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Freedom Caucus Questions If State Agency Is Pushing Property Tax Bill

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Freedom Caucus Questions If State Agency Is Pushing Property Tax Bill


When state Rep. Barry Crago, R-Buffalo, started devising his property tax relief bill last year, he and Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, reached out to Wyoming Department of Revenue Director Brenda Henson to see if it would be feasible to enact his legislation immediately for the 2024 tax year.

“We tried to work with the people that actually have the power to implement the law we have to pass,” Crago said.

This led Henson to direct her staff Jan. 3 to host a presentation to the 23 Wyoming county assessors on how this bill, if it passes, would be implemented.

That’s drawn some questions from leading members of the Wyoming Freedom Caucus, who sent a letter to Henson demanding an explanation for spending state resources on something that hasn’t happened yet, or could never happen.

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“Regardless of the merits of the bill, the process undertaken by your department creates the appearance of corruption and lacks the transparency needed to appropriately enact legislation,” the letter reads.

In the letter sent to Henson on Jan. 24, Reps. John Bear, R-Gillette, and Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, accuse Henson of lobbying Wyoming’s county assessors to support the bill and prematurely establishing rules and regulations for it.

“The appearance is that the department began to promulgate rules prior to a bill being introduced, debated or voted on,” Bear told Cowboy State Daily.

Despite the sharp tone of the letter, Bear said it was only sent to give Henson a chance to clear up any misconceptions about the situation.

In their letter, the legislators remind Henson what the stated purpose of her property tax division is and that “there is clearly a difference between training and guiding local governmental agencies and lobbying county elected officials.”

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Henson’s Response

In a Jan. 31 response, Henson thanks the legislators for stating the role of her department, but denies most of the accusations.

She said her staff talked to the county assessors about the bill to show that the current state database used by the assessors would be capable of immediately executing Crago’s House Bill 45 if it were to pass into law.

“These discussions help to ensure there are no unintended consequences,” Henson wrote.

Bear and Rodriguez-Williams also accuse the department staff of threatening assessors to support House Bill 45 or they will be blamed for not providing tax relief. Henson denied that allegation and said the warning the Freedom Caucus is concerned about was actually made by an individual county assessor, not her office.

Henson also said her department has not established any new rules ahead of the legislative session, but did ask assessors where terminology in the rules may need some clarifying to implement the proposed legislation.

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To make HB 45 happen, Henson said her department will need to adopt emergency rules, adding that “communication and transparency during the early stages benefits all.”

For Bear, this is still a step too far, as he believes the presentation should have been hosted by Crago and Harshman. Any action by Department of Revenue staff, he said, should wait until the bill passes into law.

“Presenting how the bill could be implemented by the assessors should be considered training and should have fallen into the ‘emergency rulemaking’ time frame once a bill has passed,” he said. “The potential to waste valuable government resources on a bill that has not been introduced, debated or voted on is high. The percentage chance of a personal bill passing is quite low.”

What Does The Bill Do?

Crago’s sweeping bill establishes a property tax exemption for single-family residential structures based on their prior year assessed value and forbids tax growth from the prior year to exceed 5%, serving the same function as a cap.

HB 45 has been endorsed by the Wyoming Caucus of which Crago is a member.

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One of the most significant aspects of the bill is that if signed by Gov. Mark Gordon, it would go into effect immediately for the 2024 tax year. This would require county assessors to mail tax assessment schedules no later than April 22.

At the earliest, Gordon likely couldn’t sign HB 45 into law until late February. The short window between then and April 22 is what led the lawmakers to reach out, Henson and Crago said, and her department to reach out to the assessors for input and verify internally whether acting on the bill would be possible.

Locke’s Bill

While he appreciates the fact that Crago’s bill would provide property owners tax relief as soon as possible, Bear said he greatly prefers a property tax bill brought by Rep. Tony Locke, R-Casper, which like Crago’s bill, would go into effect for the current tax year.

It would apply to all residential and commercial real estate property in Wyoming and include a lower 3% cap based on tax growth or the rate of change in median household income for the county where the property is located, whichever is lower.

Although he doesn’t believe the actions Henson took were in consideration of Locke’s bill, he believes they would apply all the same.

