted an ordinance to keep its employees from discussing immigration issues with federal agencies.

The bill was narrowly defeated in its first reading in the House, with 36 representatives voting to kill it and 22 voting to move it to a second reading.

Harsher animal cruelty penalties win committee approval

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By Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would increase the penalties for animal cruelty won approval from a House committee Tuesday.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 8-1 to send HB 235 to the House floor for debate by all representatives.

The bill would make it a crime for anyone to knowingly or intentionally hurt an animal. A violation of the law would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. However, a second conviction would be a felony punishable by up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Britney Wallesch, executive director and founder of the Black Dog Animal Rescue, said without the possibility of charging someone with a felony, Wyoming lags behind other states in laws designed to prevent animal cruelty.

“Without felony charges, that puts us at the bottom in terms of protections for animals across the country,” she said.

The bill would also make it a crime to stage an exhibition of any kind of animals fighting and would require the state Board of Veterinary Medicine to create standards for the euthanization of animals and regulate those who perform the euthanization.

Man freed from prison says life in prison preferable sentence for killer

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By Cowboy State Daily

The death penalty is not the best way to punish a killer for his crimes, according to a man whose murder conviction and death penalty were overturned in 2004.

Randy Steidl, who was wrongfully convicted of murder in the 1986 death of a couple, was at the Legislature this week to lobby in favor of SF 145, which would repeal the state’s death penalty and make life without the possibility of parole the state’s harshest criminal penalty.

Steidl said a lifetime of incarceration is a preferable punishment for a convicted murderer.“If you really want to punish a vicious killer, you put them in a cage for the rest of their life to think about the crimes they committed,” he said. “If they don’t repent to their God, then when they die, they burn in Hell. That’s justice.”

The House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee voted 5-4 last week to send the bill to the House floor for debate by the full body. It is on the House’s “General File,” a list of bills waiting for their first full review.

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