Governor's construction funding fails in Legislature

The Wyoming Legislature has failed to agree on funding $126 million in construction projects requested by Republican Gov. Mark Gordon despite negotiations.

After 10 amendments Sen. Leland Christensen’s controversial bill enacting heavy fines for trespassing on critical infrastructure, passed late Friday night in the Wyoming Legislature's House by a vote of 36 to 23.

As originally written the bill would have enacted fines from $10,000 to $1 million for those who trespass on or attempt to impede access to or operation of critical infrastructure including pipelines, power plants, refineries, railroad tracks, water treatment facilities or telecommunication facilities.

Several nonprofit groups, including the Powder River Basin Resource Center, The American Civil Liberties Union, the Wyoming Outdoor Council and the AFL-CIO, expressed dismay that this bill could prevent them from peacefully protesting and voicing their concerns. In response, the House amended the fines for organizations that sponsor an action threatening Wyoming infrastructure from $1 million down to $100,000.

Christensen said that the bill has been heavily amended to not silence advocacy groups in its earliest phase, but that many of Wyoming’s critical facilities are vulnerable and in need of greater protections, though an attack has yet to take place.

“We need to tighten up security on these facilities significantly,” he said. “As a nationwide provider of electricity, oil, and gas, an attack on these facilities could have national repercussions that would greatly affect Wyoming’s economy.”

For more on this and other bills, look to the March 14 edition of the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Contact John Spina at 732-5911, or @JHNGtown.

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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