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Football
NFL Draft
UW's Josh Allen, Casper's Taven Bryan expected to be drafted Thursday in first round of NFL Draft

ARLINGTON, Texas — On a gray Wednesday, just windy enough to make two Wyoming products feel at home, a mix of middle schoolers and future millionaires took part in the most basic of football drills. Handing the ball off, playing catch, knocking tackling dummies to the turf. The game of football, simplified.

It’s a game that will soon become a vocation for the taller, more muscular portion of the group. But before they play one more down of football, they will step inside the behemoth of a stadium that sat in the distance — looming or beckoning, depending on each NFL Draft prospect’s anxiety levels.

“As weird as it seems, I’m not nervous at all,” Josh Allen said after the morning’s activities. “I’m content with everything that’s going to happen tomorrow, whether it’s first, second, fifth, 10th.”

“You know, it really hasn’t hit me yet,” Taven Bryan said. “It probably will tomorrow. I’ll be sitting in the green room, and they’ll be calling people, and I’ll probably get nervous. But right now, I’m just kind of hanging out.”

Allen, a former quarterback for the University of Wyoming, and Bryan, a former defensive lineman at Natrona County, are two of the 22 prospects who will be in attendance Thursday at AT&T Stadium when 32 players are selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.

If picked at No. 13 or higher, Allen will become the highest-drafted Cowboy in UW history. He is all but guaranteed to be Wyoming’s first first-round draft pick since it had two in 1976. Bryan, who played college football at the University of Florida, will be the first Natrona County player ever drafted into the NFL, and the first Wyoming-born player drafted since 2011. He could become the first Wyoming-born player to go in the first round since 2001, and the first Wyoming high school product to do so since 1965.

For the first time, the annual event will be held in an NFL stadium, at a venue so colossal it was dubbed “Jerry World” in reference to Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones. Also for the first time, all three days will be shown on broadcast television.

But Thursday, the first night, is the biggest night of all. After a long winter of the all-star games, pro days and March’s NFL Combine, the sooner the better, Allen said.

“They could have had the draft a month ago,” the Firebaugh, California, native said Thursday. “I would’ve been fine with that. But we’re a day away, knowing that all this stuff is going to be over with. We’re going to be on a team. We’re going to be working. It’s going to football 24/7. I just can’t wait for that.”

The NFL media’s general consensus says Allen remains in contention for the draft’s very first pick, held by the Cleveland Browns. But a combination of factors — a large class of quality quarterbacks, a number of teams needing an answer at that position, the Browns’ zipped lips — has created plenty of intrigue and uncertainty.

“I had seven visits, so I can see myself in seven different uniforms,” Allen said. “Whatever happens, happens. I’m looking forward to the challenge of being in the NFL. I’m looking forward to getting with my teammates and my new coaching staff and putting in the hours to start winning football games. Because that’s really what it’s all about.”

Allen said around 60 Firebaugh residents have made the trip to North Texas, as have his parents, siblings, grandparents, girlfriend, Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl, Wyoming offensive coordinator Brent Vigen and quarterback guru Jordan Palmer.

Bryan is accompanied at the draft by his mother, father, sister, grandmother and best friend, he said. The fact that the magnitude of the weekend hadn’t yet sunk in was evident in his characteristically relaxed demeanor.

“It’s just kind of what you’d expect,” he said. “I’m kind of just more of a carefree dude, and I just kind of wing things.”

He is not believed to be a consideration for the teams at the very top of the draft, but projections put him solidly in the first round.

Bryan jokingly wondered whether he would be allowed to stay at the event if he hadn’t been drafted by the third round — a highly unlikely result for the Casper native.

“You don’t get to choose it, so whoever takes me, takes me,” Bryan said. “So, hopefully I get drafted. That would be nice, and not be the last dude in the green room. That would be kind of weird. But, no, just any team that takes me, I’d be happy to go and try to fit in and do the best I can.”

Before long, Bryan and Allen will trade suits for shoulder pads. Just like that, it will be back to football.

“It’s really exciting, just knowing that I’m going to get picked,” Allen said. “Whether it’s the top, whether it’s number 100. I’m looking to solidify myself after the draft, because that’s really what happens. It’s not where or when you get drafted, it’s what you do after you get drafted. So that’s what I’m looking forward to.”


Casper
Casper to remain in the Wyoming Association of Municipalities after close vote by city leaders

Casper spends approximately $40,000 a year to belong to the Wyoming Association of Municipalities, but City Council members are divided on whether that’s a worthwhile investment.

During Tuesday’s work session, the Council ultimately decided to stay with the association, which advocates on behalf of local governments at the state and federal level. But some members firmly argued that membership fee was too high.

Instead of using the association to relay the city’s concerns to state Legislators, Councilman Jesse Morgan said council members should discuss matters directly with the representatives.

“They live right here in our community and county,” he said.

Councilman Chris Walsh also saw no benefit to remaining in the association.

