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Jan 25, 2013 - The Associated Press

Bible class bill advances

CHEYENNE -- Wyoming lawmakers are considering changing statutes to make it clear that schools have the right to teach classes about the Bible.

The House Education Committee voted 5-4 to back the proposal Wednesday, sending it to the full House for debate.

The bill states that high schools can offer elective classes on the Bible. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Stephen Watt of Rock Springs, said the classes wouldn't advocate for or against any religion.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports that some lawmakers oppose the bill because such classes are already allowed.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled several times that public schools can offer classes about the Bible but can't use it for devotional purposes.

Supporters hope the bill will reassure schools and raise awareness about their right to offer such classes.

Whooping cough rates up

CASPER -- Wyoming saw a four-fold increase in whooping cough cases last year.

Wyoming recorded 59 confirmed cases of whooping cough in 2012, up from 13 a year earlier, according to figures from state Health Department. The state averaged only 16 cases annually between 2007 and 2011.

Nine Wyoming counties did not record a case in 2012. Fremont County had the most with 14.

The increase mirrors a national trend. Most states reported at least double the number of whooping cough cases in 2012.

Whooping cough is a contagious respiratory disease characterized by severe coughing that can last for weeks.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Tracy Murphy said the increase may be related to the vaccine losing its effectiveness over time but he says vaccination remains the best protection.

Teen pleads not guilty to assault

CASPER -- A Wyoming teen accused of poisoning her stepmother with eye drops has pleaded not guilty.

Alexis Jennings, 18, of Casper, entered her plea Thursday. She's charged with aggravated assault.

Prosecutors allege Jennings put at least 15 bottles of Visine in her stepmother's tea and coffee over four months. The woman was hospitalized twice with such symptoms as low body temperature, difficulty breathing, blurred vision, vomiting and variable blood pressure.

In testimony and court documents, investigators have said Jennings wanted her stepmother "gone" because Jennings told her stepmother she had molested a young girl and the stepmother revealed the secret to Jennings' boyfriend at the time.

Jennings was arrested in November. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

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