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Wyoming coach Craig Bohl prepares to lead the Cowboys out of the tunnel before their game against Colorado State on Nov. 5 at Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins, Colo. 

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Committee backs 5% increase to Hathaway scholarships
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The Wyoming Legislature’s joint education committee will draft a bill to increase Hathaway Scholarship awards by 5%, members unanimously voted Tuesday. If successful, it would be the second time the award amounts have increased since the scholarship was created in 2006.

The merit-based scholarship program pays a portion of Wyoming students’ tuition and fees at any of the seven community colleges or the University of Wyoming.

Historically, students receiving the top level scholarships have been able to cover the entirety of their community college tuition, or the bulk of University of Wyoming costs. But tuition increases and general economic inflation mean those awards aren’t worth as much as they used to be.

For example, the highest award amount in 2006 covered 91% of a University of Wyoming student’s tuition and fees and more than 160% of those costs for community college students.

Now it covers just over 50% of UW costs and less than 80% of community college costs.

In the last 15 years, tuition at the University of Wyoming has increased 90%. It’s risen upwards of 150% at each of the community colleges, according to state data.

Committee member Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, is a longtime advocate for the Hathaway scholarship and has attempted to increase the awards through legislation in the past. In 2013, he sponsored a bill to increase the awards by 5%. That bill failed, but the next year the education committee backed an identical proposal, which did pass into law.

Harshman tried again in 2019, this time proposing a 4.8% increase. The bill failed.

But he’s optimistic that his colleagues will see the need to keep up with rising education costs.

“I think it was pretty well received in the committee,” he said.

There are four tiers of scholarships students can earn depending on grade point average, what courses they’ve taken and how they perform on standardized tests. The scholarship enrolled just under 2,400 students in its most recent year, ranging in awards from $840 to $1,680 per semester.

A 5% boost would mean the lowest award amount of $840 per semester would increase to roughly $880, the second highest award of $1,260 would become $1,320 and the top award of $1,680 would grow to about $1,760. The formal bill has not been drafted yet, however, so these amounts may change.

In addition to the award amounts, committee members hope the bill will address a reputation problem.

The fund that pays for these scholarships is as healthy as ever, Harshman said. The program was created in 2006, and by 2009, the endowment had reached $405 million. Now, it’s on pace to reach $700 million.

But some people are under the impression that the scholarship is running out of money — a confusion that came up several times during debates during the most recent legislative session.

“It’s really a timing issue,” Harshman explained.

The Hathaway fund pays the various high education institutions the full award amounts for each of their students in August, but the fund doesn’t realize its investment earnings until September.

Meaning every year, the fund has had to draw from it’s reserve account to pay the scholarships before being refilled by healthy investment earnings, giving the impression that they’re running out of money.

The draft bill will seek to clarify the timing of those payments, but Harshman said how they’ll do that is still up for debate.

The joint education committee is scheduled to meet at least three more times before the legislature reconvenes in February and may retool the proposal between now and then.

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Governor Gordon issues emergency rule to increase fuel supply during wildfire season
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Gov. Mark Gordon issued an executive order on Tuesday that allows the Wyoming Department of Transportation to deliver additional gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel through Aug. 20.

Record-breaking travel and tourism coupled with efforts to combat an early fire season are straining the state’s fuel reserves. But a shortage of available drivers has prevented the state from increasing its access to fuel.

“It is critical that we have adequate fuel supplies,” Gordon said in a statement. “This is particularly necessary for air support during this fire season. These emergency rules will help increase fuel deliveries without potentially harmful delays.”

Under normal circumstances, drivers are limited to 14-hour workdays, and can spend no more than 11 hours per day on the road, according to Lt. Dustin Ragon of the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

The order institutes temporary emergency rules that will boost fuel availability by pausing the restrictions on drivers’ hours. It specifies that in spite of the suspended time limits, drivers will still be bound by all other regulations, and will be prohibited from operating delivery vehicles while fatigued.

