Jan 8, 2015

Barrasso, Lummis ready for new session of Congress

Sen. John Barrasso and Rep. Cynthia Lummis have their committee assignments for the 2015-16 session of Congress.

U.S. Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo.
Barrasso will remain on the Indian Affairs, Energy and Natural Resources, and Environment and Public Works committees as well as the Committee on Foreign Relations.

He is also fourth in the GOP leadership group.

Barrasso was re-elected by Senate Republicans to serve as chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee. As chairman, he is involved in providing positions on legislation, floor debate and votes to caucus members. Democrats have a similar organization. The RPC also “provides in-depth analysis on specific issues, policy solutions and alternatives, and strategic guidance,” according to its website, operates a recorded vote analysis and runs an internal broadcast.

Lummis is on Natural Resources, Oversight and Government Reform committees and is now the chairman of Oversight and Government Reform’s new subcommittee on the interior. On Wednesday, Lummis was named chair of the Congressional Western Caucus, a bipartisan group of House members from Western states.

Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.
She joined with a majority of her Republican colleagues on Tuesday to vote to retain Speaker John Boehner. Boehner, a Republican congressman from Ohio, claimed a third term with 216 of the 408 votes that were cast. Three GOP congressmen challenged the speaker, but Lummis announced Monday she would support Boehner.

“Mr. Boehner and I do not see eye to eye on every issue, but voting against a speaker who ran unopposed and was unanimously chosen by Republicans in November will only hurt Wyoming.”

“The time to run for speaker was at the Republican Conference elections held on Nov. 13 and at that time John Boehner was the only one to stand up,” she said in a release. “This sudden, last-ditch effort to unseat Boehner is ill-timed and unsupported. Mr. Boehner and I do not see eye to eye on every issue, but voting against a speaker who ran unopposed and was unanimously chosen by Republicans in November will only hurt Wyoming.”

Reps. Daniel Webster of Florida, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Ted Yoho of Florida were nominated for speaker. Webster received 12 votes, Gohmert got three and Yoho received two, as did Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and former Secretary of State Colin Powell each received one vote for speaker.

The speaker does not have to be a member of the House — but all have been so far.

Leave state’s marijuana laws alone, lawmaker suggests

Don’t expect to see local lawmakers leading a charge to reform the state’s marijuana laws in the upcoming session. In fact, expect the opposite.

Rep. Sam Krone, a Cody Republican and a deputy Park County prosecutor, plans to introduce a bill that would prohibit the Legislature from changing the state’s marijuana laws in the next three years.

A legal marijuana grow in Colorado is shown in December 2013. Photo by Brett Levin Photography, released under CC BY 2.0
The time between now and then would be spent studying the changes other states, including neighboring Colorado, have experienced to their revenues, general health and crime rates after legalizing the marijuana for recreational or medical purposes or by lessening the penalties for possessing the drug.

“Let’s not do anything in Wyoming (in the short term); let’s see how this is effecting other states,” Krone, an opponent of legalization, said of his philosophy.

Rep. David Northrup, R-Powell, plans to sign on as a co-sponsor of Krone's bill.

“That will be a good way to calm it down,” he said last month.

It’s likely that state lawmakers will be asked to consider legalizing at least some forms of marijuana for medical purposes and/or to significantly reduce the criminal penalties for possessing the substance during the 2014 session.

Meanwhile, the Wyoming chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Wyoming Cannabis Activists each hope to bypass lawmakers and put forms of marijuana legalization directly in the hands of state voters as 2016 ballot initiatives, the Casper Star-Tribune recently reported.

A University of Wyoming phone survey conducted in the fall found 72 percent of state residents support allowing the use of marijuana if it’s prescribed by a doctor, while finding that only 35 percent of state residents support legalizing recreational use of the drug.

113 MPH wind buffets Clark

CLARK — Another winter storm, another breezy day for Clark. Gusts of up to 113 miles an hour were recorded west of Clark on Monday morning, the National Weather Service’s Riverton office reported.

That peak blast of Western air was recorded around 5:20 a.m., approaching the kind of wind gusts you might experience in a significant tornado.

Clark’s gusts continued to top 75 miles an hour until almost 7 a.m., with sustained speeds of as much as 45 miles an hour.

The NWS had issued a high wind warning for several parts of Wyoming Monday morning, including the Cody area and Meeteetse, as a strong winter storm moved into the western and northern parts of the state. Wind gusts peaked at 42 miles an hour at the Cody airport (and 64 miles an hour on top of Rattlesnake Mountain), but things stayed relatively calm in Powell and Meeteetse through Monday afternoon.

As windy as it was, the breezes pale in comparison to the speeds recorded in late November. The day after Thanksgiving, Clark experienced gusts of up to 117 miles an hour and winds of up to 82 miles an hour caused damage to some property in Cody.

Coe headed for his 27th year in the Senate; may run again

Facing a write-in challenge after a narrow primary win in 2012, state Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, hinted at retirement from a long legislative career.

Coe had just defeated Bob Berry of Cody by 112 votes in the Republican primary in Senate District 18, and Berry immediately moved to continue the contest as a write-in candidate in the November general election. Coe said he felt “under full-scale assault” from the Tea Party faction of the Park County Republican Party during the 2012 election cycle.

State Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, is returning to the Wyoming Senate for his 27th year
Coe admits that he mentioned possible retirement at the time. But he went on to handily defeat Berry by amassing 71 percent of the vote in the general election, winning his seventh senate term to represent Cody, Meeteetse, Clark and areas west of Powell.

Halfway through that term — 26 years after he was first elected to the state Senate — Coe leaves for Cheyenne and the opening of the 63rd Legislature on Jan. 13. And he’s not talking like a man ready to walk away from what he loves to do.

