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Report: Wyoming’s Teachers Least Underpaid In Nation

in News/Education
10747

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

While teachers across the country might be underpaid when compared to other professions, a report from the Economic Policy Institute showed that Wyoming’s teachers are the least underpaid.

A statistic from the EPI’s September 2020 report that shows public school teachers make about 20% less than college graduates who are not teachers has been making the rounds on social media lately.

However, the report also showed that Wyoming’s teachers are paid better than most, with their salaries falling below those of non-teachers by about 2%, a fact that was noted by many social media users.

The Wyoming Department of Education was grateful that people took notice of the better pay for teachers in the state.

“It is wonderful to see Wyoming recognized for placing an emphasis on funding teachers,” Wyoming Department of Education spokeswoman Linda Finnerty told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “As we continue to explore the future of education funding in Wyoming, Superintendent Balow will continue to advocate for prioritizing our dollars on teachers and their classrooms.”

Some states, such as Arizona and Virginia, pay their teachers more than 30% less than what other college graduates are earning.

Rhode Island and New Jersey followed behind in Wyoming in paying their teachers the best.

Funding for the state’s teachers and schools became an issue this year, however, with news that Wyoming’s K-12 Education School Foundation Program is facing a $250 million annual structural deficit and the School Capital Construction Account (SCCA) faces a $50 million annual shortfall.

Most of the money for Wyoming’s schools comes from property taxes and a disproportionate amount of those taxes have been paid in the past by the state’s mineral industry. Legislators this year tried unsuccessfully to bridge the gap between income and expenses in the state’s schools but were unable to do so, leaving the shortfall to be covered by a $331 million transfer from the state’s “Rainy Day Fund.”

State Reps. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, Jerry Paxton, R-Encampment, Steve Harshman, R-Casper, and Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, in an opinion piece published by Cowboy State Daily, noted the state must come up with solution to the shortfalls in education funding.

“Wyoming should continue to look for efficiencies in funding K-12 education,” the representatives said. “It is imperative that Wyoming continue to examine its K-12 educational program to remain relevant in an ever-changing world.”

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Wyoming Tax Collections Up In April Despite Mining Slump

in News/Economy
10743

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Despite a decline of $6.7 million in sales and use tax collections from Wyoming’s mining sector, the state’s tax collections in April grew by $1.3 million over April 2020 figures, according to a state report.

The report “Wyoming Insight,” prepared by the state Department of Administration and Information’s Economic Analysis Division, said statewide sales tax collections increased by 2.3% over 2020 figures despite the $6.7 million decline in collections from the mining industry.

The report showed that gains in collections from the retail trade sector of almost $3.7 million and in the public administration sector of almost $2.2 million offset the decline seen in the mining industry, where collections fell by 73.3% from one year ago.

Collections from the state’s leisure and hospitality industry, hit hard by last year’s coronavirus-related shutdowns, increased by $2 million in April over April 2020, the report said, a gain of 47.4%.

Teton County saw the largest increase in sales and tax collections over last year, $2.1 million, a gain of more than 60%. It was one of 16 counties to see increases in tax collections in April over 2020. The second largest increase was seen in Laramie County, $1 million, 13.6%.

Seven counties saw their tax collections decline during the year, with Campbell County posting the biggest loss, $3.9 million, a fall of 40.5% from April 2020.

Converse County had the second largest decline at $1.4 million.

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C.J. Box Catches Beautiful Rainbow Trout (And He’s Not Telling You Where He Caught It)

in News/C.J. Box
10744

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Catching a great fish is similar to the movie “Fight Club” in that there are specific rules to follow.

The first rule of fight club is you don’t talk about fight club, so the script goes in the 1999 Brad Pitt movie.

The first rule of fly fishing is you don’t ask where the fish was caught.

A good angler is not going to tell you. A good angler also knows never to ask.

Wyoming author C.J. Box is a good angler. And he backs it up by posting photos of his catch.

Like he did over the weekend with a beautiful 22-inch rainbow trout that he caught on the North Platte here in Wyoming.

“Great day on the river!* Caught and released this 22-inch rainbow,” Box tweeted.