“I don’t think they listen to us… I think we should de-fund it and watch nothing happen. We’ll be fine,” he said.

But others felt it was crucial to remain in the organization.

State legislators don’t contact individual city officials for feedback but they do reach out to professional organizations that represent many municipalities, said Councilman Bob Hopkins.

Vice Mayor Charlie Powell credited the association with ensuring that local governments received an adequate amount of direct distribution funding from the state this year.

A bill securing $105 million for local governments passed through the Legislature with no amendments and was signed into law by Gov. Matt Mead last month.

“It just sailed through [the Legislature] and I don’t think that was an accident,” said Powell.

Securing this funding was the association’s primary objective throughout the last year, executive director Rick Kaysen previously told the Star-Tribune. Many local leaders worried the requested amount would be reduced because the state is struggling with below-average tax revenue due to low energy prices.

But Councilman Dallas Laird objected to the idea that WAM played a major role in getting the bill passed.

“I don’t believe they had anything to do with the $105 million,” he said.

Leaving WAM to save money might sound appealing, but City Manager Carter Napier warned the Council that it can be difficult to replace their services.

Towns and cities that choose this option often hire their own private lobbyist, which Napier said isn’t the same as belonging to the association’s “collective voice.”

Councilmen Shawn Johnson and Hopkins both doubted hiring a private lobbyist would be any cheaper than remaining members of WAM.

The Council ultimately informally voted four to three to stay in the association. Council members Michael Huber and Kenyne Humphrey were absent.

Although its primary objective this year was to secure the $105 million, Kaysen previously said that the organization’s long-term goal is to push legislators to revise the state’s tax laws to give local governments more taxing authority.

Wyoming is one of the few states that do not give cities or counties independent taxing authority, meaning these communities are largely reliant on appropriations from the Legislature to supplement the share of local sales and property taxes they receive.

“It’s very difficult to do long-term planning when there’s uncertainty on whether the dollars will be there or not,” Kaysen previously told the Star-Tribune.


File, Star-Tribune  

Executive Director of the Wyoming Association of Municipalities Rick Kaysen leads the group's board meeting in January in Cheyenne. The Casper City Council voted to stay in the organization on Tuesday.


State
AP
Trump's travel ban likely to be upheld, justices indicate

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court seemed poised Wednesday to uphold President Donald Trump's ban on travel to the U.S. by visitors from several Muslim-majority countries, a move that would hand the president a major victory on a signature and controversial policy.

In the court's first full-blown consideration of a Trump order, the conservative justices who make up the court's majority seemed unwilling to hem in a president who has invoked national security to justify restrictions on who can or cannot step on U.S. soil.

The justices in December allowed the ban to take full effect even as the legal fight over it continued, but Wednesday was the first time they took it up in open court. Trump's tough stance on immigration was a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, and he rolled out the first version of the ban just a week after taking office, sparking chaos and protests at a number of airports.

The ban's challengers almost certainly need either Chief Justice John Roberts or Justice Anthony Kennedy on their side if the court is to strike down the policy that its opponents have labeled a Muslim ban.

But neither appeared receptive to arguments made by lawyer Neal Katyal, representing the ban's opponents, that Trump's rule stems from his campaign pledge to keep Muslims out of the country and is unlike immigration orders issued by any other president.

The room was packed for the court's final arguments until October, and people waited in line for seats for days. "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda was in the audience. Demonstrators protesting the ban filled the area outside the building.

Some who oppose the ban have said courts should treat Trump differently from his predecessors. But that issue was raised only obliquely from the bench when Justice Elena Kagan talked about a hypothetical president who campaigned on an anti-Semitic platform and then tried to ban visitors from Israel.

When Solicitor General Noel Francisco, defending the ban, started to answer that such a turn of events was extremely unlikely because of the two countries' close relationship, Kagan stopped him. "This is an out-of-the-box kind of president in my hypothetical," she said, to laughter.

"We don't have those, Your Honor," Francisco replied.

While there was discussion about Trump's statements both as a candidate and as president, no justice specifically referenced his tweets on the subject, despite Katyal's attempt to get them to focus on last fall's retweets of inflammatory videos that stoked anti-Islam sentiment.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the most aggressive questioner of Francisco.

She told him she doubted that the president has "the authority to do more than Congress has already decided is adequate" under immigration law. She and Kagan also questioned Francisco closely about whether the ban discriminates against Muslims.

From the other side, Kennedy challenged Katyal about whether the ban would be unending. He said the policy's call for a report every six months "indicates there'll be a reassessment" from time to time.

"You want the president to say, 'I'm convinced that in six months we're going to have a safe world,'" Kennedy said, seemingly rejecting Katyal's argument.

His only question that seemed to favor the challengers came early in the arguments, when he asked Solicitor General Francisco whether Trump's campaign statements should be considered in evaluating the administration's ban. Francisco told the justices they shouldn't look at those campaign statements.

Kennedy pressed on that point. Speaking of a hypothetical candidate for mayor, he asked if what was said during that candidate's campaign was irrelevant if on "day two" of his administration the new mayor acted on those statements.