“In particular, the concern was ensuring that we had adequate aviation fuel for the Forest Service, for air support and those types of actions,” said Michael Pearlman, Gordon’s communications director. “And so part of the reason [Gordon] signed the executive order was really to make sure that it wasn’t a transportation hiccup that was preventing fuel from making it to its destination, where it was needed.”

With transportation no longer a limiting factor, maintenance problems at refineries would be the most likely cause of any additional fuel shortages, said WYDOT Director Luke Reiner.

Wyoming is already facing a shortage of aviation fuel — particularly the jet fuel used to power larger planes — that is impacting commercial and general aviation airports throughout the state.

Both Dubois Municipal Airport and Hot Springs County Airport ran out of jet fuel as a result of the shortage, severely hampering operations, said Brian Olsen, aeronautics administrator for WYDOT.

“As far as our commercial service airports, I believe that they all have a supply right now,” Olsen said. “It’s pretty tight.”

And though Wyoming has not experienced significant shortages of diesel or gasoline this summer, concerns about future scarcity prompted the governor to preemptively include those fuels in the order, Reiner said.

“The same issues that are affecting aviation fuel have the potential to negatively impact the supply of diesel and gasoline,” he said.

The emergency exemption resembles orders signed by Wyoming governors in past winters — including this February — suspending operating time restrictions to increase propane supplies during periods of extreme cold. Gordon also paused those regulations at the start of the pandemic to facilitate the delivery of essential supplies.

Other governors have instituted similar policies in response to fuel shortages, including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Saturday.

Pelosi bars Trump allies from Jan. 6 probe
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WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday rejected two Republicans tapped by House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy to sit on a committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, a decision the Republican denounced as “an egregious abuse of power.”

McCarthy said the GOP won’t participate in the investigation if Democrats won’t accept the members he appointed.

Pelosi cited the “integrity” of the probe in refusing to accept the appointments of Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, picked by McCarthy to be the top Republican on the panel, or Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan. The two men are outspoken allies of former President Donald Trump, whose supporters laid siege to the Capitol that day and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s win. Both of them voted to overturn the election results in the hours after the siege.

Democrats have said the investigation will go on whether the Republicans participate or not, as Pelosi has already appointed eight of the 13 members — including Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a Trump critic — and that gives them a bipartisan quorum to proceed, according to committee rules.

Pelosi said she had spoken with McCarthy and told him that she would reject the two names.

“With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives Banks and Jordan to the Select Committee,” Pelosi said in a statement.

The move is emblematic of the raw political tensions in Congress that have only escalated since the insurrection and raises the possibility that the investigation — the only comprehensive probe currently being conducted of the attack — will be done almost entirely by Democrats. Pelosi originally tried to create an independent investigation that would have been evenly split between the parties, but Senate Republicans blocked that approach in a vote last month.

McCarthy immediately issued a statement that said her move will damage the institution of Congress.

“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts,” McCarthy said.

Shortly afterward, he blasted the Democratic leader in a news conference with all five members. “The only way to reverse this is to seat these five,” McCarthy said.

It is unclear how McCarthy would lead a separate investigation, as the minority does not have the power to set up committees. But he said the panel has lost “all legitimacy” because Pelosi wouldn’t allow the Republicans to name their own members.

Most in the GOP have remained loyal to Trump despite the violent insurrection of his supporters that sent many lawmakers running for their lives. McCarthy wouldn’t say for weeks whether Republicans would even participate in the probe, but he sent the five names to Pelosi on Monday.

Pelosi accepted McCarthy’s three other picks — Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, North Dakota Rep. Kelly Armstrong and Texas Rep. Troy Nehls. But McCarthy said that all five or none would participate.

Like Jordan and Banks, Nehls voted to overturn Biden’s victory. Armstrong and Davis voted to certify the election.

