Wyoming News Briefs
February 14, 2019
Bill requiring work for Medicaid heads to House
CHEYENNE (WNE) — A bill to place work requirements on certain recipients of Medicaid in Wyoming made its way to the House floor Thursday.
Senate File 144, sponsored by Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, would require able-bodied Medicaid recipients between the ages of 19 and 64 to put in 20 hours a week through a combination of work, schooling, workforce training or volunteering with a local nonprofit.
The bill passed out of the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee on Thursday morning on a 5-4 vote. It now heads to the House floor. It previously had passed out of the Senate on a 23-5 vote.
The proposed new requirements wouldn’t apply to someone who is:
- a parent or guardian of a child age 6 or younger; or
- the primary caregiver of someone who has a serious medical condition or disability.
The state estimates about 3,200 people would have to meet the new requirements. Any work requirements would need to be approved by the federal government before being implemented.
Supporters pointed out the bill would help encourage those able-bodied recipients to get back to work. While it is unknown how many people might be kicked off Medicaid for noncompliance, Hicks said he didn’t think there would be that many.
“You can’t drive through a town in Wyoming that doesn’t have ‘help wanted’ signs in the window,” Hicks said. “Given where we’re at in the labor market and the opportunities we have in the community college and workforce training and community services, I don’t think there’s going to be that many people who fall off the program.”
Charges against former superintendent dismissed
TORRINGTON (WNE) — A pair of misdemeanor charges against former Goshen County School District No. 1 Superintendent Jean Chrostoski relating to an alleged vehicle accident and subsequent cover-up were dismissed on Feb. 11 “in the best interest of justice,” according to court documents.
Chrostoski was facing a charge of conspiracy to commit interference with a police officer and failure to report a motor vehicle accident to law enforcement.
The case had previously been scheduled to go to trial on Wednesday, but Deputy Goshen County Prosecuting Attorney Ryan Wright filed a motion to dismiss the charges.
According to Avvo.com, a legal guidance website, a case is dismissed in the best interest of justice if there isn’t substantial evidence to prosecute.
Charges against another GCSD No. 1 employee, Kimberly Flock, were dismissed earlier this month. As of Thursday morning, GCSD administrative assistants Loreen Fritzler and Kim Cawthra were still facing single charges of conspiracy to interfere with a police officer. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty and are being represented by James Eddington.
Chrostoski retired from her superintendent post on Feb. 1. She announced her retirement with a letter to the GCSD Board of Trustees in January.
In a letter read during the meeting, Chrostoski said she has been “struggling with this decision since I turned 60 in September, and have spent the last few months trying to determine when the right time would be to retire.”
However, Chrostoski told the Casper Star-Tribune in January the crash and the ensuing investigation played a part in her decision to retire, though her decision wasn’t “entirely related” to the investigation.
Man faces prison after standoff with police
EVANSTON (WNE) — A Bridger Valley man is facing a maximum of 28 years in prison for events that occurred in Lyman on Jan. 21.
Jonathon P. Burkett, 29, is charged with aggravated burglary, wrongful taking or disposing of property, reckless endangering, interfering with a peace officer and use of methamphetamine.
On the morning of Jan. 21, Lyman Police Officer Jason Forsgren reported to John’s Bar after the owner of the bar called police when she found Burkett in the bar office going through her personal belongings.
According to court documents, the bar owner said Burkett was in possession of a handgun at the time she confronted him and told him to leave the bar.
Sgt. Andy Kopp of the Uinta County Sheriff’s Office subsequently located Burkett at his parents’ home in Lyman, and Forsgren and Mountain View Police Officer Bobby Eggleston joined Kopp at that residence.
Burkett was still in possession of the handgun in a makeshift holster and refused to disarm when asked to do so several times by responding officers.
Burkett exited the residence, which officers allowed in an effort to reduce the risk to those inside the home, but he continued to refuse to disarm or obey commands from officers.
When told he was under arrest for criminal entry at the bar, Burkett continued to refuse to cooperate and ultimately reached for the gun, getting his hand to the pistol grip as officers rushed in to grab his hand, take him to the ground and disarm him.
