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DAY AT THE WYOMING LEGISLATURE
Developments at the Wyoming Legislature
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Developments at the Wyoming Legislature on Thurs., Feb. 27, the 14th day of the 2014 Budget Session:
CARBON DIOXIDE: The House for the second time endorsed a Senate Joint Memorial that would call on Congress to require the federal Environmental Protection Agency to respect the primacy of Wyoming in developing guidelines for regulating carbon dioxide emissions.
INVOLUNTARY HOSPITALIZATION: The House for the second time approved a bill that would require county attorneys to represent the state in court matters involving the involuntary hospitalization of people for mental health issues. The bill already has passed the Senate.
SCHOOL BUSES: The Wyoming State Senate gave preliminary approval to a House bill that would help school districts cover the cost of equipping school buses with cameras to catch drivers who pass buses that are parked to pick up or drop off students.
CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES: The Senate for the second time approved a House bill that would add several hallucinogenic substances to the state's controlled substances list.
80 MPH SPEED LIMIT: A bill that would allow increasing the speed limit to 80 mph on some sections of highway was introduced in the Senate. It already has passed the House.
CHILDREN IN NEED OF SUPERVISION: The Senate for the second time approved a House bill that would increase the age at which children could still meet the legal classification of "children in need of supervision," in the court system. It would raise the limit from one who hasn't reached their 17th birthday up to one who hasn't reached their 18th birthday. Raising the limit could keep the additional children from going into the adult criminal court system.
TAIWAN: The Senate for the second time approved a resolution that calls on Congress to support Taiwan's participation in appropriate international organizations and to resume free trade talks with Taiwan. The resolution already has passed in the House.
Senate rejects cutting school bus camera money
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The state Senate has embraced the idea of the state helping school districts equip their school buses with cameras to catch motorists who illegally pass buses stopped to pick up and drop off students.
The chamber on Thursday rejected on a 17-11 vote a proposal by the Senate Appropriations Committee to strip the bill of its $5 million appropriation to help school districts pay for the cameras.
House Bill 5 faces two more votes on the Senate floor.
Supporters of the bill say it would help reduce the thousands of incidents each year where motorists illegally pass a stopped school bus.
Opponents object to the idea of using cameras to catch perpetrators and favor a public education campaign instead.
Conference committee considers Medicaid talks
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A conference committee of Wyoming legislators has adopted a measure that says state government officials may explore over the coming year whether the state could reach agreement with the federal government to expand Medicaid on the state's terms.
House and Senate conferees met on the issue Thursday. The House earlier had approved a budget amendment calling for the state to consider Medicaid expansion while the Senate did not.
The conference committee adopted a Senate proposal that specifies state officials may investigate possible Medicaid expansion but won't be required to do so. It also specifies the procedure won't draw down the state's General Fund or harm Wyoming businesses.
Both the House and the Senate rejected proposals earlier this legislative session to expand Medicaid coverage this year to 17,600 low-income residents.
Senate panel puts brakes on school construction
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Senate Appropriations Committee is putting the brakes on some K-12 school building projects in the state.
The panel on Thursday unanimously advanced House Bill 42 to the floor of the full House for further debate but not until it voted to delay four projects. Two of the projects are in Big Horn County District 4, and one each in Albany 1 and Laramie 2.
Members of the committee objected to the projects appearing on the design and construction list without appearing to go through the initial planning step under the established process.
Sen. Bill Landen, who chairs the Select Committee on School Facilities, explained that his committee was trying to get school building projects moving after some frustration with red tape holding up progress in the past.
Wyoming top in CO2 per person amid new regulations
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Turns out the worst state for carbon dioxide emissions per person isn't smoggy California or bustling New York, but a state famous for big, clear skies: Wyoming.
Regulating greenhouse gases is a touchy subject in the least-populated state.
Wyoming faces an outsized challenge since getting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval in December to regulate greenhouse gases. New federal figures show Wyoming in 2011 emitted more than 112 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person - more than six times the national average.
Wyoming also is the top coal-mining state. Burning coal to generate electricity produces large amounts of CO2. But state officials say EPA efforts to curtail greenhouse emissions are a "war on coal."
Burning coal - primarily to make electricity - accounts for almost 70 percent of Wyoming's CO2 emissions, twice the U.S. average.
CENTRAL WYOMING COLLEGE SECURITY
CWC's new campus security system expands reach
RIVERTON, Wyo. (AP) - A security system at Central Wyoming College will allow administrators to monitor campus activity online from any location.
The Riverton Ranger reported Thursday that the board of trustees approved buying a $115,000 program from S2 Security Corp. to replace existing security technology.
College spokesman John Wood says the new system can operate despite power outages. Security staff can quickly lock individual rooms and buildings from a remote location online.
YELLOWSTONE ACCESS DATES
Yellowstone releases 2014 season dates
JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - Yellowstone National Park's 2014 opening and closing dates generally are the same as last year's - with some earlier fall closures due to park construction.
The Jackson Hole News & Guide reported Thursday that Yellowstone's South Gate, which provides access from Jackson Hole, will open May 9.
The East Gate, with access from Cody, opens May 2. The West Yellowstone, Mont., entrance opens April 18.
This fall, Jackson Hole visitors will have to take an indirect route to Old Faithful after Sept. 2. The Mammoth Hot Springs-to-Norris road will shut down completely between Sept. 14 and Sept. 30.
Yellowstone's winter season will close in phases beginning Friday, when the East Gate will close until spring. Skiers, cyclists and hikers are exempt from the winter closures.
WYOMING CAPITOL RENOVATION
Wyoming capitol renovation nears final OK
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A $259 million plan to renovate Wyoming's State Capitol and the adjacent Herschler Building is close to legislative approval.
The House unanimously voted Wednesday to give final approval to the Capitol Square Project.
The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle reports that the Senate, which has passed the bill, and the House need to agree to minor amendments before sending it to Gov. Matt Mead.
The capitol building was commissioned in 1886 and last saw renovations in 1980. Consultants say its heating, cooling, fire and other systems must be upgraded. Structural repairs also are needed.
Defense blames poor police work in murder case
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Prosecutors plan to call witnesses in the murder trial of a Cheyenne man charged with killing two people and wounding a third in 2011.
The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle reports that prosecutors told jurors Wednesday that Nathaniel Castellanos killed 21-year-old Corey Walker and 25-year-old Megan McIntosh in Cheyenne.
Amber McGuire, who was 23 years old at the time, was wounded.
The defense argued that police pressured Castellanos to admit to the shootings.
Castellanos is charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.
If convicted, he could face life in prison or the death penalty.
Casper College seeks a few good horses for class
CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Casper College is looking for some horse owners who are willing to help out with a class this spring.
The school needs horses for its spring horseshoeing class.
The two-week class begins March 31. Casper College rodeo coach Tom Parker says the school needs three or four horses to shoe or trim each night starting April 1.
Parker says horse owners only will be charged for the materials used, not for the shoeing and trimming.