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Fremont County Democrats elect leaders

L to R: Vice-chair, Sergio Maldonado; Chair, Ron Howard;  Secretary, Mary Haper; State Committeeman, Rod Haper and State Committeewoman, Kathleen O'Leary.

L to R: Vice-chair, Sergio Maldonado; Chair, Ron Howard; Secretary, Mary Haper; State Committeeman, Rod Haper and State Committeewoman, Kathleen O’Leary.

Lander, Wyo.—Democrats from across Fremont County came together in Lander Saturday to elect officers, participate in a panel discussion with leaders from the Wind River Indian Reservation and to plan for the Wyoming Democratic Party’s statewide re-organization meeting in Riverton on April 25th.

Ron Howard, an early childhood educator from Riverton was elected chair of the Fremont County Democratic Party. An enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho tribe, Howard spoke of the importance of getting people involved in the political process. “There are many important issues facing the people of Fremont County,” he said. “Whether they live in Atlantic City, or Ethete or Dubois, people need access to good, high quality healthcare, they need a living wage, educational opportunity and equal treatment and respect. I look forward to serving in this role, speaking out on the issues and helping people find their voice in an overwhelmingly one-sided political environment.”

Sergio Maldonado, a resident of Arapaho was elected as the Party’s vice-chair. Maldonado, a 2014 candidate for Wyoming Senate District 25, expressed satisfaction with his new role. “Throughout my campaign I heard people expressing a desire to be better served by their representatives. This will provide me with an opportunity to help grow the Party here in Fremont County and continue to fight for the issues that our community cares about.”

The remaining slate of officers includes: Secretary, Mary Haper of Lander; Treasurer, Mike Crosby of Lander; State Committeewoman, Kathleen O’Leary of Shoshoni; and State Committeeman, Rod Haper of Lander.

Democrats heard from a panel of leaders from the Wind River Indian Reservation, including public health coordinator and rancher Fernando Roman of Kinnear, artist Bruce Cook and educator Ron Howard of Riverton, and educator Sergio Maldonado of Arapaho. The speakers encouraged Democrats to make inroads with young people utilizing social media to inform voters about the issues that affect them. They felt that Democrats need to communicate positive thinking on important topics and that the tribes need to do a better job of telling the public the amount of money and jobs the reservation adds to the county and state economy. The panel’s comments were well received by the Party members.

On Saturday, April 25 the Fremont County Democratic Party will be hosting the state party meeting at 10 AM at the Intertribal Education and Community Center at Central Wyoming College in Riverton. Everyone is welcome for the state Party elections and updates on Party activities, including delegate selection plans for the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Fremont County Democratic Party Statement on the August 19, 2014 Primary Election

vote-democratLANDER, WY–Yesterday Republican and Democratic voters from across Fremont County and the state of Wyoming selected the candidates that they want to see on the ballot in November. The Fremont County Democratic Party was pleased to see two local Democratic contests, House District 33 and Senate District 25. Our congratulations go out to all of the contestants for their efforts and their willingness to pursue public service.

The Fremont County Democratic Party looks forward to supporting the campaigns of Andi Clifford for House District 33 and Sergio Maldonado in Senate District 25. Both are active and involved members in our community who have a vision of a Fremont County and Wyoming that frankly discusses issues and is inclusive of all of our citizens.

Learning of her win last night Andi Clifford had this comment: “I would like to thank everyone who supported me. I will need even more support going into the General Election. Good luck to all the candidates on both sides of the aisle. I appreciate your willingness to serve and represent the people. A big thank you to my Uncle Representative Patrick Goggles for his wisdom and guidance, I will try my best to carry on your legacy!” Andi is the assistant general manager at the Wind River Casino, Fremont County’s largest employer.

Sergio Maldonado expressed his gratitude to the voters when learning of his victory, saying, “A hearty thank you to all who voted for me to be your Democratic candidate for Senate District 25. We have great work in front of us prior to the November General Election. It will take many of us pulling together to assure that the people of Senate District 25 will have a voice in Cheyenne. I cannot stress enough the importance of every person, their concerns and hopes. I take this responsibility in both a humble and people oriented manner.” Sergio is a long time educator and is the Diversity Coordinator at Central Wyoming College.

