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DEVELOPMENTS AT THE WYOMING LEGISLATURE
Day at the Wyoming Legislature
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Developments at the Wyoming Legislature on Tues., March 4, the 17th day of the 2014 Budget Session:
BILL SIGNINGS: Gov. Matt Mead signed a number of bills into law. Among them was a measure that established the crime of unlawful entry into an occupied structure, meaning entering a building with the intent of committing an assault. He also signed into law another measure that establishes the crime of domestic assault and battery, which makes it a crime to attempt to cause bodily injury to a family member.
HUNTER SAFETY: Mead signed into law a measure that would exempt active duty or honorably discharged military personnel and current or former Wyoming law enforcement officers from the requirement that people born after a certain date must take hunter education classes before hunting.
80 MPH SPEED LIMIT: The Senate gave final approval to a bill that would allow increasing the speed limit to 80 mph on some sections of highway. It already has passed the House and now awaits action by the governor.
TAXIDERMISTS: The Senate president gave final approval to a bill to require licensure of taxidermists before they may receive wildlife specimens. It now goes to the governor.
EPINEPHRINE: The Senate for the third time approved a bill that would allow schools administer epinephrine to students. The drug can help students who are allergic to bee stings and similar things. The House agreed to Senate changes, and the bill now goes to the governor.
GRAND TETON: The House for the second time approved to a bill that would authorize state officials to trade two state parcels in Grand Teton National Park for federal property elsewhere. It already has passed in the Senate and needs one more vote in the House.
Hathaway increase looks to be 5 percent
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - An agreement reached between Senate and House members would provide a 5 percent increase in the Hathaway Scholarship award.
When Senate File 55 was originally proposed, it contained a 10 percent increase.
The Senate cut that to 5 percent, while the House stuck with the 10 percent.
However, House negotiators conceded the 5 percent on Tuesday. The Senate approved the agreement, while the House is expected to act on the agreement Wednesday.
Supporters of the higher amount say the scholarship fund can handle the 10 percent increase. However, members of the Senate questioned whether the 10 percent increase would jeopardize the fund in the long run.
The idea behind increasing the award is to keep pace with rising college tuition and fees.
Halliburton latest donor to UW energy lab
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Energy services company Halliburton is the latest corporation to chip in to support construction of an energy research laboratory at the University of Wyoming.
State and company officials announced Tuesday that Halliburton is donating $3 million to UW. Of that, $2 million will help fund construction of a research complex while $1 million will support research. The state will match those amounts.
Halliburton President Dave Lesar came to the Wyoming Capitol to announce the gift. He says it should help produce well-trained graduates and ultimately help the nation's energy production.
The Halliburton funding puts UW within $2 million of the total of $15 million in private funds it needs for construction of the 60,000 square-foot High Bay Research Facility. The building will provide a large area for energy research projects.
Senate confirms education department director
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The state Senate has confirmed the director of the state Department of Education despite the legal uncertainty surrounding the job.
The chamber voted 20-10 Tuesday to confirm Richard Crandall after rejecting an attempt to table his confirmation.
A law enacted last year replaced the statewide elected superintendent of public instruction as head of the education department with a director appointed by the governor with Senate confirmation.
However, the Supreme Court recently ruled the law was unconstitutional because it left too few duties for the superintendent. The case still has to clear other legal steps that could take months to resolve before it is final.
Republican Sen. Curt Meier, of LaGrange, sought to stop Crandall's confirmation in light of the Supreme Court's decision. But his motion failed on a 21-9 vote.
Wyoming bills to help wrongfully convicted advance
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming lawmakers are considering two bills aimed at helping people wrongfully convicted of crimes.
The House gave initial backing to both measures Monday.
Senate File 28 would create another way for felons to seek a new trial if new evidence surfaces that could prove their innocence. Currently, they have the right to petition for a new trial if new DNA evidence is found but not if other evidence arises, such as someone else confessing to the crime.
Senate File 30 would provide compensation to those exonerated of a felony. They would be able to get $100 a day for every day they spent in prison up to a maximum of $500,000.
The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports the bills need to pass two more votes before being sent to the governor.
Victory for foundations in Wyoming ranchland case
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming Supreme Court has ruled against a Denver woman who sued to block the sale of a ranch she donated to foundations at the University of Wyoming and Colorado State University.
Wyoming's high court ruled Tuesday that Amy Davis lacks standing to contest plans by the UW Foundation and CSU Research Foundation to sell the Y Cross Ranch.
Davis donated her family's 50,000-acre ranch in southeast Wyoming in 1997.
The gift terms allowed the foundations to sell the ranch after 14 years. The foundations began preparing to sell in 2011 but suspended those plans after Davis sued in 2012.
Davis' attorney, Steve Miller, says the foundations still ought to reconsider. UW spokesman Chad Baldwin says no decision will be made before the next UW Foundation board meeting in June.
PAWS testing gets underway in Wyoming
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming students are starting to take the annual statewide assessment to measure their academic progress.
The testing window for the Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students opened this week and ends March 28.
The Wyoming Department of Education says students will see a different version of the test this year.
This year's PAWS is aligned to new English language arts and math standards.
Assessment Director Deb Lindsey says this year's test will represent a new baseline for Wyoming students and is different enough from previous assessments that it cannot be readily compared with previous years' tests.
PAWS is administered in grades 3-8 and is used to measure students' progress toward Wyoming content standards.