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Acclaimed author says Legislature may have missed opportunity with film incentive vote

in News/Tourism
Video camera on an outside table, ALT= Film incentive
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s Legislature may have missed an opportunity by killing a proposed film incentive program, according to an acclaimed Wyoming author.

“I would certainly say so,” said C.J. Box, a Saratoga resident. “Also, for no good reason. They’re not spending any money.”

Box is the author of the popular “Joe Pickett” book series, which focuses on the crime solving activities of a Wyoming game warden. He was in Cheyenne last week to argue for HB 164, which would create a film incentive program for companies spending more than $200,000 in Wyoming.

The bill fell one vote short of winning approval from Wyoming’s House.

Supporters argued that other states with incentive programs often become the sites for the filming of stories set in Wyoming, such as the “Longmire” series based on the works of Wyoming author Craig Johnson.

Box is working with Paramount Television to develop a television series based on his Pickett novels and he said without an incentive program, it will be very difficult to get production companies to even consider Wyoming.

“There’s no guarantee it would be filmed in Wyoming, but it is probably less likely it will even be considered without any kind of incentive,” he said.

The bill would have created a program allowing the Wyoming Office of Tourism to reimburse production companies for up to 15 percent of their expenses while filming in Wyoming if they spent at least $200,000.

The program would have been financed in part with carryover funds from the Office of Tourism and the bill carried no request for additional state money.

“I don’t see a downside, especially to that bill,” Box said. “There was not one dime set against it. I’m trying to figure out what kind of reasoning there would be. So many of our legislators say they want a growing and diversified economy.”

While not as large an incentive program as those available in some other states, the plan would have been a good first step for luring productions to Wyoming, Box said, which in turn would have helped create an experienced workforce for film production.

“That’s what happened in New Mexico, to the point that Netflix is building a production studio there,” he said.

Box had hoped the program might be in place in time for Wyoming to be considered a filming location for the Joe Pickett series, which takes place in locations around the state.

“I’ll be honest and say I’d love to see it filmed in Wyoming,” he said. “(The series) moves around the entire state, from Jackson to the Red Desert. The last book was set in Saratoga. There’s a possibility the whole state could get some benefit from it.”

Wyoming launched a film incentive program in 2007, but it was allowed to expire in 2011.

Death penalty repeal, abortion waiting period passed as Legislature nears midway point

in News
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By Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s legislators spent long hours on the floors of the House and Senate this week as they neared the midway point for their general session.

With a major deadline looming on Monday, legislators spent much of the week trying to get through a backlog of bills reviewed by committees and sent to the floor for debate.

One bill proposing a repeal of Wyoming’s death penalty won final approval and was sent to the Senate for its review. HB 145 would make life without the possibility of parole the harshest possible sentence in Wyoming.

Also approved in its final House review was HB 140, a bill that would impose a 48-hour waiting period on women seeking abortions. Under Wyoming law, a doctors must give a woman seeking an abortion the chance to see an ultrasound of the fetus or hear a recording of its heartbeat. The 48-hour waiting period would begin after that offer is made. The waiting period would be waived in emergencies.

A bill that would keep Wyoming on daylight savings time year-round is also headed to the Senate after its final approval in the House. The change outlined in HB 14 could only occur after three neighboring states agree to stick with daylight savings time through the year as well.

However, the House killed a bill aimed at luring film production companies to the state. HB 164 would have reimbursed production companies for some of their costs while filming in Wyoming.

Committees also killed several bills. A proposed $1 increase in taxes on a pack of cigarettes was killed by the House Revenue Committee. And the House Judiciary Committee killed HB 234, which would have made the possession of more than three ounces of marijuana a misdemeanor. That crime is now a felony.

On Monday, representatives and senators will get their last chance to review bills on “General File.” Those are the bills that have been reviewed by committees and sent back to their chambers of origin for debate by the full body. Any bill on the “General File” not reviewed by the end of business Monday will be dead for this session.

The bills approved in three readings in the chamber where they started — the House or Senate — will now head to the other chamber for a second review.

In Brief: Abortion waiting period bill approved by House

in News
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By Cowboy State Daily

A bill to impose a 48-hour waiting period on women seeking abortions won final approval in Wyoming’s House on Friday.

After extensive debate, HB 140 was sent to the Senate for its review on a vote of 36-22.

State law requires doctors to offer women seeking abortions a chance to see an ultrasound of the fetus or hear a recording of its heartbeat. Under HB 140, an abortion could not be performed until 48 hours after that offer is made.

Supporters argued it makes sense to set a waiting period before undertaking such a procedure.

“Unless it’s an emergency surgery, to go in and have an invasive surgery the very same day, that’s not health care,” said Rep. Scott Clem, R-Gillette. “That’s pure negligence.”

Opponents maintained the state should not be involved in a decision to seek an abortion.

“I want me, my husband and the doctor (involved),” said Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie. “You stay out.”

The bill would waive the waiting period in emergencies.

Bill axing binding arbitration for cities, firefighters, awaiting review

in News
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By Cowboy State Daily

A bill aimed at eliminating binding arbitration as a way to resolve conflicts between firefighters and cities around the state is waiting for its first review on the House floor.

HB 271 would make all arbitration between cities and firefighters non-binding, an option backers find attractive because it avoids the need for third-party intervention in a conflict.

“I think it’s favorable from a municipality perspective,” said Rick Kaysen, director of the Wyoming Association of Municipalities. “It allows them to control their budgets, perhaps work on working conditions, but still support the firefighters, because firefighters are a very important part of our communities.”

Opponents, such as Kim Floyd of the AFL-CIO, said the binding arbitration has worked well in the state is necessary because firefighters can’t go on strike due to the nature of their job.

Floyd said the matter came to the Legislature because health insurance benefits negotiated by Cheyenne and its firefighters cost more than was expected.

“What we have here is a mayor that lost and she’s mad and she doesn’t know why she lost and who she should be mad at,” he said. “It’s her city folks that didn’t address this in negotiations.”

The bill is listed on the “General File,” the bills that have been returned to the House by committees for a review by the full body. Any bills on that list not reviewed by the end of business Monday will die.

House kills film incentive bill

in News
Film production equipment, ALT=film incentive bill
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By Cowboy State Daily

A plan to draw film production companies to Wyoming with incentives died on a narrow House vote Thursday.

HB 164 would have created a program to allow the state to reimburse film companies for some of their expenses while filming in Wyoming. The reimbursement would only have gone into effect if the production company spent more than $200,000 in Wyoming.

The bill died on its third and final reading in the House on a vote of 30-27 with three people excused. To win final approval from the House, a bill must receive an “aye” vote from a majority of the 60-member body — 31 votes.

During testimony before committee, Wyoming Office of Tourism Director Diane Shober said the state’s lack of an incentive program and of skilled film production workers hurt its ability to compete with other states for productions.

Marijuana reform bill killed in House committee

in News
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

in News
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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

in News
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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
809

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.

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