Fremont County Democratic Party Chair, Bruce Palmer had this comment on the local elections, “We are pleased to be putting forward very strong candidates for HD 33 and SD 25. Both Andy and Sergio are articulate, accomplished and energetic candidates. They are certainly worthy of the consideration of every voter in their districts.”

Palmer continued, “It is interesting to note that more Republicans voted against the incumbent in Senate District 25 than voted for him with nearly 55% of voters choosing Sen. Case’s opponents. Interestingly, in Fremont County the same is true in the Republican Gubernatorial primary. Governor Mead’s 55% statewide win in his own party is far from a vote of confidence. The Fremont County result for Governor Mead must be particularly disconcerting for his supporters with Haynes and Hill outpolling the governor by about 150 votes. The governor certainly benefited by running against two very flawed candidates.”

The Fremont County Democratic Party looks forward to working to support all of our candidates over the coming months. We look forward to positive results in November.

Wyoming GOP “Pallin’ Around” With Hateful Has-been

The Nuge-- sacrilegious headdress, confederate flag shirt and AR-poster boy for the Wyoming GOP!

The Nuge– sacrilegious headdress, confederate flag shirt and AR–poster boy for the Wyoming GOP!

FCDP Chair and WDP Vice-Chair Bruce Palmer wrote this essay.

Two weekends ago many of the Wyoming Republican Party’s “leaders”, including Mike Enzi, John Barrasso, Cindy Hill and Clark Stith, had the outrageously poor judgment to show up at the Bighorn Basin Tea Party event featuring Ted Nugent. Ted Nugent, an aging rocker of questionable musical talent has tried to stretch his career by making money as a vile, foul-mouthed culture warrior. His name-calling isn’t limited to bad taste, it is racist having referred to the President of the United States as a “subhuman mongrel” and “chimpanzee” and more recently after a Native American-owned casino canceled his show referring to his detractors as “unclean vermin”. Andi Clifford, a candidate for House District 33 and a member of the Northern Arapaho tribe calls it what it is in a statement on her Facebook page saying, “I denounce Ted Nugent’s bigoted and vile name calling. Most of us moved beyond his type of behavior when we were in elementary school.” This isn’t free speech it is childish, hurtful ranting and in most places this kind of behavior would earn you a trip to the woodshed for a spanking, but not in today’s Wyoming Republican Party where it gets you a visit from both of the party’s U.S. senators, the superintendent of public instruction and gubernatorial candidate, and a candidate for secretary of state.

It is unconscionable that in Wyoming, the home of one of the nation’s largest Indian reservations with 12,000 enrolled members that top Republican officials would think that their presence at this Fox-fueled hate-fest would be okay. The Northern Arapahoe and Eastern Shoshone people of the Wind River Indian Reservation have a right to expect that their top elected officials would at least have the commonsense to steer clear of an event featuring a controversial character like Ted Nugent. Enrolled Northern Arapaho and Senate District 25 candidate, Sergio Maldonado stated it well in the Casper Star-Tribune saying, “Any individual with a modicum of integrity and self-worth will distance themselves from him.”

If Nugent’s race-baiting were not enough to keep top Republicans away it would seem that their staffs would have done enough research to know that Nugent isn’t a real “family values” kinda guy either. Over the years Nugent has been well-known for a proclivity toward girls well under the age of consent. His 1981 song, “Jailbait” describing an inappropriate relationship with a thirteen year old should disturb anyone who is concerned about sexual predators. Nugent is one sick pup and to have Cindy Hill, the leader of the state’s schools gushing on YouTube over him is an insult to decent people everywhere.

