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Mark Gordon

Gov. Mark Gordon talks with attendees earlier this month during the Industrial Hemp Summit in Casper.

The year’s first formal meeting on streamlining state government will be taking place this week at a meeting in Cheyenne.

The Wyoming Legislature’s Government Efficiency Commission will be huddling once again with a state-hired consultant, Alvarez & Marsal, to recommend next steps for a government restructuring recommended by the group in 2017.

The group’s contract was renewed last year as part of a three-stage effort to reduce spending at a time where the state’s budget has, almost annually, become a constant target for cuts and criticism from fiscal hawks across the Equality State. Early recommendations included reducing and consolidating administrative support services within state government, pursuing new types of shared services and rehiring staff in departments where levels have been diminished to points where they are no longer operating at their full capacity, among other recommendations.

State leaders – including Gov. Mark Gordon – have expressed faith that the group’s efforts could lead to tens of millions of dollars in savings to the state, but little has been heard from the group since the commission’s last meeting in November.

Gordon, meanwhile, has been looking to apply other efficiencies to his own office. In an interview with the Star-Tribune prior to taking office, Gordon spoke in great detail of the strides he had made to increase efficiency and productivity in his time as state treasurer, describing principles he applied there that he wished to administer across the entirety of state government.

While Gordon’s office will be responsible for providing the committee with an update on the consultant’s progress on Thursday, Gordon’s chief of staff, Pat Arp, will be providing the committee with a synopsis of the governor’s formal policy approach during the meeting, according to an agenda posted on the Wyoming Legislature website last week.

The Week Ahead

Monday: Reps. Charles Pelkey & Cathy Connolly and Sen. Chris Rothfuss are co-hosting town hall and legislative wrap-up in Laramie. Governor Mark Gordon will speak briefly at Wyoming’s 131st State Arbor Day in Cheyenne. Today is also the 151st anniversary of the signing of the Ft. Laramie Treaty.

Tuesday: None.

Wednesday: Capitol Building Restoration Oversight Committee meets in Cheyenne. Wyoming Broadband Advisory Council to hold statewide teleconference.

Thursday: Joint Committee on Revenue meets in Lander; Government Efficiency Commission meets in Cheyenne. National Day of Prayer celebrated statewide.

Friday: Gordon will spend the day attending the Old West Invitational Turkey Shoot in Hulett.

Weekend: Wyoming GOP meets in Riverton. Gov. Gordon will attend a 100th Anniversary Celebration for the Casper Rotary Club.

Have an event you’d like highlighted here? Email me with the date, time, and place!

Wyoming Politics

Governor Mark Gordon has opened the first three months of his administration with the lowest disapproval rating of any governor in the nation, according to new quarterly polling numbers from the Morning Consult.

However, the nation’s 15th-most popular governor – with an approval rating of 53 percent – is also one of the nation’s least well-known governors, with 37 percent of respondents saying they’d “never heard of” the Johnson County Republican, though it should be noted that Wyoming’s results were given one of the widest margins of error in the country: The opinion of Wyoming Democrats in the poll, for example, had a 10-point margin of error, and independents had a margin of error of seven.

Gordon’s 2019 Q1 numbers aren’t much of a surprise, very much in line with those of former Gov. Matt Mead, who left office with a 60 percent approval rating and a 26 percent disapproval rating. (Mead, after eight years in office, was also better known, potentially explaining the wide variability.)

The governor, however, has done a good enough job to earn a mention in a recent piece in The Hill for his place among an uncommonly active crop of freshman executives.

“Elected in the age of Trump, the new class of Republican governors have advanced a more quiet brand of pragmatic conservatism, in contrast to the hyper-partisanship demonstrated by both sides coming out of Washington, D.C.,” Phil Cox, a former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, told the newspaper.

Also ranked in the poll were Wyoming Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso. Perennially ranked as having two of the Senate’s highest net approval ratings, both finished with favorability in the low-50s with unfavorable ratings at or below 26 percent.

