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‘Rugged individualism’ may contribute to high Mountain West suicide rates, says expert

in Health care/News/Uncategorized
A sense of “rugged individualism” may contribute to the fact that the Mountain West states have some of the highest suicide rates in the nation, according to an expert in Cheyenne.
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By Cowboy State Daily

A sense of “rugged individualism” may contribute to the fact that the Mountain West states have some of the highest suicide rates in the nation, according to an expert in Cheyenne.

Linda Goodman, the chief clinical officer at Peak Wellness Center in Cheyenne, said people suffering from depression or other issues in Wyoming and other rural states resist seeking assistance from counselors.

“The rugged individuality is a big piece of it,” she said. “The mentality that ‘I just need to cowboy up and be tough.’ That rugged individualism says ‘I need to be able to handle my problems by myself.”

In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control set Wyoming’s suicide rate at 26.9 per 100,000 people, the third highest ranking in the country. Wyoming joined Montana, Utah, Idaho and Colorado among the states with the 10 highest suicide rates in the nation.

Nationally, suicides have contributed to what was reported in a Detroit newspaper as a reduction in the life expectancy of Americans.

Author Mitch Albom wrote that death rates are rising among working class people who are middle aged and older, largely from what he described as “deaths of despair,” suicides and complications that arise from alcohol and drug abuse among people who believe they cannot achieve the “American dream.”

Goodman said she believes such feelings are often seen among the children of families who survived the Great Depression and World War II and vowed to give their children everything they needed to live the American dream.

“And for some of us, that is looking less and less like the American dream we had envisioned,” she said. “For some Americans today, it means having to let that dream go and if you don’t have the resilience to have another dream that emerges, then you are left with despair.”

Many people found themselves homeless or broke with the turbulent economies of recent years,” Goodman said.

“For people that had the ability to say ‘I’m going to drop back … I’m going to get back on my feet,’ that was fine,” she said. “But for people who did not have that, they turned to ways to avoid having to deal with those problems. That can be through the use of alcohol, it can be through the use of drugs, it can be through depression …”

Goodman said one thing that can help someone suffering from despair is for those people to help others who are less fortunate.

“There’s nothing that will help you more to feel like you have meaning in your life than to help someone else,” she said.

This story has been updated. A previous version of this story misstated the suicide rate.

Judd Gregg: In praise of Mike Enzi

in Uncategorized
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This guest column is republished with permission from The Hill.
This guest column originally appeared in The Hill on April 8, 2019 and is republished with permission from The Hill.

The federal deficit in February set a record.

It was $234 billion.

Up until 2008, annual deficits — those covering twelve months – rarely reached the level of the deficit the federal government just ran for the month of February.

The deficit for the first five months of this fiscal year is at $544 billion, and we are not even half way through the year.

Most of this deficit was driven by an increase in spending, which is up nine percent over last year’s spending at the same time. Last year, your federal government ran a deficit over $800 billion.

The left points to Republicans’ corporate tax cut and claims tax receipts are the cause of the deficit. But tax receipts have been strong, only less than one percent off last year’s income.

The deficit and the debt it is generating, now over $22 trillion, is unquestionably almost entirely the result of increased spending. 

This spending is being energized by two factors.

First, last year’s budget agreement, which spiked discretionary spending by over $2 trillion over ten years by raising the caps on spending so President Trump could get his defense boost and House Democrats their domestic non-defense spending.

The second more primary force behind this radical growth in spending is health care costs, especially Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare costs are soaring because the number of retired people has doubled while Medicaid costs are exploding because of the ObamaCare expansion.

With all this new debt being generated, one would hope that the president and Congress might put forth budgets for next year and the coming years to bail out a ship that will soon sink from this massive inflow of red ink.

Unfortunately for two key participants in deciding our fiscal future there is no interest in addressing the issues and implications of a nation awash in debt.

President Trump is fond of calling most news reports that are negative about him or his administration “fake news.” It is a catchy phrase and one he should stick on the budget he recently sent to the Congress.

Trump offered a “fake” budget, without a scintilla of integrity, and filled with nothing. Of course, he probably did not read it and since it was barely reported on Fox News likely had no idea what was in it. But had he done so, Trump could easily have dismissed it as fake.

The Democrats on the other hand have a legal responsibility to produce a budget now that they control the House. 

In fact, they have a much higher obligation in this regard than the president, as the budget is a uniquely Congressional event. If Congress agrees on a budget resolution, the president does not get to veto it or sign it. The budget is entirely within the purview of Congress and is its prerogative.

The Democratic Chairman of the House Budget Committee, though, has said he does not expect to be able to produce a budget, meaning House Democrats are abandoning their legislative responsibilities.

The Democratic House leadership is not even going to try to set out a plan to manage the approximately $4 trillion that the federal government will spend next year or the twenty to fifty trillion that will be spent over the next 5 to 10 years.

The reason House Democrats are not living up to their obligation to govern is simple. They do not want to disclose to the American people the incredible increase in spending that they and their party’s candidates are proposing as they shop for votes.

These proposals, including their nationalized medicine plan, their Green New Deal, and promises of free college to name a few, will add tens of trillions of dollars of new spending and dramatically increase the already massive federal deficits and debt.