Recently the Wyoming Democratic Party hosted Dolores Huerta, a woman of class and conviction, to speak at our convention about her efforts to organize farm workers in the 1970s. She has continued her career as a standard-bearer for many of our nation’s under-represented. The juxtaposition of Dolores Huerta, a humble, yet assertive woman fighting for human dignity and Ted Nugent, a vulgar loudmouth fighting for the right to have guns with 100 round magazines says much about the state of Wyoming’s two political parties.

Mike Enzi, John Barrasso, Cindy Hill and the Wyoming Republican Party owe the people of Wyoming an apology. They need to say that hatred is wrong, that human dignity is the least every resident of Wyoming should expect and that they will no longer “pal around” with has-been (or never-were), rocker hate-mongers.

The Wyoming people deserve so much more from our elected leaders.

WDP Vice-Chair Bruce Palmer’s Address to the State Convention

Madame Chair, Legislators, Delegates and Fellow Democrats—

PalmerIt is an honor to be here in a room filled with Democrats.

We are here as Wyoming Democrats. And we have come to Rock Springs from all across the state. And what a state it is. We are spoiled by rich, diverse landscapes. From Bear’s Lodge/Devils Tower in the east; to the vast sagebrush seas of central Wyoming and on to the Wyoming Range in the west. From the Snowy Range in the south to the Bighorns and the Absarokas in the north. This is Wyoming and we are captivated by the beauty and the power of this land. It is incredible. And we are blessed.

Blessed not just by mountains and land, but by life-sustaining water– the Wind River and the Sweetwater. The Platte and the Belle Fourche. The Snake and the Green. These waters are life-sustaining and refresh our very soul. We are truly blessed.

This incredible landscape is the home to a rich tapestry of individuals all tied together by the commonality of being Wyomingites. We’re a diverse people from a variety of backgrounds —Here in Rock Springs they boast 58 nationalities among their residents. We have the latest transplant from one of the coasts wielding a MacBook and a dream of living in the West and pioneer families that have been on the land since the late 1800s. You’ve probably seen jacked up pick up trucks with the bumper stickers that say “Wyoming Native”; well in Fremont County we are the home of the real Wyoming Natives with the people of the Wind River Indian Reservation—the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho. We are much more diverse than we commonly recognize.

The people of Wyoming work in a wide variety of occupations– oil and gas, state and federal workers, educators, environmental community, agriculture, mountaineers. All work is noble and important and in Wyoming while there are many ways to make a living; none of them are easy.

People and place define who we are. We are all Wyomingites and while we share this landscape and the diverse population with many political outlooks only Democrats look at our landscape and see beauty first, not consumption. We see people first and not ideology.

Our Wyoming Democratic values spring forth from this land and its people. And we should be proud of these values. Our Wyoming experience says that caring about our neighbors is important, caring for our environment is important. Our Wyoming experience says that we get more done when we work together and lift up and honor every member of our community. Our Wyoming experience tells us to seize on commonsense solutions when they present themselves and not be dragged down by ideological fervor. Our Wyoming experience puts people ahead of corporate interests.

Kind of brings a tear to your eye doesn’t it?… All of our values don’t mean much if we don’t tell people what we believe. These values don’t mean much if we don’t start winning more elections and change the dynamics of our government. We need to differentiate Democrats from Republicans and we need to call Republicans out when we see them playing games. We need to tell Wyoming what we believe.

We need to tell people that:

