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Larsen says WLRC a key issue locally, hopeful about Riverton justice center cash
Feb 12, 2014 - By Kelli Ameling, Staff Writer
With the 2014 legislative session under way in Cheyenne, State Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, expects to be involved in issues surrounding the future of the Wyoming Life Resource Center in Lander.
"I really like the direction of moving forward with the facilities studies model," said Larsen, who represents House District 34.
The studies, he said, were designed to evaluate the Wyoming State Hospital, WLRC, the Wyoming Pioneer Home and the Wyoming Veterans Home to see if anything needed to be addressed.
"The study that looked at the WLRC pointed out that the campus was put together as needs came about," Larsen said. "We need a long-term plan for that."
One suggestion from the analysis calls for consolidating functions within buildings, taking down obsolete structures, and building new ones as necessary.
"This would focus on the (WLRC) population in an efficient matter," he said. "(The studies show) this is what we see that could be done. Now you've got to make decisions and move forward. I like that."
Larsen said he supports funding set aside for the future of the WLRC in the current budget proposal.
"I think it will move forward and needs to move forward without delay," he said.
The first-term representative serves on the House Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee, the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, and the Select Committee on Tribal Relations.
Regarding Environmental Protection Agency's determination that the Wind River Indian Reservation boundaries rightfully include the City of Riverton, Larsen said EPA should not have made such a decision.
"It's inappropriate for an administrative agency to step in and determine the legal actions," Larsen said.
The decision is being challenged by the state, which Larsen supports.
Larsen said he is co-sponsoring a bill with Rep. Dave Miller, R-Riverton, addressing the situation, including calling for money to fund a court challenge to the EPA action.
When it comes to a $10 million court-security fund in the budget, which Fremont County Commissioners are counting on to fund half of the proposed Riverton justice center, Larsen said he
"I don't have a feel on how others feel," Larsen said.
He said it is a big issue in Fremont County, but he hasn't heard much discussion of the topic among other lawmakers.
Cindy Hill ruling
Larsen voted for SF104, the state law that removed State Superintendent Cindy Hill from her duties as head of the Wyoming Department of Education. The Wyoming Supreme Court last month ruled the law to be unconstitutional.
"Everyone in the county knows I supported SF104," Larsen said, but he views the issue as more about the position than the person holding it.
Larsen said he would like the "superintendent" title to be removed, making the WDE a "director" position so that the person in the job would have fuller accountability to others in state government.
The superintendent title allows one person to make decisions for the whole department regardless of whether the person is qualified, without really consulting with anyone else, Larsen said.
"Having a superintendent in place is problematic," Larsen said.
He said anyone could fill a superintendent position and make decisions that affect the future of the educational system.
Larsen said people have argued the same situation happens in other positions and have used the example that if no one ran against Larsen for state representative, then Larsen automatically would become the representative regardless of his qualifications.
But Larsen said he isn't the sole person making decisions. He sits with a body of 59 others in the House and 30 in the Senate, where decisions are made together.
"We have to figure out a way to get qualified people in there running the department of education," Larsen said.
Larsen said there are a couple of things he is working on this session, including a bill helping legislators cover their districts more easily and a bill to try to find funding for child development centers.
Larsen said some legislative districts encompass 2,000 square miles.
"(Sometimes) it's problematic for people to see their representatives," Larsen said, adding that it is also cost prohibitive for people who might want to serve.
Larsen wants to look at ways to help cover mileage costs.
When it comes to child development services, since 2010, about 10 percent of the funding has been cut, Larsen said. He wants to find a way to help fund professionals in school districts who help with educational issues, especially with the youngest children.
Since funding has been cut, Larsen said, child development centers providing services under contract around the state have had to be "very creative" to do their jobs.
"We need to step up to the plate and take care of it," Larsen said.
Larsen wanted people to know he voted against Medicaid expansion in Wyoming. He said people he spoke to around Fremont County were split when it came to the expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
"I just don't think we have done a good job in the interim," Larsen said. "I will continue to look at the issue to address it."
Larsen said he will run for re-election this year.