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Legislative Report: Marriage, Education, Smoking [AUDIO]

Education issues, countywide smoking bans and the validity of same-sex marriages all came up in the Legislature Thursday. Amy Richards has more in the Legislative Report.

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The Legislative Report is brought to you by Hilltop National Bank.

After an hour of spirited debate, the Wyoming House gave initial approval today (Thursday) to a bill that would mean that Wyoming would not recognize the validity of same-sex marriages performed in other states. A critic of the bill, Rep. Mary Throne said the bill was targeted towards one group.

Rep. Mary Throne:

“It’s about picking on people who are different. And we are here to protect all of our constituents, to stand up for all of their rights.”

Rep. Frank Peasley said the bill stands up for the state’s traditional definition of marriage as involving only one man and one woman.

Rep. Frank Peasley:

“We’ve done this for a few thousand years. Will you just please let us be … man and wife, be a marriage.”

Currently Wyoming specifies that the state must respect legal marriages performed elsewhere. A same-sex divorce case is pending in the State Supreme Court.

The House passed House Joint Resolution 2 on second reading, which calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring balanced federal budget. Rep Kendell Kroeker explains.

Rep. Kendell Kroeker:

“Yes, it is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This isn’t actually bringing the amendment. As a state we don’t have the authority to bring an amendment, but what it is doing is calling upon Congress to bring forth the amendment. If the U.S. Congress brings forth the amendment and gets it passed, it is saying we will support it and we will ratify it.”

Lawmakers are considering developing a statewide accountability system for education. Sen. Hank Coe, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, says they took about 3 1/2 hours of testimony on Senate File 70, on Wednesday. He says they will continue discussing the bill next week.

Sen. Hank Coe:

“It’s a bill that creates a select committee to go out, work with the department, work with the board, work with local stake holders, and try to come back and be able to say we have tried to address accountability to increase achievement and do that, so this is the first step into it.”

Coe says lawmakers want to see if they are getting what they are paying for.

Sen. Coe, getting money’s worth:

“We are spending the most money per ADM of any state in the country. Our teacher’s salaries, if you compare them on a cost of living basis, are second highest, the last poll I saw. And the people are concerned about it. They want better student achievement. The scores aren’t there. The results aren’t there.”

SF 70 would require teachers to reach student achievement targets or face sanctions. Coe says they’ll likely take up the bill again on Monday. He says the Committee will begin taking testimony Friday on SF 51, which deals with the controversial issue of teacher tenure.

The Senate Labor, Health and Services Committee killed a bill that would have let the counties decide whether or not to impose a smoke ban. Committee Chairman Sen. Charlie Scott, says it appears the counties didn’t want to take on that responsibility.

Sen. Charlie Scott:

“Comes down to one of the arguments last year–was it last year or two years ago, two years ago I think–when we tried a statewide smoking ban, was there ought to be a local option.  Okay, ain’t going to be local option because the local people don’t want to make that kind of decision, so we’re going to have to come back, in the future with a statewide smoking ban.”

That’s the Legislative Report; I’m Amy Richards for K2 Radio news.

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