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Crago and Locke’s bill are both classified as tax exemptions, as a normal tax cap would likely infringe on the Wyoming Constitution and likely require a constitutional amendment for enactment.

A constitutional amendment on a property tax measure passed last year will go before the voters this fall.

There are at least a dozen property tax bills that will be introduced and considered in the upcoming legislative session.

Although he was already considering bringing the legislation, Crago said input and a draft proposal from the county assessors was what pushed him to finalize the bill.

On Thursday, the Wyoming County Assessor’s Association issued a press release saying it supports all forms of property tax relief proposed for the upcoming session.

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Fremont County Assessor Tara Berg said she supports both Crago’s and Locke’s bills, but still has questions how Locke’s could be implemented.

“I support anything that helps our taxpayers,” Berg said.

Receiving Input

Henson said she regularly receives questions from legislators about potential bills and Crago said reaching out to state officials is something legislators should do for all of their bills before introducing them.

Crago said he would’ve still reached out even if his bill didn’t go into effect until the 2025 tax year.

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“It’s what’s called good legislating,” he said. “We need to work with our partners in the executive branch.”

Bear agrees, and said he believes the actions Henson and her staff took came from “genuinely attempting to ensure” that the assessors were capable of implementing Crago or Locke’s bill. But because Crago’s bill was the only tax legislation addressed by the department, he believes the effort doesn’t pass the smell test.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.



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Wyoming High School Basketball 2A State Tournaments 2024

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Wyoming High School Basketball 2A State Tournaments 2024


The Tongue River boys and girls will represent Sheridan County when March Madness starts on Leap Year Day.


2A Boys:

Thursday, February 29th: (All games played at Casper College)

(#2E) Tongue River vs. (#3W) Big Piney – Noon

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(#1W) Wyoming Indian vs. (#4E) Pine Bluffs or Lusk – 1:30pm

(#2W) Greybull vs. (#3E) Pine Bluffs or Lusk – 7:30pm

(#1E) Wright vs. (#4W) Kemmerer – 9pm

Friday, March 1st: (All games played at Ford Wyoming Center)

Consolation Round:

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Tongue River/Big Piney loser vs. Wyoming Indian/TBA loser – Noon LOSER OUT!

Greybull/TBA loser vs. Wright/Kemmerer loser – 1:30pm LOSER OUT!

Semi-Finals:

Tongue River/Big Piney winner vs. Wyoming Indian/TBA winner – 7:30pm

Greybull/TBA winner vs. Wright/Kemmerer winner – 9pm

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Saturday, March 2nd:

Friday noon winner vs. Friday 1:30pm winner – Noon at Ford Wyoming Center Consolation Championship

Friday 7:30pm loser vs. Friday 9pm loser – 3pm at Casper College 3rd Place

Friday 7:30pm winner vs. Friday 9pm winner – 8pm at Ford Wyoming Center State Championship


2A Girls:

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Thursday, February 29th: (All games played at Casper College)

(#2W) Kemmerer vs. (#3E) Pine Bluffs – 9am

(#1E) Tongue River vs. (#4W) Rocky Mountain – 10:30am

(#2E) Lingle-Ft. Laramie vs. (#3W) Wind River – 4:30pm

(#1W) Wyoming Indian vs. (#4E) Burns – 6pm

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Friday, March 1st: (All games played at Ford Wyoming Center)

Consolation Round:

Kemmerer/Pine Bluffs loser vs. Tongue River/Rocky Mountain loser – 9am LOSER OUT!

Lingle-Ft. Laramie/Wind River loser vs. Wyoming Indian/Burns loser – 10:30am LOSER OUT!