House Democrats figure it is better to shirk their legislative responsibility and accept that downside, then to tell the American people what they are actually up to and what it will cost.

It is as cynical an approach to budgeting and managing the nation’s fiscal future as one can imagine.

Amidst the carnage around the budget and debt, there is one rational and honest voice: Mike Enzi, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

Wyoming’s citizens have a tendency to send very thoughtful and substantive people to represent them in Congress. Its current delegation includes Enzi, fellow Sen. John Barrasso (R), and Rep. Liz Cheney (R), all exceptional legislators.

Maybe it is because Wyoming is a small state where a great many people rely on the land for their income that their members of Congress are so often “down to earth” people.  

Mike Enzi certainly rises from this mold. He is a hard-working, no nonsense, substantive doer. He is the opposite of the flamboyant model that is so in vogue today.

For these reasons it is not surprising that in putting together the Republican Senate budget proposal he cut through all the gamesmanship and misdirection of the administration and House Democrats to submit a budget that manages the nation’s finances in a responsible and realistic manner.

The Enzi budget will reduce the deficit over five years by $538 billion. It does this without the numerical deceit at the heart of the president’s budget, and does not add, of course, the trillions of dollars of new spending House Democrats are calling for but will not admit to. 

The Enzi budget also has a $94 billion reconciliation instruction. 

This is important because reconciliation is the only viable process for adjusting health care spending, especially Medicare, in a way that costs less but delivers better care and services.  

Since he leaves the reconciliation instructions open, they could also be a place for bipartisan action to tackle our grossly overcomplicated tax code and put in place entitlement reform.

The Enzi budget is honest, as one would expect from the senator, by not projecting that it will balance in the five or ten year window it forecasts, acknowledging that it is not politically or practically possible.

Rather under the Enzi budget the deficits drop to about 2.9 percent of GDP, which is a manageable number.

Mike Enzi wants to try and get bipartisan support for this budget. Bipartisanship, though, is not the first choice for most members of this Congress. 

But Enzi has a low key, dogged approach to resolving issues. His budget, if it had been presented at a different time, would certainly warrant serious consideration across the capital.

Maybe he can be the one who reminds Congress that working together to take on big issues is not all that bad of a modus operandi.  

Getting these deficits and the debt they are generating into a manageable state is certainly as big an issue as we have as a nation if we wish to pass onto our kids a viable economy and growing standard of living.

In any event, we can all take some solace that in these cloudy days of excessive partisanship and declining good governance there is a Mike Enzi still trudging around the Senate.

Good Luck, Mike… you give us hope! 

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.

Wyo Legislature’s Management Council doles out interim assignments

in Uncategorized
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By Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Legislature’s Management Council, a committee made up of legislative leadership from both parties, met in Cheyenne on Thursday and Friday to assign interim topics to the body’s standing committees. Among the prioritized topics are taxes, education, modernizing oil and gas regulation, and sage grouse mitigation.

Our Robert Geha attended the meeting and spoke with House Speaker Pro Tempore Albert Sommers (R-Pinedale) about why taxes remain a legislative focus for the 2020 Budget Session when no tax legislation reached the Governor’s desk during the 2019 General Session.

“Keeping the momentum of educating the public and educating members on how our economy is changing and how we need to change our revenues as our economy changes,” said Sommers of the rationale for continuing the tax discussion in the interim.

The 2020 Wyoming Legislative Budget session will convene February 10th in the renovated Wyoming Capitol.

For more coverage of Wyoming government plus local stories that impact you, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

#TravelTuesday: Get a long little dogie — and head for the dachshund races at the Wyoming State Winter Fair

in Uncategorized
Wyoming Dachsund
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By Cowboy State Daily

A race between long little dogies will highlight this weekend’s activities at the Wyoming State Winter Fair in Lander.

Wiener Dog Races — where organizers promise there will be “no losers … only wieners,” will top the morning’s activities at the Lander Rodeo Grounds on Saturday.

The race is the first of its kind for the 52-year-old State Winter Fair, said Yvette Broadhead, the fair’s president.

“The Fremont County Fair in Riverton is putting it on for us,” Broadhead said. “They called us and said it would be a fun event and we just jumped on board because we thought it was excellent. We’re all excited for it.”

Races featuring 10 dachshunds will be held until the field for a championship race is filled. Broadhead said organizers hope competitors will come from across Wyoming to take part.

Another major event of the weekend will be a miniature bull riding competition.The Ultimate Miniature Bullriding event, put on by Howl Rodeo Bulls, features young athletes — under the age of 15 — competing on bulls that are smaller than those usually seen in rodeos.

Ultimate Miniature Bullriding is a national program designed to help young aspiring bull riders learn more about the sport by giving them a chance to compete.

The competition has been a feature at the winter fair for some years, Broadhead said.

“Those kids are so good,” she said. “The whole crowd just loves them.”

The weekend begins with team roping on Friday and will wrap up Sunday with a horse show at the rodeo grounds arena.