What does the asterisk mean?  It refers to line two of the tweet.  Where you’ll find the words “Don’t ask…”

That’s for the rookies who would — of course — try to get him to divulge his location.

However, he didn’t give it up, of course. And most of his followers on Twitter didn’t press him.

It wasn’t until a Facebook post on Tuesday (with the same photo) that he even specified the river.

Box did, however, provide some information.

“Can we at least inquire what type of fly you employed,” asked Brent McCarthy.

“Sure,” Box said. “We were using nymph rigs.”

Thus ended the fishing conversation with Box. 

When will fans actually see Box again — in person? He did say that book tours will happen again sometime.

But in the meantime, fans can read his latest book “Dark Sky” or watch one of his two TV shows: “Big Sky” (which was just renewed for Season 2) or “Joe Pickett” — a new series which will start production soon.

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Wyoming to Receive $500K In Magazine Scam Lawsuit

in News/Crime
10739

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming will receive a settlement of $500,000 in a lawsuit alleging two companies targeted customers nationwide by selling overpriced magazine subscriptions using deceptive mailers designed to look like renewal notices for customers’ legitimate existing subscriptions.

Wyoming joined Colorado in this lawsuit against Atlantic Publishers and Publishers Partnership Services and will also receive $500,000 in the settlement.

Both states’ attorney general offices, as well as the Better Business Bureau, received hundreds of complaints, mainly from people over 60, about the mailers.

One customer, a 94-year-old woman, reported to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office that she sent more than $60 to Atlantic Publishers when she received what she thought was a renewal notice for her “Time” magazine subscription, but when she received the real renewal notice the next month, she called the magazine and was told they had not received her payment. 

Colorado filed a lawsuit in November 2019, and Wyoming filed its lawsuit in January of this year. 

The lawsuits stated that from 2016 through 2019, Atlantic Publishers Group and Publishers Partnership Services sent millions of these deceptive mailers to consumers across the country.  

“Overcharging and misleading older consumers into thinking that the mailers were renewal notices  is unconscionable,” said Colorado AG Phil Weiser. “We are pleased that we were able to work with Wyoming to stop this practice that caused financial stress for many consumers and hurt the operations of legitimate  magazine publishers.” 

Because Atlantic Publishers operated out of Colorado, and Publishers Partnership Services operated out of Wyoming, people from across the U.S. filed complaints with the attorneys general offices in both states.

“This settlement highlights the value of interstate coordination,” said Wyoming AG Bridget Hill. “Working together as  equal partners, Colorado and Wyoming have halted and held accountable those whom we allege used our states as home base for misleading consumers nationwide.”  

Under the terms of the joint settlement, the alleged organizers of this scam, Dennis Simpson and John Ackermann, and their companies will pay $500,000 to each of the attorneys general offices to support consumer protection efforts in Colorado and Wyoming.  

They are also banned from operating magazine subscription businesses in both states and from sending the deceptive mailers to Colorado and Wyoming consumers. 

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Wyoming GOP Rejects Complaint About Uinta GOP Elections

in Wyoming Republican Party/News
10737

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The Uinta County Republican Party did nothing wrong when it allowed party officers to vote in an annual election for party leaders, according to the Wyoming Republican Party.

The Wyoming GOP Central Committee rejected a complaint filed by Jon Conrad against the elections held in March to elect new leadership for the county party.

Conrad alleged officers in the county’s party were allowed to vote in the election even though such action is not allowed under state law.

But the Wyoming Republican Party’s Central Committee, during a meeting May 4, disagreed with Conrad’s position, voting 48-2 to accept the results of a party investigation that showed no party rules or state laws had been violated.

“The (State Central Committee) voted … in favor of accepting the conclusions of the Investigative Committee that state and Uinta County bylaws both authorize county officers to vote on matters before the county central committee and neither the information provided nor the Wyoming statutes cited supported Mr. Conrad’s assertion,” the state party said in a prepared statement on its website.

The challenge stems from a dispute over the election of party officers during the county central committee meeting March 16.

A county central committee is made up of people elected from a county to serve as a committeeman or committeewoman. That group elects a county party chairman and a man and woman to serve as members of the state central committee.

