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Bob Geha

Bob Geha: Construction Coalition Pushing for Trade Legislation

in News/politics

By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming and the state’s community colleges are contributing to the effort to get more young residents involved in the building trades, according to the head of the Wyoming Construction Coalition.

Heidi Peterson, whose organization hosted a lunch for legislators on Monday, praised the work done to prepare students for jobs in construction.

“The university started their construction program this year, we have 62 students in it for the first year,” she said. “Then … all of the junior colleges have different programs You can go to Torrington for welding, for example, for a skills trade.”

The coalition is watching three bills making their way through the Legislature that would make some changes in the way government entities hire and pay contractors and those providing professional services, such as architects.

Bob Geha: Wyoming Legislature Week in Review

in News/politics
Bob Geha

Wyoming’s Legislature ended the first week of its budget session Friday with a deadline for the introduction of bills to be considered during the budget session.

During a budget session, a non-budget bill needs to collect the votes of two-thirds of the House or Senate to be considered. Any bill not introduced by Friday will not be considered this year.

Among the bills making their way through the process:

HB 28, which would prevent government entities at any level from using public money to conduct “gun buybacks.”

HB 44, the bill that would put Wyoming on Standard Time throughout the year if the federal government approved the change and four surrounding states did the same.

HB 134, imposing a statewide lodging tax of 5 percent.

SF 42, 50 and 52, which bring Wyoming into compliance with new federal rules banning the sale of tobacco to those under 21.

A number of high-profile bills also failed to gain introduction in the Legislature’s first week. 

Among those bills: 

HB 75, which would have extended Medicaid coverage in the state to an estimated additional 19,000 people at a cost to the state of about $18 million in the first two years.

SF 6, a proposed toll on travelers on Interstate 80. Money raised would be used on highway maintenance.

SF 80, proposing a three-day waiting period between the time a person buys a handgun and the time he or she can take possession of it.

SF 88 would have repealed all of Wyoming’s gun-free zones.

HB 66 proposed an end to Wyoming’s death penalty.

HB 63 proposed a 3-cent per gallon increase in taxes on gasoline, bringing the total state taxes to 27 cents per gallon.

Several bills that promised to generate considerable discussion were not voted on for introduction, including bills proposing a personal income tax and a corporate income tax.

Bill Would Prohibit ‘Gun Buyback’ Programs in Wyoming

in News/politics

By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

A measure that would prohibit governmental entities from running “gun buyback” programs has been filed for consideration by the Legislature during its upcoming session.

House Bill 28 would prohibit any Wyoming government body, including the University of Wyoming, from buying firearms from citizens.

The programs have been used in some large cities around the country in an effort to reduce the number of firearms on the street, however, no such program has been staged in Wyoming.

Bill sponsor Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, said he wants to make sure it is difficult in the future to launch a “buyback” in Wyoming.

“It’s not really a concern right now,” he said. “But if it is ever a concern, where organizations such as governments, whether local or state, are starting to do this … I want to make it as painful as possible for them to be able to peel back our … legislation.”

The measure has supporters among firearms retailers such as Ryan Allen of Cheyenne’s Frontier Arms.

Allen said in such programs, governments often end up paying far more for firearms than they are worth.

“The broken firearms, the inert, the $20 to $35 firearms … they’re paying four to five times what they’re worth,” he said.

Lindholm agreed.

“There will be some people who take advantage of the incompetency of government and bring in grandpa’s old over-and-under (shotgun) that’s been broken for the last 30 years and get $500 for it,” he said.

Both agreed that the more important issue is that of preserving Second Amendment rights.

“In regards to gun violence, the answer’s pretty clear at that point, you should let people defend themselves, let them practice their own God-given right,” Lindholm said.

“Firearms and gun ownership is part of our culture here in Wyoming,” Allen said. “So hopefully that doesn’t change.”

The Legislature’s budget session begins Feb. 10. Because Lindholm’s bill is not related to the budget, it would have to win support from two-thirds of the House to even be considered.

Wyo Tech School Founder Eric Trowbridge to Speak at National Tech Summit

in News/Technology

Eric Trowbridge, the founder of a Cheyenne technology school aimed at introducing students to computer programming, plans to tell attendees at a national technology conference that technology can work in rural America.

Trowbridge, founder and CEO of the Array Technology and Design School, will be one of the speakers at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Salt Lake City at the end of January.

The Cheyenne high school graduate said he plans to tell the more than 20,000 people expected to attend that the technology industry can find a home in rural states like Wyoming.

“The message is that technology can work in rural America,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s a very different animal from doing technology in big cities. The challenge we have in running technology in rural American is … for technology to thrive, you have to have really smart people, you have to have people who understand computer science and programming and graphic design and that’s kind of hard to come by in states like Wyoming.”

But with schools like Array, residents can be trained in the skills needed to sustain a successful technology sector, Trowbridge said.

The state can help with such efforts by making sure it creates a welcoming atmosphere for people who may want to pursue a technology-based career, he said.

“The number one mission should be to try to create the most fertile soil possible so when these seeds get planted, they grow into companies, entrepreneurship,” he said. 

“The things we’re working on now (are) the cultural piece. Having young adults who are in this space, people who want to transition into technology, being able to go see shows and go to restaurants and have that experience,” he said.

The state has made major advances toward welcoming the technology field in recent years, Trowbridge said, through steps such as mandating computer science education for all public school students.

Trowbridge said Wyoming has a history of being the first state in the nation to take bold steps, such as giving women the right to vote, electing a woman as governor and having the first national park and monument.

“It’s not about changing Wyoming, it’s about tapping into our roots,” he said. “It’s in our nature to be pioneers and drivers and cowboys and cowgirls.”

Trowbridge credited much of the state’s progress go former Gov. Matt Mead, who he said recognized the need to make technology the “fourth leg” of the state’s economic base, joining energy, agriculture and tourism.

The resulting boost helped move the state from its reliance on historic industries, he said.

“I think we got too comfortable, we didn’t innovate,” he said. “We just thought things were going to be the way that they were.”

The opportunities for economic diversification offered by the technology industry will help the state overcome the problems it has faced because of its reliance on the energy industry, Trowbridge said.

“At the end of the day, as scary as it is, we have to get off of it because a lot of people get hurt when we go into that bust cycle,” he said. “People lose their jobs and they leave Wyoming.”

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