Guns in schools

Senate Ed panel eyes concealed guns in schools bill

Measure also OKs guns on UW, college campuses

Other action: Public pension bill clears first Senate floor vote

The Senate Education Committee will take testimony on a controversial House bill Friday morning that allows certain people to take concealed guns into schools and other buildings. Current law bars guns from most public schools. House Bill 105 Citizens’ and Students Self-Defense Act allows school employees with concealed carry permits to take a concealed gun into school district buildings after notifying the school district superintendent and school principal or other person responsible for a district building. The committee, under Chairman Hank Coe of Cody, will open the morning hearing at 8 a.m. (Feb. 8, 2013) in room S-11. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Allen Jaggi, R-HD19, Lyman. Under HB105, parents or guardians of students could carry a gun into their student’s school provided they notify the person responsible for the building and they have a concealed carry permit. The measure also allows anyone with a permit to carry a concealed weapon to take a gun into any facility at a Wyoming college or the University of Wyoming. It also specifically allows those with concealed carry permits to take a concealed gun to any athletic event conducted on public property. The measure is one of a passel of bills that either liberalize Wyoming gun laws or attempt to thwart anticipated new federal gun control laws in the wake of shootings in Colorado, Connecticut and elsewhere that claimed dozens of lives. Proponents have taken the position that more guns in schools might have prevented some of the deaths in the mass shooting in Connecticut and elsewhere.. Opponents say that the potential for accidents in schools or heated arguments at athletic events that could turn violent make this poor public policy for Wyoming.

Public pensions

Public pensions again were addressed in the Senate Thursday when Sen. Curt Meier, R-SD3, LaGrange, explained a bill that will pour $5.5 million into the system in FY 2013 and FY 2014. House Bill 250 Public employee retirement plans is part of an effort to have all the state’s retirement plans fully funded in 30 years, or 2042. It increases employee contributions to the plan by .5% beginning Sept. 1, 2013. Employer contributions to retirement funding will increase .5% on Sept. 1, 2014. In what is, in effect, a pay increase, Meier noted that the bill calls for employers to pay the additional employee contribution due Sept. 1 2013. The bill Majority Floor Leader Phil Nicholas, R-HD10, Laramie, reminded senators that properly financing the funds maintains a good plan that serves both the state and its employees. He noted that legislators considered closing the existing defined benefit plans to move to a 401k-like defined contribution plan for state employees. A study of the cost of closing the existing plan revealed that it would cost the state about $1 billion, he said. Nicholas and Meier were among the senators backed the very conservative plan on a voice vote in Committee of the Whole. The bill still must pass second and third readings.

Voting rights

Also on Thursday, Senate leadership referred to the Senate Corporations, Elections, and Political Subdivisions Committee a bill that will ease restrictions on restoring voting rights to non-violent felons. The measure passed the Wyoming House Wednesday. State Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R –HD43, Cheyenne, hopes to make it easier for non-violent felons to become voters. He drafted HB 129 Voting rights, which would reduce the waiting period for restoration of rights from five years after completion of any sentence, probation and parole requirements to just one year. The bill represents an effective way to help disenfranchised citizens become active participants in civic life.

Still of concern

Two other worrisome bill were passed by the House and sent to the Senate. House Bill 228 Transfer of federal lands – study funds a study of transferring all federal lands in Wyoming to the state or private individuals (Remember, I get Titcomb Basin), except for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, Devils Tower and Fossil Butte national monuments, Fort Laramie, and the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. House Bill 237 Unemployment – Worker misconduct requires the state to deny unemployment insurance benefits to workers who are terminated for “willfully” doing something the employer considers against her/his interests. The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Tom Reeder, R-HD58, Casper. A pro-job safety bill, HB95 Railroad crossings-on-track vehicles, won unanimous approval this week in the Senate Transportation committee. The proposed law would require drivers to obey all crossing signals at railroad crossings when an “on-track vehicle” used by right-of-way repair crews approaches the crossing. The bill is a safety measure aimed at protecting both the public and railroad maintenance workers.

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