The State Winter Fair was created in 1967 as a way to give people something to do during the long winter months, Broadhead said. The year’s fair had to be held over two weekends because of scheduling issues at various venues. Activities held on Feb. 23 included a duct tape fashion show, live music and a talent show.

For more information, visit the Wyoming State Winter Fair website at WyomingStateWinterFair.org.

Abortion waiting period bill dies in committee

in Uncategorized
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By Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would impose a 48-hour waiting period on women seeking abortions will not be reviewed by Wyoming’s Senate.

HB 140 will not receive a hearing in the Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee this session, committee Chair Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Casper, said Thursday.

Scott said the committee has a number of major bills to deal with before Wednesday, the last day for committees to send bills they have reviewed to the floor. He added he does not think the waiting period is a significant issue in Wyoming because most women seeking abortions go to other states.

Under existing Wyoming law, a doctor must give a woman seeking an abortion the chance to see an ultrasound of the fetus and hear a recording of its heartbeat. HB 140 would have required the doctor to wait 48 hours after extending that invitation to perform the procedure.

The bill was approved in the House on Feb. 1 by a vote of 36-22. Without a committee hearing, the bill will die before being reviewed by the full Senate.

In the Platte Valley, ice fishing derby a community affair

in Recreation/Uncategorized
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Video courtesy of Mike McCrimmon.

Ice anglers from several states are on Saratoga Lake this weekend for the annual Saratoga Lake Ice Fishing Derby. The weekend, always the third in January, includes a special Small Fry Derby for children under age 14.

Last weekend Platte Valley kids took to Treasure Island Pond on the Silver Spur Ranch to learn all the basics. And catch fish. Our report is from Cowboy State Daily videographer Mike McCrimmon.

Convention of States seeks constitutional convention

in News/Uncategorized
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A former legislator is heading the effort in Wyoming to hold a constitutional convention to consider amendments to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government and impose term limits on members of Congress.

Nathan Winters tells Cowboy State Daily’s Bob Geha that the Convention of States is a national effort started five years ago to convince 34 states to call for a constitutional convention.

House committee kills hemp extract bill

in Uncategorized
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Man carrying hemp oil product.

By Cowboy State Daily

A measure that would have allowed adults to possess and use hemp extract was killed Tuesday by a House committee.

The House Judiciary Committee, in a 4-4 tie vote, defeated HB 100, which would have legalized the use of hemp extract by adults.

Under state law, hemp extract can now be used medicinally. HB 100 would have removed the restrictions on its use, including one that people who are prescribed hemp extract or “hemp oil” by a doctor obtain a registration card.

Death penalty repeal bill introduced in House

in Uncategorized
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By Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would repeal Wyoming’s death penalty was introduced in the House on Tuesday and is headed for review by a legislative committee.

HB 145, sponsored by 18 legislators from both parties, would make the most severe penalty that could be handed down in murder cases life without parole.

Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the measure enjoys bipartisan support in part because of the cost involved with pursuing the death penalty.

“The majority of folks coming at it right now are worried about the cost,” he said. “Because we have budgetary issues, they’re worried about what that might look like in the future, knowing that it’s ineffective. It’s a waste of $1 million a year.”

The last person executed in Wyoming was Mark Hopkinson in 1992.

However, opponents argue the repeal of Wyoming’s death penalty would take away a bargaining chip for prosecutors.

Rep. Bill Pownall, R-Gillette, also said a repeal would amount to overlooking murder victims.

“I think they’re forgetting the victim in this case and that’s where I look at this bill as they’re not looking back at the circumstances of the crime,” he said.

The bill has been assigned to the House’s Labor, Health and Social Services Committee.

Statewide lodging tax bill gets committee nod

in Uncategorized
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By Cowboy State Daily

A measure that would create a new statewide lodging tax to pay for the promotion of Wyoming’s tourism industry was approved by a House committee on Monday and is headed for its first full review in the House.

HB 66 won unanimous approval from the Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee, sending it to the House floor for its first full review before the entire chamber.

The bill would impose a new statewide lodging tax of 5 percent to be paid by people staying in hotels and motels. 

Revenues from 3 percent of the tax, estimated at $19 million per year, would be used to pay for the operations of the Wyoming Tourism Division. The division is now funded from the state’s main bank account, also called its “General Fund.”

Revenues from the other 2 percent of the tax would be divvied up among the state’s counties for use in promoting their own tourism industries.

The bill would also reduce the maximum lodging tax imposed at the county level from 4 percent to 2 percent.

The statewide tax would guarantee counties a tourism promotion income and give them the option of voting on whether to impose the extra 2 percent tax at the county level, said Chris Brown, executive director of the Wyoming Restaurant and Lodging Association.

“So when the time period that was currently voted on expires this (statewide) 2 percent would kick in and be guaranteed at the local level,” he said. “The beauty of that is for places like Laramie County, where there’s a 4 percent lodging tax. Now there’s 2 percent guaranteed and when their vote comes back up here every four years, they can still vote on the additional (local) 2 percent.

In other action at the Legislature, representatives approved a bill that would boost the expense payments provided legislators when they are at work on legislative business by $40, to $149 a day. HB 38 now heads to the Senate for its review.

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