Semi-Finals:

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Kemmerer/Pine Bluffs winner vs. Tongue River/Rocky Mountain winner – 4:30pm

Lingle-Ft. Laramie/Wind River winner vs. Wyoming Indian/Burns winner – 6pm

Saturday March 2nd:

Friday 9am winner vs. Friday 10:30am winner – 9am at Ford Wyoming Center Consolation Championship

Friday 4:30pm loser vs. Friday 6pm loser – 10:30am at Ford Wyoming Center 3rd Place

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Friday 4:30pm winner vs. Friday 6pm winner – 6:30pm at Ford Wyoming Center Championship



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How A Wyoming Couple Resurrected The Legendary Brooks Lake Lodge

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How A Wyoming Couple Resurrected The Legendary Brooks Lake Lodge


When Barbara and her husband the late Richard Carlsberg bought Brooks Lake lodge in 1987, its entryway and lobby were still propped up on jacks from an abandoned 1983-84 restoration.

To get to the lodge in the first place, the couple had to first break their own trail through fresh powder on a 5-mile road that has a 1,000-foot increase in elevation.

The road typically gets 5 to 6 feet of snowpack in a given winter season, which made their October trip to see the lodge a rough go, Barbara told Cowboy State Daily, But it’s one that she still remembers as if it were yesterday, even though she no longer owns the lodge. She sold it in 2000 to Max Chapman, who’s owned it for the last 24 years as it’s continued to grow a reputation as a truly one-of-a-kind Wyoming experience.

“Dr. Hoppe, the Minnesota dentist we purchased the lodge from, must have just run out of money,” Barbara said. “That’s the only thing we could figure out.”

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When Barbara and her husband toured it, the lodge itself was just a shell of what it had once been. The only thing Hoppe had completed was the bar and a restroom connecting to the bar.

The lodge was just one step away from complete ruin, Carlsberg said, with its entry way floating on jacks and other structural issues. Roofs on some of the cabins, meanwhile, had already given way to time and the elements.

But at least the Carlsberg’s knew next to nothing about running a lodge of this nature.

Despite all those challenges, the couple bought the lodge anyway.

They saw beyond the run-down and neglected property. Because along with that was a shining gemstone of a lake in the backyard set in a ring of mountains — the same lake that had once caught the eye of its namesake, Bryant B. Brooks, Wyoming’s seventh governor.

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It was love at first sight, Barbara told Cowboy State Daily.

“We were smitten,” she said. “Absolutely.”

After The Honeymoon, The Real Work Begins

The lodge took an entire year of sweat equity — and millions of dollars — to get to anything like a functional state so it could open again.

“We had to put rooms and bathrooms in — everything,” she said. “It had been gutted.”

The couple did find some serviceable lodgepole pine furniture, built by hand once upon a time, but they had to buy all new beds for the cabins, as well as many other furnishings.

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Barbara found a Wyoming artisan to craft new light fixtures for the lodge using discarded pipes.

“We had to build up staff housing, too,” she said. “Because that was kind of nonexistent. So, we probably ended up with as much staff as we had guests that first season.”

They opened for winter 1988, Carlsberg recalled, and then faced a steep learning curve after that.

It took about five years for the lodge to break even, but the couple never stopped working to return the lodge to its former glory. They just kept adding something to it every year, restoring one or another lost piece of history.

Eventually, they even found one of the Yellowstone busses that used to take guests from Lander to Brooks Lake Lodge and then on to Yellowstone National Park, Carlsberg said.

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“That took us three years to restore,” she said. “And it was a labor of love, too.”

Celebrating Wyoming

One of the things that surprised the Carlsbergs once they got Brooks Lake Lodge open is just how much the lodge seems to mean to the rest of Wyoming.

“People were so grateful that we had brought the lodge back into existence,” Barbara said. “We didn’t find out until after we bought it that it was much-loved by Wyoming people.”

In fact, when the couple held a grand reopening ceremony, they planned a big reception not knowing at all what to expect. It attracted dignitaries from across the Cowboy State, including then-Gov. Mike Sullivan.

“He came up and did some speeches and it was a big party,” Barbara recalled.

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Barbara added that she also believes, as was expressed in a previous Cowboy State Daily article about the lodge’s history, that the lodge is not something that people buy because they want to make a lot of money.

It’s just a special piece of history, and its owners are stewards of that. They restored that stewardship, which has been carried on and expanded under Chapman’s watch.

“You want it to break even, you want it to pay for itself,” she said. “And we realized at the time that we probably could get it to that, but as far as making any large profits out of it, we knew that wasn’t going to happen.

