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Wyoming legislatue

Bill Designating “Hank Coe Highway” Advances

in News/Legislature

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Hank Coe was known throughout Wyoming for his dedication to his city, his friends, his position as a state senator — and now his memory is being honored in the Wyoming Legislature.

A bill that would name a portion of Highway 120 – both north and south of Coe’s hometown of Cody — the “Hank Coe Leadership Highway” is this week nearing the end of its journey through the Legislature.

Henry Huttleston Rogers “Hank” Coe passed away just two months ago at the age of 74 after battling pancreatic cancer — less than a year after his retirement from public office. 

He served in the Wyoming Legislature for 32 years in a multitude of roles, including majority floor leader, Senate vice president and Semate President, and chaired a number of committees.

Among his many achievements, Coe played an instrumental role in creating the Hathaway Scholarship, a merit-based scholarship which benefits Wyoming students who attend state colleges and the University of Wyoming. 

So to designate a portion of a major highway that runs through his hometown as a “leadership highway” seems appropriate, according to Sandy Newsome, a fellow Cody resident who currently serves in the Wyoming House of Representatives.

“You know, he was a county commissioner for years and years and served in the state house for 32 years — and just always giving to his community,” Newsome recalled. “Whether it was as a firefighter or commissioner, or with the Coe Medical Foundation, or the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, he was always giving of his time and expertise.”

Newsome said her connection with Coe began back in the 1980s when Coe served as a volunteer firefighter and Sandy’s husband was on the Park County Search and Rescue squad. 

Coe’s concern for people was genuine, she said.

“I used to take my mother-in-law on Tuesdays to do her little errands around town, and it often included a stop at Hank’s office, because he was her stockbroker” she said. “She had lost her hearing a little bit and he was so patient, and so kind. “Given his stature in the community, he was just as gracious as can be.“

House Bill 135 designating the highway has been approved by the House and was approved Tuesday in its first reading by the Senate. If the Senate approves the bill in two more readings, it will go to the desk of Gov. Mark Gordon for his signature.

If it passes, the “Hank Coe Leadership Highway” will join other memorial roadways such as the “Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home Highway” on Interstate 25; the “Wyoming Women’s Suffrage Pathway” on Highway 28 in Fremont County; the “Medal of Honor Highway” on Highway 20 between Wyoming’s borders with Montana and Nebraska, and the “Wild Horse Highway” east of Cody on Highway 14/16/20.

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Bill Blocking UW From Creating Gun Rules Clears Senate Committee

in News/Legislature

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would prohibit the University of Wyoming and the state’s community colleges from creating their own firearms rules was approved for full debate on the Senate floor by a Senate committee Friday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-1 in support of Senate File 137, which sponsor Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, said would prevent a “patchwork” of gun regulations from being in effect across the state.

“(This bill) is just intended for those who have reservations about repealing our gun-free zones but don’t like the idea of a patchwork of regulations across the state,” he told the committee.

The bill stems in part from a case in which a delegate to the Wyoming Republican Party convention in Laramie in 2018 was cited for trespass because he refused to remove the handgun he was carrying. The university said it had a policy against firearms on campus, however, there is no state law banning firearms on campus.

A state district court judge upheld the citation, saying state law gives the university the authority to regulate Wyoming-made guns.

Kinskey said the section of the law referred to by the judge was the result of a legislative error and would be corrected with the bill.

The bill would also specifically list “institutions of higher education” as being among the governmental entities that cannot adopt gun regulations more stringent than those adopted by the state.

Wyoming law is intended to give only the state government authority over regulating firearms, Kinskey said.

Terry Armitage, representing the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, agreed the uniformity in regulations provided by Kinskey’s bill is needed.

“Law enforcement doesn’t want to have to guess if they go to a college if there’s a different set of rules,” he said.

The bill was approved despite arguments from community college officials that they need the authority to regulate firearms on their campuses.

“(If) you pass this bill, it will impact our ability to do the state’s work of educating our citizens,” said Joe Schaffer, president of Laramie County Community College. “Can I tell you exactly what that means or how it will play out? No. But we have all the anecdotes and examples across other states and other communities.”

Erin Taylor, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Community College trustees, said trustees from all seven of the state’s community colleges are opposed to the legislation.

“They want to have the ability to make those decisions locally,” she said. “There are situations on a community college campus where it is not ideal to have a weapon involved.”