  • Year in and year out Wyoming is 1st in workplace fatalities and last in gender wage equality. This is wrong. Industry self-regulation isn’t working. Republicans are wrong on this issue. We need to tell people about this.
  • Democrats believe the minimum wage should a living wage. Here in Wyoming 33,000 workers would be positively impacted by an increase to $10.10 an hour. That’s 10% of our work force and this would be the best first step toward righting our gender wage gap. Thank you Rep. Byrd for bringing this issue forward in the last session. Republicans are wrong on this issue. We need to tell people about this.
  • Democrats value our public employees and believe that stuffing billions in the bank while our employees—the ones who educate our children, care for our disabled, maintain our roads—see their buying power decreased by going years without a raise is wrong. Republicans are wrong on this issue. We need to tell people about this.
  • Democrats believe that the vacation theft act signed into law two years ago stealing employees earned, accrued vacation is wrong. No Democrat supported this legislation and nearly every Republican did. We need to tell people about this.
  • Democrats believe that Medicaid expansion isn’t just the right thing to do. It is just plain commonsense. Republican obstinance is leaving 16,700 of our Wyoming neighbors without access to healthcare while costing the state 47 million dollars. Let’s call this what it is: dumb. Thanks to everyone in this room for your work on this. We need to continue to tell people about this.
  • Democrats believe in the power of education and the importance of high academic standards for our children. When it comes to science we believe a lot of things, including that the earth revolves around the sun. That the earth is round. We believe in evolution and we believe that in order for our children to solve the issues that they will face they need to be educated on the science of climate change. I’d be curious to know where on that spectrum of scientific advance we would have lost Governor Matt Mead.
  • Democrats believe the term Equality State means equality for all. Until marriage equality is realized we are falling short of our state’s nickname. Democrats are leading on this issue and the Republicans are again out to lunch.

These are just a few examples where the Republicans are just plain wrong on the issues. We need to tell people about Wyoming Democrats compassionate, commonsense solutions to the issues that hold back many of our state’s less fortunate.

In 2012 I ran for the Wyoming Legislature from Lander. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I knocked on doors extensively, more than 2,500. I met people that I never would have met otherwise and explored neighborhoods that I had never visited before. It was great.

Earlier this week I came out of the office where I work in Lander and was walking up Third Street. I could see a man walking toward me. He is one of Lander’s marginalized. He is always unkempt and poorly dressed. I am sure that he deals with mental health issues. To my great discredit I thought for a moment about crossing the street, but my better side won out and we passed one another and exchanged a “hello.” After we passed each other, the man loudly exclaimed, “Hey.” I turned and he said, “Hey, Bruce, I still have your sticker on my car. Palmer for House!” Wow! That blew my doors off. I expressed thanks and we continued on our way.

Something about my campaign resonated for this man. But it wasn’t me, it is our shared Democratic values and our vision for a Wyoming that puts compassion, community and commonsense above ideology and political purity. We stand up for the marginalized. We believe in Wyoming’s workers and work on their behalf. We see beauty across our state and believe that balance is the best way to ensure that our children and grandchildren can experience the Wyoming that we love. We are Democrats and we are the Party of hope.

As we approach this election season we need to do so with a sense of purpose. For too long Democrats have been marginalized in this state. To some extent, I think we have accepted this. We talk politics among ourselves, but we’re afraid to speak out. It is time to step up and be proud. We need to recognize that this isn’t a game. Real people are counting on us.

Support the Party and our candidates. Write a check, make some calls, run for office, manage a campaign. Step it up, Wyoming Democrats. The work we do matters. Have a great convention!

Former Riverton man among those challenging same-sex marriage laws in Wyoming

From the Friday, April 11, 2014 “Riverton Ranger”

Former Riverton man among those challenging same-sex marriage laws in Wyoming

Apr 11, 2014 – By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Carl Oleson and Robert Johnston

Carl Oleson and Robert Johnston

Two Casper men will meet with the Fremont County Democrats this weekend to talk about a lawsuit challenging Wyoming marriage laws.

Carl Oleson and Robert Johnston are one of four couples involved in Courage vs. Wyoming.

Oleson is a former Riverton resident.

The suit challenges state law that prohibits same-sex couples from marrying and fails to recognize legal marriages of same-sex couples who married in other states — as Oleson and Johnston did in 2010 in Canada.

Oleson says the statutes conflict with the Wyoming Constitution.

“There is no provision in the state constitution that restricts marriage to between a man and woman,” he said.

According to published reports, Wyoming has asked the judge in the suit to dismiss the action, and state officials deny that the marriage laws violate the constitutional rights of same-sex couples in Wyoming.

Johnston disagreed, pointing to the impacts a marriage commitment has on taxes, inheritance and health care decisions, for example.

