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Committee kills federal land takeover bill

A House committee Wednesday killed legislation that would have authorized Wyoming to assume operations of national parks and other federal facilities in the case of a government shutdown.

Senate File 148 would have allowed the state to temporarily “seize” lands and facilities under the control of the federal government, if the governor deemed it necessary to keep them “successfully operating.”

The House Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee shot the bill down 3-5, after it cleared the Senate last week.

Under the bill, the governor could have directed Wyoming agencies, like the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Office of State Parks, Historic Sites, and Trails, to create a contingency plan for a scenario in which the federal government would be unable to properly manage its facilities, such as during a shutdown or natural disaster. The bill also would have allocated $500,000 to implement the plan.

Senate File 148 arose during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Federal employees at Grand Teton National Park, the National Elk Refuge and Bridger-Teton National Forest went two pay cycles without a check during the shutdown.

The deal that ended the shutdown gave Congress until Feb. 15 to reach an agreement on immigration policy and a border wall. If it fails, the government may close again.

— Cody Cottier, Jackson Hole Daily

Bill extends scholarship to regional neighbors

Wyoming is closer to allowing a select number of students from neighboring states to qualify for its in-state college scholarship program.

The proposal passed an initial vote in the state Senate on Tuesday after earlier clearing the House.

The bill would allow as many as 24 students at any given time from Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska and Utah to receive top-level Hathaway scholarships.

Top-level Hathaway recipients must have a 3.75 high school grade-point average or above and excellent standardized test scores. The scholarship covers over 80 percent of their tuition.

Under the bill, qualifying out-of-state students would be eligible for in-state tuition rates while getting the same top-tier scholarship to attend the University of Wyoming or Wyoming’s community colleges. A yet-to-be-established endowment would fund the program.

— The Associated Press

Cody Cottier covers town and state government. He grew up with a view of the Olympic Mountains, and after graduating Washington State University he traded it for a view of the Tetons. Odds are the mountains are where you’ll find him when not on deadline.

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