Kinskey said his legislation is a “backup” to Senate File 67, another bill he is sponsoring that would eliminate “gun-free zones” around the state and allow people to carry concealed weapons on public property including schools.

He added he expects no action on SF137 unless SF67 is killed.

SF67 is awaiting its first full review on the Senate floor.

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Cat Urbigkit’s Legislative Preview: State Land Transfers, Wolves, Brucellosis

in Cat Urbigkit/Column

By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

The Wyoming Legislature is slated to begin its 2020 session on February 10. It’s a budget session, with a 24-day schedule and adjournment slated for March 12. With about 250 bills prefiled, readers are encouraged to browse the bills on the legislative website and contact their legislators to discuss their views.

Here’s a sample of what is being proposed.

House Bill 5 would give drivers the option of paying an additional $20 for a digital driver’s license and identification card. The applicant would be able to provide this digital license upon being stopped by an officer.

House Bill 13 would establish a sage grouse mitigation credit program to be administered by the state board of land commissioners.

House Bill 22 would prohibit counties, towns and cities from requiring allocations of affordable or workforce housing as a condition of development.

House Bill 28 would prohibit governmental entities from operating or participating in firearm buyback programs.

House Bill 33 would increase production requirements to $3,000 for land to be qualified as agricultural land for taxation purposes.

House Bill 35 would provide $90,000 for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture to develop a compensation program for wolf depredation on livestock in the area of the state where wolves as classified as a predatory animal.

House Bill 37 would allow the Wyoming State Land Board to develop an expedited process for the exchange of state lands (initiated by the lessee of the state lands) for private lands on a value-for-value basis, for the purpose of facilitating legal access to state or federal land.

House Bill 99 would allow livestock producers whose animals were quarantined for brucellosis containment efforts to submit a claim to the Wyoming Livestock Board for actual expenses related to the quarantine.

This bill is especially timely in that federal animal health officials switched their brucellosis testing protocols last fall, and the result was that producers in Montana and Wyoming experienced an elevated number of brucellosis reactor-level test results.

Of the 80,000 head of cattle tested for brucellosis in Wyoming’s fall run, there were 25 cattle in 16 total herds that were found to be “non-negative” for brucellosis. Those herds were then quarantined, but follow-up testing allowed quarantines to be lifted on 11 of the 16 herds.

According to Wyoming State Veterinarian Dr. Jim Logan, in late January there were still three Sublette County cattle herds, and two Park County cattle herds, remaining under quarantine.

A Senate bill (Senate File 6) proposes to allow state transportation officials to establish a tolling authority for Interstate 80 has been filed.

The Joint Judiciary Interim Committee has proposed putting some teeth into the state Ethics and Disclosure Act. Senate File 9 would expand the scope of the existing ethics law to cover local governmental entities and state employees, and substantially increase penalties for violation of this law.

Those convicted of using public office for private benefit, or of misusing the office, would be subject to penalties of up to fines of up to six months imprisonment and $750 for misdemeanor violations (where the total value of the benefit was less than $1,000), or imprisonment of up to 10 years and $10,000 for felony violations (wherein the total value of the benefit was $1,000 or more).

The Joint Education Interim Committee has proposed changes to the state law regarding student absenteeism and truancy. According to the revisions proposed under SF15, any parent, guardian, or custodian of a child violating compulsory attendance rules could be fined up to $150, and a child subjected to willful absenteeism is defined as a “neglected child” pursuant to the Child Protection Act.

Senate File 31 would require the University of Wyoming to prepare a yearly report on the land grant mission of the university, reviewing its ag department budget, accomplishments, and staffing and the benefits of the college to Wyoming’s agricultural economy.

Senate File 75, sponsored by the Select Water Committee, would change the process for applications for instream flows. Under the proposal, upon receiving an instream flow recommendation from the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, the Wyoming Water Development Commission (WWDC) would file for a permit for instream flow, to be followed by a public meeting in the local area. The WWDC could then select the instream flow segment for further study, or may disqualify that segment and withdraw the application. Interestingly, the bill notes that any selection or disqualification “shall be specifically exempt from all provisions of the Wyoming Administrative Procedures Act” so that the final WWDC is final and not subject to appeal.

Senate File 81 would allow for livestock brand renewal up to a period of 50 years (up from the current 10-year maximum).

Senate File 83 would amend existing law regarding budget and financial data reporting to require financial transaction information to be published on the internet – not just for state, county, and municipal governments, but for all special districts, airport boards, and any other political subdivisions.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

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