According to a lawsuit filed against the Uinta County Republican Party, the county’s central committee has 36 members, but 40 people were allowed to cast votes. The lawsuit alleged the four extra voters were not precinct committee men or women, having lost their efforts to win those posts in the last primary election.

The lawsuit also alleged the four voters cast votes for themselves to serve in the county party’s top positions, which they now hold.

The dispute led to a formal complaint being filed with the attorney general’s office in addition to the Wyoming Republican Party. The attorney general’s office declined to take up the issue.

Action on the lawsuit is pending in state district court.

According to the GOP’s statement, four state central committee members abstained from voting on the Investigative Committee’s report. The four were not identified.

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Al Simpson: ‘Right Wing Crazies’ Jeopardize Republican Chances of Winning Majority in House of Representatives

in News/Al Simpson
10713

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

With the smallest team of congressional delegates in the United States, it’s easy for Wyoming to get lost in the political workings in Washington, D.C.

Until U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney started speaking her mind.

Much attention is being paid this week to the decision facing Republican party leadership in the nation’s Capitol — whether or not to oust Cheney from her current position as the Republican Conference Chair, the No. 3 leadership position among Republicans in the House.

Coincidentally, the last time such a decision garnered this much attention, a Wyoming lawmaker also played a central role.

In 1994, the U.S. Senate whip was Wyoming’s own U.S. Sen. Al Simpson — and in December of that year, Republican leadership decided Simpson wasn’t conservative enough. 

On a 27-26 vote, Simpson was ousted as whip in favor of Mississippi Senator Trent Lott.

Cowboy State Daily spoke with the former senator Monday about the controversy now capturing the attention of the nation. Simpson said 27 years ago, politics was a different game.

“They were counting the secret vote,” he recalled. “And it was 26-27. They said, ‘We have a new assistant Republican leader.’ 

And I got right up, I stood up, I remember that clearly,” Simpson continued. “And I said, ‘I want to tell you, Trent, that I will help you in any way. And before this drags out any further before the media, the print media, television, I want to take you by the hand, and I want to go out where they’re waiting outside to learn the results of this, and pledge my full support to you.’”

Simpson, who had been the Republican leader in the Senate for the previous 10 years, said he knew that he wouldn’t be running again in 1996, that he was content with what he had accomplished as a legislator, and that he held no bitterness against Lott for campaigning for the leadership position.

But that type of polite camaraderie seems to be a thing of the past in the Washington of today, according to Simpson.

“It’s called hatred,” Simpson said of the political temperature these days. “These are people who hate RINOs (Republicans in Name Only), they hate Trump. It’ll destroy the Republican party.

“To think you could go in and kick Liz Cheney off — who voted for Trumpy-babe about 78% of the time? What are you thinking about? If you’re thinking about unity, then this is not just about hatred, it’s about revenge,” he continued. “Donald Trump is a hateful man, and he is seeking revenge. He is seeking revenge against anybody that crossed him. And I tell you, I voted for him once, and that will be the last time.”

Simpson noted that the next election won’t turn out well for Republicans if they can’t find unity.

“There won’t be any way to save it (the Republican Party) without ballots,” he said. “And if you have insurgents like we had on Jan. 6 — there are people who really fear this government. They think that they’re going to come cruisin’ through the pass at Laramie and come on and take your guns.”

Simpson said it is those extremists who will, in his words, “destroy the Republican Party.”

“Especially in the next race, where Republicans have a good shot at getting back into the House of Representatives and the Senate, you’re going to find that the right wing crazies are going to put up people in the primary that no one will accept in the general election,” he said. “They’re just gonna say, ‘Well, you know, they gave me a Republican, but the guy was talking about, you know, theories I’d never heard of, a loon. So I guess I’ll vote for the Democrats.’”

Simpson said he is distressed at the hatred being spewed by many in the party that he represented for so many years. He spoke of a meeting that he recently attended with local Republican Party leaders – which was actually being held in a church.

