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Senator predicts effort to repeal death penalty will continue

in News/Criminal justice
Wyoming death penalty repeal Senator Brian Boner
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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“As time goes on, I’m sure that we will continue to gain ground and eventually the death penalty will be repealed,” he said.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.”

Governor vetoes first bill, measure adjusting legislator reimbursement

in News
Governor Gordon veto, ALT=Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon vetos first bill
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By Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday vetoed his first bill, a measure designed to increase the amount legislators are reimbursed for expenses while taking part in legislative work from $109 to $149 per day.

Gordon, in his veto letter to House Speaker Steve Harshman, R-Casper, said while he believes the bill is well-intentioned, it is flawed.

Gordon said the bill would actually reduce the expense reimbursement or “per diem” for legislators living within 25 miles of the Capitol during legislative sessions.

“While the apparent intent of the bill seeks to admit that those living proximate to the State Capitol building most likely do not have to absorb the additional costs of temporary accommodation because they can stay in their homes, the bill does not recognize that other legislators might also be able to avoid those same additional costs by staying with friends or family, for example,” he wrote.

The governor praised legislators for taking the issue up during their general session.

“I want to recognize the Legislature’s diligence in scrutinizing its expenses and providing for a reasonable recognition of the changing costs associated with serving in the Legislature,” he wrote.

If legislators want to reverse the governor’s veto, each chamber must vote for an “override” motion by a two-thirds majority.

In Brief: Bill for year-round Daylight Savings Time dies

in News
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By Cowboy State Daily

A measure that would have put Wyoming on Daylight Savings Time throughout the year died in the Senate on Thursday.

HB 14 was killed on a 15-15 vote in the Senate in its first review by the full body. The bill needed at least 16 positive votes to move forward in the process.

The bill would have put Wyoming on Daylight Savings Time year-round only if three neighboring states had agreed to make the same change.

Committee approves bill setting out “Capitol Complex” area

in News
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By Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s House will get a look at a bill that would create a four square-block area for planning future development in the state’s Capitol Complex.

The House Rules Committee on Thursday approved HB 149, which officially sets the boundaries of the area considered the “Capitol Complex” in Cheyenne. The bill is headed for the House for a review by the full body.

The bill would give the state Capitol Commission the authority to develop a master plan for the area, including construction, maintenance and restoration. The area already includes a number of state buildings and facilities, however, it also contains some private property.

The bill would give the Capitol Commission permission to only make plans for the area. 

The bill does not call for the creation of an area inside Cheyenne similar to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., said Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Laramie.

“I do know there are members in leadership who eventually envision turning that into a small version of the mall in Washington and that woudl cut out traffic on (area) roads,” he said. “That’s not in the bill and that’s going to be a subject for heated discussion, I can imagine, in future legislatures.”

While the measure would have an impact on planning for a portion of Cheyenne, it is fitting that the state government has some say over what its facilities look like near the Capitol, said Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr.

“Really, the state Capitol belongs to the citizens of the state and while we talk about local control … I also believe that when it comes to the state Capitol, the citizens of the state of Wyoming should have a say,” she said.

Orr also noted that the bill would only give the state the authority to make plans for the area.

“It gives them planning ability,” she said. “It’s hard to plan for something if you don’t own it. This will allow for … planning well into the future.”

Bill providing bonus for good investment performance approved by Senate

in News
Pulling $100 bills from a wallet, ALT= money, economy, bills, investment
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By Cowboy State Daily

A measure that would reward the state’s investment professionals for making decisions that boost the state’s revenue won final approval from the Senate in a unanimous vote on Thursday.

HB 222 would provide bonuses for investment professionals in the state treasurer’s office. The state’s top investment professional could double his annual salary of $250,000, while other bonuses would range from 25 percent to 75 percent of an investment official’s salary.

The bonuses would only kick in if the investments made by the officials did better than certain market benchmarks. And the bonuses would be paid out over three years — and would be forfeited if the employee left state government at any point during those three years.

The program seems like a good way to encourage wise decisions in the treasurer’s office, said Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody.

“If you start telling somebody in there ‘You’re going to get rewarded when you help make good decisions,’ I think that makes a difference,” he said.

Gordon signs 19 measures into law

in News
Wyoming Legislature bills signed by Governor Gordon
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By Cowboy State Daily

A measure creating a Wyoming National Guard museum in Cheyenne was among 19 signed into law on Thursday by Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gordon signed what had been HB 39 on Thursday, designating the historic National Guard armory in Cheyenne as the Wyoming National Guard museum.

The bills signed by Gordon were the second batch to come from the Legislature’s 2019 session. Others signed included:

HB 25, clarifying the credentials required by teachers handling virtual education classes;

HB 71, raising penalties for violation of equal pay provisions to $500, and,

HB 21, creating an “election readiness account” with federal funds to replace and maintain voting systems.

In Brief: Death penalty repeal killed in first Senate review

in News/Criminal justice
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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 News/Criminal justice
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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.

‘Suffrage Day’ measure first from session signed into law

in News
A Grou of proud women wearing yellow rose lapels, ALT=Law declares Wyoming Women's Suffrage Day
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By Cowboy State Daily

A measure setting aside a day to recognize Wyoming as the first state in the nation to give women the right to vote became the first bill of the Legislature’s 2019 session to be signed into law Wednesday.

Senate Joint Resolution 3, setting Dec. 10 as “Wyoming Women’s Suffrage Day, was the first of eight bills signed into law by Gov. Mark Gordon on Wednesday.The date marks the day in 1869 when Territorial Gov. John Campbell signed the bill giving women the right to vote in Wyoming.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, was unanimously approved by both the House and Senate.

Other measures signed into law by Gordon on Wednesday included: SF 11, moving back the deadline for the governor to submit a budget to legislators from Dec. 1 to the third Monday in November; SF 21, requiring candidates for elected office to list the addresses of their homes for the last five years on their applications for nomination or election, and SF 17, adding electronic records to the list of documents that county clerks must keep available for examination.

School safety bill awaiting House review

in News/Education
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By Cowboy State Daily

A measure proposing a comprehensive safety and security plan for Wyoming’s schools is awaiting its first debate in front of the full House.

SF 64 would require the state’s schools and superintendent of public instruction go prepare safety and security guidelines for schools, along with staff training and drills to prepare for attacks by intruders.

Schools would also have to develop strategies for identifying students who could potentially engage in violent behavior and craft a system to alert officials when an attack on a school occurs.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said it is important to consider the issue of school safety comprehensively.

“When we really look at school safety and security comprehensively, we need to consider and act on the well being of every single student to make our schools safe,” she said.

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