AP News Update

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AP News Update

Latest Wyoming news, sports, business and entertainment

WEEK AHEAD

Wyoming Legislature focuses on budget bill

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming Legislature this week will focus on crafting a state budget for the coming two years.

House Speaker Tom Lubnau and Senate President Tony Ross say they expect the general government appropriations bill will get its first reading in both houses on Monday.

Both houses will consider amendments throughout the week and should appoint a conference committee to resolve differences in their respective versions by Friday.

The bill calls for spending just over $3.5 billion from state's General Fund to cover government operations for two years starting this July.

The Legislature's Joint Appropriations Committee generally agreed with recommendations from Gov. Matt Mead to allocate $175 million to counties and local governments while also funding pay raises for most state employees for the first time in four years.

GUNS IN SCHOOLS

House panel endorses guns in schools bill

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The House Education Committee has endorsed a bill that would allow K-12 staff to have guns at school.

The committee voted 6-3 Friday for the bill sponsored by Republican Rep. John Eklund, of Cheyenne. The bill heads to the full House for further debate.

Under the proposal, local school boards could allow teachers and other school staff who hold concealed-carry permits to carry guns or have a weapon stored in a lock box on campus if they get proper training.

Eklund says his bill would enhance school security especially in rural areas.

Opponents of the bill questioned whether local schools boards had the time to handle such a controversial issue and whether school boards should have the power to determine who has the right to bear arms.

BEETLE KILL SURVEY

Forest survey: Spruce beetles on march in Colo.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The U.S. Forest Service says an outbreak of spruce beetles is spreading at an accelerating rate across hundreds of square miles of new forest in Colorado.

Meanwhile, a massive outbreak of the similar mountain pine beetle continues to slow down across Wyoming, Colorado and the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.

Every year, the Forest Service conducts an aerial survey of forests in Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota. The 2013 survey shows spruce beetles spreading to ever-larger expanses of new forest in Colorado for a fifth consecutive year.

Spruce beetles infested 338 square miles of previously unaffected Colorado forest last year. They spread over about 286 square miles in 2012.

Spruce beetles infest Engelmann and blue spruce trees. The similar mountain pine beetle infests lodgepole, limber and ponderosa pines.

WYOMING COAL

Wyoming coal production fell 3.3% in 2013

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Federal data show Wyoming coal production fell by 3.3 percent in 2013, marking the fourth consecutive year of declining output in the nation's top coal producing state. Employment also continued to fall, with the sector shedding more than 300 jobs last year.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports coal company executives said during a conference call Thursday the decrease in production reflected a wet year, hindering operations at surface mines, and constraints in rail service.

But industry leaders were optimistic about 2014, saying a cold winter and relatively high natural gas prices meant utilities burned more coal in 2013, drawing down stockpiles at a greater rate than at any point in more than a decade.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration says coal production fell from 401 million tons statewide in 2012 to 388 million last year.

HUNTING SURVEYS

Game and Fish wants more feedback from hunters

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Wildlife officials say fewer than 50 percent of the black bear, wild turkey and gray wolf hunting survey requests have been returned to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports the surveys, which can be filled out online, are used to bolster the statistical information the department uses on each species and should be completed whether or not a hunter was successful.

Deer and elk surveys can be filled out www.wyhunter.org or by calling 800-216-0477.

NATIONAL PARKS-FREE ENTRY

Yellowstone, Grand Teton waive entrance fees

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) - Entrance fees are being waived at Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks this weekend to celebrate Presidents Day.

The National Park Service says more than 400 parks across the country will be offering free visitor admission and will be waiving commercial tour entrance fees and transportation entrance fees.

Free entry will be offered from Saturday through Monday.

Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included.

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