“I think what I stated then was this probably will be my last election,” said Coe, reflecting back to 2012. “I never said specifically or guaranteed this will be my last run.”

Coe, 68, said he has been approached by a lineup of people — “a lot of people, not just a couple” — encouraging him to run again in 2016.

“I don’t really know what I’ll do,” Coe said. “I love legislating. I spend about half of my time doing legislative business. My health’s really good. I think I’ll be pretty good at 70.”

Seniority he has built up in the Senate benefits Park County, he noted.

“I’m not bragging, but I’m in a position of seniority and committee chairmanships that are vital for Park County and my constituents,” he said. “This seniority thing is really relevant.”

Coe, who served as president of the Senate in 2001, is chairman of the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Air Transportation Liaison Committee in 2015. He said he hopes the contentious times between the Legislature and the State Department of Education under former Superintendent of PublicInstruction Cindy Hill are a thing of the past.

“I’m looking forward to collaboration with new Superintendent Jillian Balow and the Department of Education,” Coe said. “Collaboration is the key word that I’m using with the department.”

Still, Coe supported a bill out of the Joint Interim Education Committee to propose a constitutional amendment to change the position of state superintendent of public instruction from an elected office to an appointed office. The bill, entered as House Joint Resolution 2, will be heard first in the House Education Committee.
“I’m not bragging, but I’m in a position of seniority and committee chairmanships that are vital for Park County and my constituents,” Coe said. “This seniority thing is really relevant.”
“There might be too much fallout from H.B. 104 (the failed legislative effort to remove Hill in favor of an appointed department head) to pass it down there,” he said. “It’s a long process. It would need to pass both House and Senate, be signed by the governor, and then submitted to a statewide vote as a constitutional amendment.”

The Joint Education Committee commissioned a study of governance of the Department of Education in which 1,546 parties were polled. The respondents favored an appointed position by 64 percent to 36 percent.

“That’s why I voted for the bill (HJR2) to come out of committee,” Coe said. “We need to have the debate.”

Coe said he supports most of Gov. Matt Mead’s budget proposals. He specifically applauds more money for tourism development, for local government infrastructure, the University of Wyoming and community college matching funds programs and the Tier 1 engineering school at UW.

“I want to hear the debate on Medicaid expansion,” he added. “It’s costing our hospitals hand and fist for uncompensated care. We’ve got to do something.”

Monument Hill Road closes for winter

A county road north of Cody has closed to vehicles for the winter.

Park County staff closed most of Road 7UH — more commonly known as Monument Hill Road — on Jan. 2.

The first 1.6 miles of the road, located west of Wyo. Highway 120, remain open to vehicular travel, but the portion west of the gate at that location is no longer open to vehicles. Those portions will reopen in the spring when they’re dry and safe for travel; the temporary closure is intended to reduce damage to the road and, in turn, the county’s maintenance costs.

Travelers still can pass beyond the gate to a cattle guard to the west if they’re on foot, horse, snowmobile or ATV. Those types of travelers can also get to the Shoshone National Forest via Road 7UH and the Red Grade Road.

Folks are asked to stay on the roads and to respect private property along the route. Access to state and BLM lands south of the cattle guard is limited to people with valid timber harvesting permits and elderly or disabled persons with special permits. That’s part of an agreement between Trail Creek Partners and Park County.

Questions about the closure can be directed to the Park County Engineer’s Office at 754-8520.
This map shows Road 7UH (Monument Hill Road) as it departs Wyo. Highway 120 (in the east), crosses private and state land and then splits off into Red Grade Road and a BLM Road to the west. The roads are north of Cody.

After 36 years, Game and Fish staffer retires

Lew Stahl of Cody will retire after 36 years of service with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Most recently, he was the statewide fish passage coordinator in Cody.

“Lew's achievements are both numerous and remarkable,” said Mark Fowden, fish division chief, in a department news release. “His has been a diverse and productive career.”


Cody resident Lew Stahl, seen here at the Mumm Fishway on Bitter Creek in 2011, has retired after 36 years with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Photo courtesy Wyoming Game and Fish Department
Stahl began his Game and Fish career in 1978 as a seasonal wildlife biologist in Gillette and then worked nine months at the Downar Bird Farm near Yoder. In 1980, he moved to the Yellowtail Wildlife Habitat Management Area near Lovell and began his permanent service as a habitat unit manager for Game and Fish habitat areas in the Cody and Sheridan regions.

He transferred to the Lander region in 1988, where he worked on habitat areas around Riverton, Dubois and Lander. Stahl then became the terrestrial habitat biologist while in the Lander region and worked extensively with government agencies and private landowners.

He transferred from the terrestrial section to be the Cody region’s aquatic habitat biologist in August 1996 and was promoted to be Wyoming’s first fish passage coordinator in August 2010. In this statewide position he was responsible for providing fish upstream passage past barriers and keeping fish in the streams by screening canal systems.

“Truly, it is remarkable for a department employee to experience such a diversity of jobs and duties and to serve three divisions during their career,” Fowden said. “Lew's dedication to enhancing and maintaining habitat on private-, public- and (Wyoming Game and Fish) Commission-controlled lands and waters is a testament to his passion for fish and wildlife habitat regardless of where or how he practiced his craft.”

Stahl is an Iowa native, although he spent three years of grade school in Moorcroft. He attended Iowa State University before moving to Wyoming and earning wildlife management degrees from both Northwest College in Powell and the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Stahl also served in the Iowa and Wyoming Army National Guard from 1971-79.

In his spare time he enjoys fishing, hunting, camping, horses and woodworking. He has been a member of Wyoming Biologists’ Association, the Wildlife Society, Wyoming Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Stahl and his wife, Mary Jane, look forward to a new chapter in their lives and plan to travel in retirement.

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