Banks recently traveled with Trump to the U.S.-Mexico border and visited him at his New Jersey golf course. In a statement after McCarthy tapped him for the panel, he sharply criticized the Democrats who had set it up.

“Make no mistake, Nancy Pelosi created this committee solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda,” Banks said.

Democrats whom Pelosi appointed to the committee earlier this month were angry over that statement, according to a senior Democratic aide familiar with the private deliberations and who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss them. They were also concerned over Banks’ two recent visits with Trump, the person said.

Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, was one of Trump’s most vocal defenders during his two impeachments and last month likened the new investigation to “impeachment three.” Trump was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate both times.

The back-and-forth came after all but two Republicans opposed the creation of the select committee in a House vote last month, with most in the GOP arguing that the majority-Democratic panel would conduct a partisan probe. Only Cheney and another frequent Trump critic, Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, voted in favor of the panel.

Cheney told reporters she agrees with Pelosi’s decision to reject Jordan and Banks. “The rhetoric around this from the minority leader and from those two members has been disgraceful,” she said.

Pelosi has the authority to approve or reject members, per committee rules, though she acknowledged her move was unusual. She said “the unprecedented nature of January 6th demands this unprecedented decision.”

The panel will hold its first hearing next week, with at least four rank-and-file police officers who battled rioters that day testifying about their experiences. Dozens of police officers were injured as the crowd pushed past them and broke into the Capitol building.

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New attack ad brands Cheney as 'Clinton Republican'
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Still over a year out from the House 2022 primary in Wyoming, the attack ads are ramping up.

Club for Growth, a fiscal conservative political action committee, who has been working to find a candidate challenging Rep. Liz Cheney to endorse, released a 30-second ad branding Cheney as a “Clinton Republican.”

With a slideshow of photos of Hillary Clinton, the ad starts, “Remember? She benefited from a famous political last name. She sided with Nancy Pelosi and attacked President Trump when he was in office. She supported impeachment and she continues to attack President Trump today.”

“Hillary Clinton? No, Liz Cheney,” the voice-over says as a photo of Clinton morphs into Cheney.

The Cheney camp did not hold back.

“Anyone who questions Liz Cheney’s conservative credentials is ignorant or lying,” a Cheney spokesperson told the Star-Tribune.

The ad is going to run on digital networks and NBC during primetime every night of the Olympics as well as during the opening and closing ceremonies in the designated market areas of Casper and Cheyenne.

Club for Growth spent $13,720 on TV ad slots, $18,000 on digital ads —like YouTube and Breitbart — and an estimated $9,000 on production costs, amounting to more than $40,000.

This ad does not endorse one candidate; it only strikes at Cheney and backs former President Trump.

“We’ve met with all the candidates and are currently assessing their viability,” said Joe Kildea, Vice President of communications. “We are working closely with Trump’s team to identify a candidate,”

That being said, Club for Growth is not going to be involved with the meetings Trump has coming up with at least two of the candidates, state Rep. Chuck Gray and Cheyenne businessman Darin Smith.

“President Trump will make up his own mind,” Kildea said. Interestingly, Club for Growth has not always supported Trump. In the Republican 2016 presidential primary, the organization endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz.

On Tuesday, Gray released a similar ad of his own, expressing his sustained support for Trump, while also swiping at Cheney.

“No good deed goes unpunished. President Trump gave us strong borders, energy independence and record income growth. But Liz Cheney voted to impeach him,” the ad’s voice-over began “Let’s thank President Trump, not impeach him.”

In February of this year, Club for Growth named Gray, among five other state lawmakers, as a “Wyoming Defender of Economic Freedom.”

On the Club for Growth Foundation Scorecard, which is based on voting records on issues of “economic liberty,” Liz Cheney has a 64% lifetime rating, which leaves her tied for 120th in the House.

After Club for Growth confirmed that they were shopping around Wyoming in late March for an endorsement in the race, releasing this ad is a sign that they are not backing down in their effort to unseat Liz Cheney.