The felony aggravated burglary charge carries a minimum of five years and a maximum of 25 years in prison, a $50,000 fine or both.
Torrington school board votes against 4-day week
TORRINGTON (WNE) — Torrington schools will not move to a four-day week for the 2019-20 school year. The proposal failed on a 7-to-2 vote Feb. 12 at the regular Goshen County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees’ meeting.
Trustees Zach Miller and Kerry Bullington voted in favor of the change, all other trustees voted against.
Each board member made a statement explaining his or her vote.
As part of his reasoning, Carlos Saucedo said: “Change this drastic should be made based on compelling data evidence showing convincing gains and academic performance and developmental capabilities. It seems, at best, this change would keep us at status quo, and the benefits do not outweigh the consequences.”
Jeff McClun said his biggest concerns include a drop in student achievement with fewer days in school; parents needing to find daycare or staying home from work to provide care; a longer school day and later practices; difficulty or impossibility of juniors or seniors to take college courses; loss of hours and wages for bus drivers and cooks; and possibilities of an increase in illegal and reckless behavior with an extra day off, among others.
Christine Miller stated while she, personally, would love the four-day school week as it would fit her family’s lifestyle, research is inconclusive regarding student achievement – which she called her main motivator. Miller added considering the four-day for attendance centers separately is something that may change her mind.
“I do struggle with the stated reason for the change,” she said. “I can’t necessarily support the logic to change the entire school calendar … for collegial work … I’m not sure we’ve exhausted all other tactics to solve the issues there.”
Aggressive sales techniques cost Jackson skin care salon its license
JACKSON (WNE) — A skin care business known for soliciting customers on the sidewalk near Town Square had its license pulled by the Jackson Town Council because of aggressive and questionable sales practices.
At a special meeting on Jan. 29, councilors voted unanimously to revoke Sense Life’s license.
“We have received a number of complaints about the business,” Councilor Jim Stanford said. “I have been harassed walking down the sidewalk. It doesn’t seem to be adding anything to our town. It appears to be the business equivalent of spam.”
The Jackson Police Department’s code enforcement officer started investigating the business in summer 2017.
“We were dealing with complaints on a weekly basis,” Jackson police Lt. Roger Schultz said.
The complaints varied. Some pedestrians were mad that they couldn’t walk on the sidewalk outside 50 W. Broadway without being accosted with perfume or practically dragged into the store.
“That’s against municipal code,” Schultz said.
One woman told police that she got stuck with a $12,296 bill and when she tried to return the products she was denied and after she returned to her home state they tried to sell her a different skin care package for $35,000 that employees said was worth $100,000.
Another customer said she had agreed to buy $500 worth of products but they “upgraded” her “experience” without telling her about a price increase and charged her $12,000.
A separate complaint alleged that salesmen got a woman drunk on free alcohol so they could trick her into paying more.
“If this had been a one-time deal and prices were clearly marked that would be one thing, but this was a reoccurring problem,” Schultz said.
Bill to create tourism districts killed
ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — A bill that would have given communities the option to create tourism improvement districts was defeated 17-13 in the Senate’s committee of the whole Thursday.
Sen. Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer, was one of the senators who opposed the bill. He said his decision to vote against the measure was “based mostly on the fact that the levee imposed by the new district I believe is another name for increased tax burden on business owners.”
“No doubt the increased money would benefit any tourism efforts in all communities, but there is no hard evidence that the end result would justify the means,” he said.
House Bill 93 would have given cities, towns and counties the ability to establish districts to increase tourism, improve visitors’ experiences and promote special events.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, told the Rocket-Miner before the vote he thought the bill would be a boost to tourism across the state. He said it would even the playing field for places like Casper, for example, that are interested in acquiring a regional convention because they are competing against communities like Billings, Montana, which has a tourism improvement district.
Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs, said he voted against the HB 93 in third reading in the House. It passed 32-26 with two excused. On Feb. 4, it was introduced to the Senate.
“First, it would impose an additional tax on retailers who are on thin margins,” he said. “The bill would tax businesses in the proposed district who object to the district formation, if more than 50 percent of the businesses in the proposed district do approve it. Second, the proposed new district would have unlimited taxing power.”