Eastern Shoshones makes pick for governor’s liaison position: The Eastern Shoshone Business Council has nominated a liaison to Gordon’s office: Lee D. Tendore. Tendore, a Marine Corps veteran and Eastern Shoshone tribal member, is originally from Fort Washakie. (via The Riverton Ranger)

Governor, tribal leaders talk reservation development on campus: Gordon said this week the state of Wyoming has a role to play in reducing the layers of government bureaucracy that impede economic development on the Wind River Indian Reservation. (via The Laramie Boomerang)

Gillette lawmaker accuses LGBTQ advocacy group of ‘exploiting’ students to ‘advance agenda’: A Wyoming state legislator accused LGBTQ advocacy group Wyoming Equality of “exploiting children” in order to “further an agenda” in the wake of two student-related incidents involving homophobia over the past several months — a narrative Wyoming Equality disputes. (via Trib.com)

UW files first arguments in Supreme Court gun case: Attorneys representing the University of Wyoming filed the school’s first arguments Tuesday in a Wyoming Supreme Court case concerning UW’s ability to restrict the carrying of firearms on campus. (via The Laramie Boomerang)

With Zinke’s help, Wyoming gold, copper mining could resume: A former gold and copper mining area in Wyoming could get a new lease on life with help from former U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who recently joined the board of a minerals exploration and development company. (via The Associated Press)

Campbell County GOP considers resolution to purge, ‘purify’ party: In an effort to guard against “the infiltration of the Wyoming Republican Party by liberals and moderates,” the Campbell County Republican Party will consider a resolution on Saturday that declares the party has the “authority to disqualify” Republican candidates for elected office. (via WyoFile)

Around Wyoming

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Laramie County submits application for $6 million for new manufacturing facility: Laramie County plans to submit a grant and loan application to state officials in hopes of funding construction of a manufacturing facility that could bring more than 80 new jobs to the area. (via The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle)

Fans gear up for Longmire Days: Sheriff Walt Longmire may have retired at the end of his Netflix series, but his diehard fans won’t let him ride off into the sunset just yet.

“‘Longmire’ really continues to be a phenomenon,” said Jennifer McCormick, director of marketing and programs for the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce. “I’ve had a number of people contact me for the first time about Longmire Days this year. A lot of them have just discovered the series on Netflix. I don’t have an exact number of how many people will be coming to our event this year, but I don’t see the numbers going down anytime soon. Old Walt is just as popular as he’s ever been.” (via The Buffalo Bulletin)

Stickers from white nationalist group found at Gillette College: Stickers and posters from a recently rebranded white nationalist group were found plastered around the Gillette College campus recently and were immediately removed by campus law enforcement. (via The Gillette News-Record)

Citing high housing costs, Wyoming Game and Fish eyes Jackson departure: Teton County’s extraordinary housing costs have the Wyoming Game and Fish Department exploring the possibility of combining its Jackson and Pinedale regions and shifting its workforce out of the valley, commissioners announced last week.

This announcement came just days after local officials rejected a privately-funded, 155-unit affordable housing project on a vacant lot on the outskirts of town. (via The Jackson Hole News&Guide)

Eye On Washington

There’s always a local angle.

Former Vice President Joe Biden declared his run for president last week and, though the Obama administration itself had several scandals attached to it – including continued warrantless surveillance from the National Security Administration, systemic failures in the Department of Veterans Affairs, thousands of bombs dropped on the Middle East and the surveillance of journalists by the Department of Justice – one sticks out clearly in the minds of Wyomingites: the time Joe Biden was dinged by a government ethics watchdog for unauthorized use of a government-owned lodge at Grand Teton National Park.

A 2015 report from the Interior Department watchdog confirmed that Biden – along with then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson – were among those who enjoyed approximately 186 unpaid visits to the Brinkerhoff Lodge in the park, using a little-known loophole in the law to render any visits to the lodge “official.”

Biden eventually paid up.

Sen. John Barrasso released a discussion draft of his Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019, which “provides practical reforms to the nation’s nuclear waste management policy to ensure the federal government’s legal obligations to dispose of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste are fulfilled.”

Sen. Mike Enzi has been traveling the state over the past two weeks on his “Wyoming Works” tour, visiting small businesses in the southwestern and central portions of the state. According to a news release, stops included Star Valley, Kemmerer, Evanston, Green River, Rock Springs, Wamsutter, Rawlins, Casper and Douglas.

Rep. Liz Cheney was spotted at the Casper Area Chamber of Commerce’s 116th annual awards dinner, along with Sen. John Barrasso and Gov. Mark Gordon. She visited a number of other sites in Casper as well, including a trip to Park Elementary and an appearance at the Service Industry Representatives annual lunch.

Have any tips or suggestions to make this newsletter better? Let me know! Call me at 307-266-0634, email me at nick.reynolds@trib.com or follow me on Twitter, <&underline>@IAmNickReynolds</&underline>

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Politics Reporter

Nick Reynolds covers state politics and policy. A native of Central New York, he has spent his career covering governments big and small, and several Congressional campaigns. He graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport in 2015.

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