“(People) don’t realize the full range of the kinds of things we’re talking about,” he said. “This has to do with us being able to protect our home and the life we’ve built together over 17 years. … It’s about the rights and responsibilities that come with the kind of civil ceremony that provides you with those privileges.”

Same-sex marriage isn’t a state’s rights issue, he continued: it’s a civil issue.

“This gets to the core of the U.S. Constitution — liberty and the pursuit of happiness for everyone,” he said.

Oleson and Johnston first met in Las Vegas, but they moved to Casper in 2002 to care for Oleson’s father, who died in 2009.

Oleson was born and raised in Wyoming and attended school in Riverton. He said he is looking forward to visiting Fremont County this weekend.

The trip was organized by Fremont County Democratic Party chairman Bruce Palmer, who met the couple in Casper last month.

“In fact it was the weekend after we filed (the lawsuit),” Oleson said. “He was there speaking about his experiences as a Democrat in Fremont County. … I was really impressed with him. And I think we’re both honored to be asked to speak.”

‘The conversation’

Johnston and Oleson will meet with the Democrats at 4 p.m. Sunday in Hudson’s Town Hall. Johnston encouraged attendees to come with questions; he sees the event as an opportunity to engage in discussion about a sensitive issue.

“I’m a firm believer that if you have the conversation, then things can move forward,” Johnston said. “We may not always agree on everything, (but) the reality is we should still be able to be in the room together and have that conversation.”

Oleson doesn’t think the topic has to be divisive.

“It’s not about how we’re different from anybody else — it’s about how we’re exactly alike,” he said. “That’s not politics. That’s just community.”

In the end, he hopes Courage vs. Wyoming will result in changes to more than state statute.

“We need to change minds as well,” he said. “People need to see us as their neighbors, not like some concept, as the ‘gay agenda.’

“The gay agenda is an American agenda — it’s equal rights and equal protection, a safe place for everybody to live.”

Palmer said he invited the Casper couple to Fremont County because the same-sex marriage issue is getting a lot of attention now in Wyoming.

Changing attitudes

Several groups have been formed to support the cause, including Wyoming Equality and its subsidiary Wyoming Unites for Marriage. Freedom to Marry is a national campaign that recently launched a marriage equality ad in Wyoming featuring former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and the national Human Rights Campaign stopped in Casper this week for a community event.

“For a long time it’s been the gay and lesbian community sort of out there on their own fighting for what they want in the state, whether it’s a safe places for kids in schools, or a safe places for parents with kids who are gay, lesbian or questioning,” Oleson said.

“Now, all of a sudden, we’ve been able to broker those years of boots on the ground work here with some of the national organizations who are really starting to put their savvy behind marketing and public opinion.”

The local Democratic party platform doesn’t specifically mention same-sex marriage, but Palmer said the group believes in the civil rights and equality for all. He also thinks marriage equality aligns with core Wyoming values.

“We talk a lot in Wyoming about liberty and personal freedom,” he said. “This is the Equality State. I think as long as there are people who aren’t treated equally under the law, it’s a misnomer.”

Palmer has heard people on the other side of the debate who think same-sex marriage somehow harms traditional marriage. He said he doesn’t understand the logic behind that argument.

“I’ve been married 35 years to my wife,” he said. “There’s nothing someone else could do that could diminish my marriage. …

“The other side is being married to my wife is the best thing I’ve done,” Palmer added “Why wouldn’t I want everyone to have that kind of happiness?”

For more information, visit turnfremontblue.com.

Help Promote the 2014 FCDP Convention!

The Fremont County Democratic Party Convention is just around the corner! Join us on Saturday, March 15 at 10 AM at the Lander Library. We’ll be electing delegates to the Wyoming Democratic Party state convention and debating and adopting a county platform.

Wyoming Democratic Party Chair, Pete Gosar will be the keynote speaker. We’ll also hear from Representative Patrick Goggles and U.S. Senate candidate, Charlie Hardy.

Help promote the FCDP Convention. Download the FCDP Convention Flyer!

convention flyer

Index Minimum Wage to Depression Era?