“I said, ‘I think most of you are Christians,’” he recalled. “Heads go up and down. ‘Well, then why don’t we talk about what Christ was about? He was about tolerance. Love, kindness, taking care of the fringes of society, the prostitutes and lepers. So, whatever happened to Jesus Christ, the one you talk about as a true Christian, while you’re filled with hate, and revenge?”

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Nat’l Museum of Military Vehicles Opens Korean & Vietnam War Galleries

in News/Museum
10711

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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

DUBOIS –The National Museum of Military Vehicles (NMMV) announced Monday that its new Korean and Vietnam War Gallery will open Wednesday, May 26. 

The  40,000 square-foot, multi-million dollar gallery dedicated to the two conflicts uses immersive dioramas, interactive exhibits, oral histories, vehicles, and other artifacts to honor the millions of Americans who served in those two countries. 

“Our museum was voted one of the ten best new attractions in the U.S. in 2020 on the strength of our World War II Gallery,”  said Dan Starks, Founder and Chairman of NMMV. “We raise the bar in our Korean and Vietnam War Gallery by making the exhibits even more immersive and captivating.”

Starks said the Korean War sometimes is called The Forgotten War. “More than 5 million Americans served in the Korean War between June 1950 and July 1953,” he said. 

Approximately 140,000  were killed or wounded. 

He invited folks to visit the museum to find out why, along with how the American experience in the Korean War impacted American conduct during the Vietnam War.

“Over 3 million Americans served in the Vietnam War,” Starks said. “More than 200,000 were killed or wounded during their service. Many more died afterwards from their exposure to Agent Orange,”

More than 200,000 veterans still suffer from PTSD. 

Starks invited folks to come to the museum to learn more about the Vietnam War and about why veterans and their families deserve so much appreciation.

The National Museum of Military Vehicles (NMMV) south of Dubois, will also recognize another big event relating to the Vietnam War. 

A ceremony will be conducted May 15 on the 46th anniversary of the battle to recover the S.S. Mayaguez and its crew. This was the last battle of the Vietnam War and claimed the lives of 41 Americans, along with 50 wounded. 

“We will have Patriot Guards Riders escort a tribute truck to the museum, read the names of the 41 fallen Americans, and host a reunion of survivors of the battle,” Starks said.

NMMV is a privately funded, 140,000 square-foot facility located near Dubois. The museum is home to more than 450 military vehicles, the largest private collection in the world.

The museum is a 501(c) non-profit organization with a mission “to honor the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families, educate next generations on the history of American freedom, and share historic military vehicles.”

The museum’s World War II gallery opened to the public in August 2020. 

Connect with www.nmmv.org and on Facebook at facebook.com/NMMVWY.

Further information: Alynne Catron: Alynne@nmmv.org

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Retired U.S. Army Colonel To Move Back To Wyoming To Run Against Cheney

in News/politics
10706

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A man raised in Wyoming who spent 30 years with the U.S. Army is returning to his hometown to run for Congress.

Everett “Denton” Knapp told Cowboy State Daily he will be arriving in Gillette on Tuesday to begin the process of becoming a Wyoming resident so he can challenge U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in her re-election bid.

“I’ll be getting my beautiful bucking horse license back,” he said. “I am not wasting time. It’s time to come home.”

Knapp, who currently lives in Orange County, California, said one of the issues he will run on is dissatisfaction with recent votes and statements by Cheney, including her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.

“It means something when you see your state is represented by elected officials who do not follow what their constituents want,” he said. “I feel Wyoming has lost trust in our elected official and I think the nation has lost some trust in the election process and I want to get that back.”

The retired colonel stressed he has been a “longtime fan” of the Cheney family.

Knapp said as a member of Congress, he would also focus on things that are “broken” in the federal government, such as the immigration system.

“I understand what immigration means and what the process is,” said Knapp, who added his own mother was from Japan and became a naturalized citizen after much hard work. “And there has to be a process.”

Knapp was raised in Gillette and won an appointment to West Point, which began his 30-year career in the U.S. Army. He was nominated for the school by former U.S. Rep. Dick Cheney, along with Cheney’s colleagues U.S. Sens. Al Simpson and Malcom Wallop.

