Wyoming news briefs for March 26


Legislature passes bill allowing for removal of racist housing covenants

CHEYENNE – When Sarah Pruis found a home for her family during their move from Laramie to Cheyenne five years ago, she was shocked by what she found in the deed to her new home: a clause prohibiting any non-white person from owning the property.

She was quickly reassured that the provision was only a part of the original deed, and that it was unenforceable due to the Fair Housing Act of 1968. But Pruis was still “mortified and disturbed” by its mere presence in the deed she was signing, especially given its potential toll on non-white families.

Pruis testified to the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee last week in support of  House Bill 91, which would allow homeowners to remove such racially restrictive covenants from their real estate deeds in Wyoming. 

Sponsored by Rep. Shelly Duncan, R-Lingle, the legislation gained final approval from the Senate on Thursday and now heads to Gov. Mark Gordon for his consideration.

Duncan, who is a Realtor, recalled first becoming aware of the racist covenants, which can be found in housing deeds nationwide, in the late 2000s. As a Realtor in Torrington, she came across a covenant requiring any person of color to enter the house through the back door and to leave the neighborhood by sundown.

“They are unenforceable, but (my clients) were made to initial them,” Duncan told the committee. 

“This is a really easy thing for us to do,” Pruis told the committee March 18. “I don’t really care how unenforceable this clause is. What I care about is no one should ever have to see it, going forward, put in their face.”

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Runoff bill fails in final Senate vote

CASPER – An effort to transition Wyoming to a runoff election system failed to capture enough support from the Senate on Wednesday. 

Senate File 145 sought to require a runoff election after a primary if no single candidate captured the majority of votes. The runoff election bill garnered national attention earlier this month when Donald Trump Jr. urged his followers to support the Wyoming bill introducing runoff elections. 

He pushed it as a way to defeat Rep. Liz Cheney, who angered Wyoming’s far right when she voted to impeach former President Donald Trump in January. The Wyoming Republican Party also backed the runoff bill as a way to produce elected officials who best represent the party’s values.

Supporters note that moderate Republicans often win crowded Wyoming primaries while obtaining less than a majority vote. Then they typically triumph over a Democrat in the general election. 

Under the bill, a candidate would have needed to receive over half of the votes to be considered the winner of a primary election. 

In packed primaries, if no candidate obtained enough votes, a runoff election would have occurred, with the two leading candidates facing off against one another. 

The bill failed on the third and final reading in the Senate on Wednesday in a narrow 14- 15 vote, with one lawmaker excused. 

“The bill is to ensure that the winner of the primary election for federal, statewide and the state Legislature, has the support of a majority of voters,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, said during testimony before a legislative committee. “Runoffs are common in areas of one-party rule, and they are helpful when there is a large pool of candidates.” 

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Cheyenne man arrested after Wednesday hit and run that killed woman

CHEYENNE — A local man has been arrested following a hit and run Wednesday evening that killed a pedestrian.

Kyle Ziemer, 32, of Cheyenne was arrested and booked into the Laramie County jail on charges of felony aggravated vehicular homicide and suspected driving under the influence, according to a Thursday news release from the Cheyenne Police Department.

The victim, a female 38-year-old Cheyenne resident, was transported to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, where she died from her injuries.

At about 6 p.m. Wednesday, Cheyenne Police officers responded to a fatal hit and run involving a pedestrian near the intersection of Nationway and Hot Springs Avenue.

A preliminary investigation showed the incident occurred as the pedestrian was walking eastbound in the median on Nationway. The driver of a 2014 Chevy Silverado pickup truck, identified as Ziemer, swerved into the median and struck the pedestrian, fleeing the scene prior to police arrival, according to Cheyenne Police.

The incident was unrelated to a vehicle pursuit that occurred at approximately the same time, CPD said in a Facebook update.

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