Recently Fremont County Democratic Party Chair, Bruce Palmer, had an op-ed in the Lander Journal and the Riverton Ranger promoting a “Workers Agenda”– minimum wage increase; wage increases for our public employees and educators; expansion of Medicaid for working poor and repeal of the vacation theft act. Read the op-ed here.

The op-ed prompted this letter to the editor from a Lander doctor (click on the image to make it larger). In the alternative universe that is known as Republicanism a good economy in Wyoming means putting money in the bank, not investing in people and a minimum wage well below poverty level. Democrats believe people are our best investment!

Really? Index the minimum wage to 1938?

Really? Index the minimum wage to 1938?

A Wyoming Worker’s Legislative Agenda

This op-ed piece written by Bruce Palmer, FCDP Chair, appeared in the February 11 Riverton Ranger as a letter to the editor and in the Lander Journal on February 12.

A Wyoming Worker’s Legislative Agenda

This week the Wyoming Legislature convenes for a 20-day budget session to hammer out the budget for the next two years. Fortunately, the state is in a strong financial position with solid revenues and billions in the bank.

Sadly, though, while our Republican dominated legislature is stuffing money in the bank they are ignoring investment in our most valuable asset—our working people. Every employee should be appropriately compensated and moving forward financially. They should be valued and treated fairly. The Wyoming legislature through word and deed is drastically missing the mark in this area. This state would be best served if our leaders abandoned their ALEC-fueled zealotry and adopted the following worker’s agenda.

First, give our state employees and educators the raise they deserve. After four years without a raise our state employees have seen their buying power go down as the cost of living has gone up and their retirement contribution increases. Governor Mead in his budget proposal recommends a 2.5% increase for two years. This does not make up for the four years without a pay increase, but is better than the bank more/invest less two percent recommendation coming from the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee.

Our educators face a similar challenge.  Wyoming schools have been without an External Cost Adjustment (ECA) since 2008. The lack of an ECA, a “cost of living” increase for school districts, leaves districts with a cumulative 14% increase in expenses without a corresponding increase in revenue. The squeeze applied by the Legislature means that local school boards are left to decide between buying books and retaining their best staff.

The state has billions in the bank. Why are we nickel and dimeing our state employees?

Second, raise the state’s minimum wage. At $5.15 an hour Wyoming’s minimum wage is the lowest in the nation, and it is worse for tipped positions, where the minimum is $2.13 an hour. Fortunately, most minimum wage workers in Wyoming are making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, but even this is significantly less that they should be making. The minimum wage of $1.60 an hour in 1968 would be worth $10.56 in today’s dollars meaning today’s minimum wage earner has lost more than 30% in buying power. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2016 would directly impact 33,000 of Wyoming’s workers, nearly 13% of the workers in the state.

Third, take advantage of the optional Medicaid expansion to cover 17,600 Wyomingites, nearly 90% of whom are stuck in low wage jobs with no benefits. There is no reason not to accept the expansion. The Federal government will pay 100% of the cost the first few years scaling back to 90% in 2020. This expansion actually saves the state 47.4 million dollars!

Governor Matt Mead says he can’t support expansion because he hasn’t liked the health exchange rollout. This is irrelevant. Medicaid is a well-established program that has been helping people gain health security for decades. Senator Eli Bebout says we can’t trust the Feds. Perhaps. But we count on the Feds for 41% of the state budget and Senator Bebout’s oil and gas business relies on Federal oil and gas leases. Republican arguments against Medicaid expansion are lame at best and they offer no alternative solution. Expanding Medicaid shows compassion and commonsense.

Finally, repeal Enrolled Act 37, the Vacation Theft Act that became law on July 1 2013. Nearly every Republican voted to pass this bill changing the definition of compensation in the state of Wyoming to no longer include earned, accrued vacation. Not a single Democrat voted for this bill because we believe that workers earn their vacation and if they leave a job the vacation accrued should be paid out to the employee. The Wyoming Supreme Court believed that too, until Wyoming Republicans changed the rules, further eroding workers rights.

