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Feb. 8 - Wyoming News Briefs

Tobacco tax bill back to include vaping products

CHEYENNE (WNE) - The House on Thursday brought back to life the cigarette tax bill it defeated the day before, but only to reconsider one section of the legislation: classifying nicotine vape products as tobacco.

House Bill 282, which died 33-24 on its final vote Wednesday on the House floor, would have increased taxes on a pack of cigarettes by 50 cents.

It also classified electronic cigarettes and other vape products as tobacco. That would allow the state to regulate what chemicals can be used and sold, and make them subject to the same tax as other tobacco products.

That urge to classify vape products as tobacco led the House to bring back HB 282, take out everything except the classification change, and then pass it out of the House on Thursday on a 39-20 vote.

Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, worked to bring HB 282 back. While he was against raising cigarette taxes, he said the Legislature shouldn't wait another year or two to classify vape products the same as tobacco.

"Vaping" commonly refers to the inhaling of an aerosol that is produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device. While the product doesn't contain tobacco, it does contain nicotine and other chemicals.

The reclassification of vapes as a tobacco product in HB 282 would allow Wyoming to regulate what chemicals can be used and sold.

HB 282 now heads to the Senate.


Scout leader arrested on suspicion of stealing from troops

GILLETTE (WNE) — A local Boy Scout leader is accused of stealing $31,000 from Gillette Scout troops between April and November, skimming money from popcorn fundraisers and troop accounts, said Gillette Police Detective Julianne Witham.

After a two-month police investigation, Jason Barnum, 41, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of three counts of theft greater than $1,000 and obtaining goods by false pretenses, all felonies.

The Greater Wyoming Council, which oversees dozens of Boy Scout troops in the state and is located in Casper, discovered discrepancies in the Gillette troops’ accounts and popcorn orders and reported it to police in December, Witham said.

Each count of theft is for the entities from which Barnum allegedly took money: the Greater Wyoming Council, the Gillette Boy Scouts and the Gillette Cub Scouts.

In addition to stealing from the Scouts, Barnum allegedly conned a 76-year-old woman out of $122,000 while he was working as a contractor for her between 2017 and 2018, Witham said. She gave him the money as a loan after he promised to pay her back with his inheritance, which Barnum claimed he would receive soon. However, no such inheritance existed.

Barnum also is now on probation for theft by deception in South Dakota, Witham said.


Man arrested after high-speed chase wrong way on I-80

EVANSTON (WNE) — A 31-year-old Sweetwater County man is in custody after he allegedly led local law enforcement on a high speed chase while driving up to 70 mph the wrong way on Interstate 80.

Uinta County Sheriff Doug Matthews said in a press release that Chance Salcedo was spotted by Evanston Police officers after they were advised by dispatch of the wrong-way driver just before 8 a.m. during Sunday’s heavy snowstorm.

The driver of the 1995 Cadillac with Sweetwater County plates allegedly refused to stop for Evanston officers, and a deputy continued to follow the suspect.

“Due to poor weather conditions, I-80 was closed, allowing deputies to pursue the vehicle with little risk to other vehicles,” according to the release. “Upon reaching the road closed gate at mile post 34, the driver crashed through the gate and continued eastbound.”

Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers made an unsuccessful attempt to spike the tires of the suspect’s vehicle at mile marker 42, but were able to force the vehicle to the side of the road about 10 miles later, where the vehicle became stuck in the snow.

Salcedo has been charged with reckless driving, eluding and property destruction. Matthews said the estimated damage to the gate is $6,000.


School district sued for Casper bus injury

JACKSON (WNE) — A Weston County mother is suing Teton County School District No. 1 for negligence after a school bus driver ran into her son in the fall of 2017.

Court documents say Rick Walsh, a resident of Natrona County, was riding his motorized bicycle on Oct. 4, 2017, in Casper when he was hit by driver Kelsey Clark, an employee of the school district at the time and to this day. The two collided when Clark turned left as Walsh was riding through the intersection.

The lawsuit alleges that in making the left-hand turn Clark ignored the traffic signal, failed to signal his own turn, failed to look for oncoming traffic and failed to yield the right of way to Walsh — “causing the school district bus to strike Mr. Walsh and his motorized bicycle.”

Clark wasn’t cited in the accident. In court documents lawyers for the school district deny all allegations of negligence.

When the law office of McKellar, Tiedeken & Scoggin in Cheyenne was reached by phone Tuesday, it had no comment on behalf of the school district. Clark could not be reached by press time.

The bus was in Casper for an activity trip, and there were no students on the bus at the time of the incident.

According to the complaint, Walsh “suffered serious and life-threatening injuries that have required hospitalizations, surgeries and full-time assisted living care. He is permanently disabled and has suffered significant traumatic brain injury.”

The lawsuit states that Walsh, 57, now lives in a group home and requires 24-hour care.

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