Francisco held his ground saying the presidential oath of office "marks a fundamental transformation."

With Katyal at the lectern, Justice Samuel Alito said it seemed wrong to call the travel policy a Muslim ban when it applies to just five of 50 mostly Muslim countries, 8 percent of the world's Muslim population and only one country — Iran — among the 10 largest with Muslim majorities. "Would a reasonable observer think this is a Muslim ban?" Alito asked.

Outside the court, opponents of the ban held signs that read "No Muslim Ban. Ever" and "Refugees Welcome." In another indication of heightened public interest, the court released an audio recording after arguments ended. The last time the court did that was for gay marriage arguments in 2015.

The justices are looking at the third version of a policy that Trump brought out shortly after taking office. That brought immediate turmoil as travelers were stopped at airports and some were detained for hours. The first version was blocked by courts and withdrawn. Its replacement was allowed to take partial effect, but expired in September.

The current version is indefinite and now applies to travelers from five countries with overwhelmingly Muslim populations — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. It also affects two non-Muslim countries, blocking travelers from North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families. A sixth majority-Muslim country, Chad, was removed from the list this month after improving "its identity-management and information sharing practices," Trump said in a proclamation.

The administration has argued that courts have no role to play because the president has broad powers over immigration and national security, and foreigners have no right to enter the country. 


Govt-and-politics
Election 2018
Lummis endorses Galeotos for governor, says Cheyenne businessman can ‘downsize’ Wyoming

Former U.S. House Rep. Cynthia Lummis endorsed Cheyenne businessman Sam Galeotos’s campaign for governor Wednesday, marking one of the first big-name endorsements of the 2018 campaign.

“You have a unique skill set and background that matches up perfectly with what Wyoming needs right now,” Lummis, who served four terms in Congress, told Galeotos in an online video.

Lummis said that Galeotos’s experience running “huge organizations” during “difficult times” — a reference to his time as a high-ranking corporate executive — closely mirrored what the Cowboy State needs in its next governor.

“We’re going to have to downsize and have a lean, robust state government,” Lummis said. “Nobody is better prepared to lead that effort than (Galeotos).”

Though Galeotos has focused more on economic growth than reducing the size of government, he did call out “excessive government spending” during a speech at the Wyoming Republican Party convention in Laramie last weekend.

“We must ... cut government spending,” he said. “Cutting spending is something I have done over and over again in my career.”

The Legislature grappled with a roughly $850 million deficit during its budget session earlier this year, eventually deciding to reject many drastic options for cuts and choosing to rely more on savings to cover the gap and actually increasing spending on social services. However, lawmakers still reduced spending on schools by almost $30 million this year, following previous cuts of more than $70 million.

A big Wyoming name

Lummis was widely seen as the frontrunner to replace Gov. Matt Mead before she announced that she would not enter the race last fall. She served as a longtime state legislator before being elected treasurer in 1998 and then to the U.S. House in 2008.

She will serve as co-chair of Galeotos’s campaign, according to spokeswoman Amy Edmonds.

During the 2008 House race, Lummis ran against Mark Gordon, the current state treasurer, in the Republican primary. Gordon is also running for governor this year, and after Lummis and former secretary of state Ed Murray bowed out, Gordon is the only candidate who has previously won statewide office.

Former Wyoming U.S. senator Al Simpson endorsed Gordon in March.

“Mark is the only candidate in this race who has the experience, values, savvy and grit to get crackin’ and get the job done – from day one,” Simpson said in a statement at the time.

‘Like Trump’

Despite his lack of political experience, Galeotos has a well-staffed campaign and appears to be among the top three contenders in the August primary, along with Gordon and Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman.

Galeotos grew up in Cheyenne before leaving the state to work in the travel technology industry. He served as CEO of Cheap Tickets, Inc., before its sale to Cendant, where he would go on to supervise a 5,000-employee division.

Education and “good-paying jobs” in Wyoming has arguably been the key plank of Galeotos’s platform. He said that is achievable by reducing regulations on the energy industry and focusing on growing the tourism and agriculture sectors.

“Like President Trump, Sam has successfully run huge organizations,” Lummis said in a statement released by the campaign. “He has shown the fortitude and the savvy to make tough calls and to do the right thing.”

Galeotos said he was happy to receive Lummis’s support.

“She always held true to her conservative principles and that allowed her to serve Wyoming well, both here and in Washington,” Galeotos said in the statement.

Galeotos also received the endorsement of first-term State Senator Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, during the GOP convention.

“Sam has the vision and private sector experience to lead Wyoming in a world that is becoming more dependent on technology and global markets,” she said.

The other Republican candidates for governor are Sheridan businessman and political novice Bill Dahlin, perennial candidates and right-wing hardliners Taylor Haynes and Rex Rammell, and Jackson financier Foster Friess. Former state lawmaker Mary Throne is the lone Democratic candidate to have announced for governor.


 

Lummis