Knapp went on to serve around the country and the globe for 30 years, including multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired as a colonel in 2017 and moved with his wife Heather to California so the two could be with their family.

For the last several years, Knapp has served in the California State Guard and has served as the director of veteran services for Goodwill Industries of Orange County.

Knapp said he has kept abreast of Wyoming’s issues and challenges with regular visits to the state to see his parents and brother, Christopher Knapp, who is a member of the state House of Representatives.

“I’ve not lived there, but I’ve paid attention to what’s going on,” he said. “Because I am a Wyomingite, I stayed a Wyomingite. I’ve been brown and gold my whole life.”

Knapp, the seventh candidate for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat, admitted he is entering the 2022 primary race a little behind some of the other candidates.

“I’m a fast learner,” he said. “I’ve got some catching up to do.”

He added he plans to attend this weekend’s meeting of the Wyoming Republican Party’s Central Committee in Cody.

Knapp said he would like to discuss the race with the other candidates challenging Cheney for the party’s nomination in 2022.

“We’ve got some months here, we have to figure out as a group of candidates what is best for the state,” he said. “If what’s best for the state is to defeat the incumbent, then we have to communicate with each other and not sabotage our efforts to take care of the Wyoming people.”

Darin Smith, a Cheyenne attorney and businessman, announced last week he will run for the office. 

Other candidates include state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, and state Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper.

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Cheney Narrates Ad Affirming Her Position on Capitol Riot, Trump

in News/Liz Cheney
10699

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Days before House Republicans were expected to vote on removing her from her Republican leadership position, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney appeared in an ad affirming her stances on the presidential election and what it means to be a Republican.

The Republican Accountability Project advertisement features news clips of former President Donald Trump and clips of the attack on the U.S. Capitol earlier this year, with a narration from Cheney, taken from various audio clips.

“President Trump, for months leading up to Jan. 6, spread the notion that the election had been stolen,” she said in the video. “There was a judicial process in place. This is not something we can simply look past.”

She also said in the video that the Republican Party is the party of Abraham Lincoln, not of Q-Anon or white supremacy.

The Republican Accountability Project was formed in 2020 as “Republican Voters Against Trump” and compiled testimonials from Trump’s former supporters, conservatives, Republicans and others on why they wouldn’t vote for him in the 2020 election.

Earlier this year, it became the Republican Accountability Project following the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Now, the group works to defend “Republican principles” and criticizes legislators its members hold responsible for the Capitol riot.

The ad debuted Monday morning, two days before House Republicans were expected to vote on whether to remove Cheney from her position as the Republican conference chair, the No. 3 GOP position in the house, because of her continued sparring with Trump over his claims of election fraud.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Lousiana, confirmed that he is now backing Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, for Cheney’s position. Trump is also expected to endorse Stefanik for the job.

“House Republicans need to be solely focused on taking back the House in 2022 and fighting against Speaker Pelosi and President Biden’s radical socialist agenda, and Elise Stefanik is strongly committed to doing that, which is why Whip Scalise has pledged to support her for Conference Chair,” said Scalise’s spokeswoman Lauren Fine.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, also said that some Republicans were concerned about Cheney’s “ability to carry out her job” as a result of her public comments about Trump.

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Vandals Destroy Phone Lines In Uinta County, Causing 911 Outage

in News/Crime
10703

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Vandals destroyed fiber-optic lines and materials in rural Uinta County this weekend, cutting off 911 telephone service for some county residents.

On Friday, Century Link experienced an outage that disrupted phone and internet services to many customers in the Bridger Valley area, with some outages lasting until Sunday.

During Century Link’s investigation into the outage, workers discovered “mass” intentional damage to fiber-optic lines and materials in rural Bridger Valley. It appeared that the damage was caused by multiple vehicles.

As of Monday, the damages were estimated to be in excess of tens of thousands of dollars, with hundreds of customers affected.

This incident is being investigated by the Uinta County Sheriff’s Office.

If anyone has information about the individuals that may be involved, please contact the Uinta County Sheriff’s Office 307-783-1000, or the information can be reported anonymously to Crime Stoppers by text: 307-708-2274. Information leading to an arrest could be eligible for a reward. 

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