Republicans are good at putting money in the bank, but are just plain wrong on the issues that effect Wyoming working people. Democrats believe in fiscal responsibility and we believe that investments in people pay off in both the public and the private sector. Providing a living wage and sensible benefits, fairly administered lead to high output. If you are looking for “Return on Investment”, people are your best bet.

Riverton Ranger article: County Dems to push for expanded Medicaid

County Dems to push for expanded Medicaid

Feb 4, 2014 – By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Fremont County Democrats are fighting for working families!

Fremont County Democrats are fighting for working families!

Fremont County Democrats say they are hoping to help working-class people get health insurance by pushing for the Wyoming Legislature to expand Medicaid. At a Jan. 19 meeting, the county party passed a resolution supporting the expansion.

The federal Affordable Car Act allows states to offer the federal health insurance program to people with higher incomes than were eligible before, and the federal government will pick up most of the added cost.

“We’re encouraging what we think is a compassionate solution and what we think is a common sense solution and that is saving the state of Wyoming a significant amount of dollars,” said FCD chairman Bruce Palmer.

About 17,000 Wyoming adults are ineligible for either Medicaid or subsidized health insurance through the new federal exchange created by the ACA, according to a Jan. 6 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Wyoming Legislature in 2013 vote against accepting federal dollars to extend Medicaid coverage to those people.

Democrats are conservative with their expectations.

“We’re trying to push as best we can, recognizing it’s definitely a Republican-dominated legislature here,” Palmer said. “I think just keeping this issue in front of people, talking with our legislators about it (are ways FCD can support it).”

In Wyoming, adults without children are cannot receive medicaid benefits and cannot get subsidized insurance if their incomes are below the poverty level. Adults with children who make more than 56 percent of the poverty level are ineligible for Medicaid, but if they earn less than 100 percent of the poverty level they also cannot receive subsidized health insurance.

The Medicaid expansion set out in ACA would cover those people.

“Those who will be included in Medicaid expansion are working class folks, generally working minimum-wage jobs without benefits,” Palmer said.

FCD members spoke with lawmakers at the Legislature’s Joint Labor and Health committee meeting in Lander in November and demonstrated outside. The local party also is coordinating with Fremont County’s lone Democratic legislator, Rep. Patrick Goggles, of Ethete, to push the issue, Palmer said.

Federal guarantee

Under the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. government would pay all of the cost of the expansion for a few years, then amount would decrease to 90 percent. Republican arguments that the state cannot count on the federal government to make good on that promise are not convincing to the FCD chairman.

Wyoming counts on federal dollars for highways, schools, mineral severance taxes and the Abandoned Mine Lands program, already, Palmer said.

“I see us fighting to keep those dollars, and I think we should, but to say some dollars are worth fighting for and other dollars we’ll just turn up our nose to is just ridiculous,” he said.

The Legislature’s Labor and Health committee on Jan. 10 approved advancing two bills expanding Medicaid to a lesser degree than Democrats are calling for. One, called “Medicaid Fit,” would offer more limited benefits, and the other, referred to as the “Arkansas model,” would take the federal Medicaid funding and use it to buy private health insurance.

Both would save the state less money and offer worse benefits than expanding “traditional Medicaid,” Palmer said.

Vacation, wages

FCD supports two other measures Palmer says are aimed at helping working people.

The first would repeal a law the Legislature passed in 2012. The act allows employers to take away employees’ accrued vacation time when they retire, resign or are fired if the employee and employer have a written agreement.

“People work their job, earn their vacation and to have that taken away seems unfair,” Palmer said.

Before the new law passed, the state Attorney General’s office held workers were entitled to be paid for accrued time-off when they left their jobs.

The other would raise the state’s minimum wage to $9 from the current level of $5.15. Many Wyoming businesses must follow the federal minimum wage of $7.25 because they are engaged in interstate commerce.

“It’s a growing concern because it just hasn’t kept pace with inflation, Palmer said. “A minimum wage earner has less buying power than they did 10 years ago, 20 years ago.”