“The benefit of it is just owning that gorgeous place and having a staff,” she added. “I do miss the staff — and all the snowmobiling.”

Figuring It All Out

Just after the Carlsbergs bought Brooks Lake Lodge in summer 1988, a third of Yellowstone National Park was wiped out by a devastating wildfire.

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“That’s how I can remember all these dates so well,” she said.

Richard was one of the guides who led people on trails in the Shoshone National Forest and Bridger Teton Forest that are accessible from Brooks Lake Lodge year-round.

“He really challenged people on those rides,” she said. “People got to do things they never thought they could ever do. And it was just a wonderful time in our lives.”

Barbara, meanwhile, focused on running the lodge. One of the decisions she made was to open the lodge to the public for lunches — an idea she drew from the couple’s many trips to Europe over the years.

“My husband loved to hunt, and he’d been hunting in Spain,” Barbara recalled. “And, believe it or not, we stayed with our hosts in their home. So we just thought, you know, what a lovely way to entertain, and so that is how we entertained at the lodge.”

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The public lunch became something of a command appearance for the snowmobiling public, with as many as 150 people coming to it on any given day.

“We couldn’t believe how popular it was,” Barbara said.

Even The KGB Loved It

Wranglers and other workers came from all over the world to work at Brooks Lake Lodge, Barbara recalled, and so did guests.

The most unusual guest Barbara recalled was the time the head of the former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s KGB came to Brooks Lake Lodge.

“We had some attorneys from the Los Angeles area, which was where we were from, who were trying to work with the Russians on the rule of law,” Barbara said. “And they had become friends with this man, and I kept thinking, the head of the KGB!? But guess what, he ended up at Brooks Lake Lodge.”

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That was a week when all sorts of interesting people showed up wanting rooms at the same time, Barbara said — some of whom she concluded must have been bodyguards for the KGB director.

Regardless of how strange it all seemed at the time, hospitality at Brooks Lake Lodge is nonpolitical, then as now.

“We gave him a cowboy hat and we had campfires and did singalongs with him,” Barbara said. “You know, we gave him the whole Western story and he loved it.”

Barbara has many other precious memories of the lodge from the dozen years the couple owned it, including the lodge hosting her own daughter’s wedding.

“I probably never would have sold it if my husband hadn’t died,” she said. “But I didn’t want that to just be my whole life, and it would have had to have been.”

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Today, Barbara lives on a ranch in nearby Moran, but she remains smitten by the beauty of Brooks Lake Lodge, and she’ll never forget the memories made with her husband in a place ringed by mountains, set with a beautiful gemstone of a lake in the backyard.

Brooks Lake Lodge covered in snow is in its own little world, particularly in winter. The spot is so remote guests are ferried to the lodge by snowcat from a parking lot where cellphones don’t have reception. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.



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How to watch Wyoming Cowboys vs. Boise State Broncos: TV channel, NCAA Basketball live stream info, start time

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How to watch Wyoming Cowboys vs. Boise State Broncos: TV channel, NCAA Basketball live stream info, start time


Who’s Playing

Boise State Broncos @ Wyoming Cowboys

Current Records: Boise State 18-8, Wyoming 13-13

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday, February 24, 2024 at 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Arena-Auditorium — Laramie, Wyoming
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)

What to Know

Boise State has enjoyed a two-game homestand but will soon have to dust off their road jerseys. They and the Wyoming Cowboys will face off in a Mountain West battle at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday at Arena-Auditorium. Wyoming took a loss in their last matchup and will be looking to turn the tables on Boise State, who comes in off a win.

Boise State put the finishing touches on their eighth blowout victory of the season on Tuesday. They steamrolled past the Spartans 82-50 at home. With that win, Boise State brought their scoring average up to 75.2 points per game.

Among those leading the charge was Tyson Degenhart, who scored 15 points along with eight rebounds and two steals. Another player making a difference was Max Rice, who scored 14 points.

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Meanwhile, it’s hard to win when you don’t work as a unit and post ten fewer assists than your opponent, a fact Wyoming found out the hard way on Tuesday. They received a tough blow as they fell 76-58 to the Wolf Pack.

Despite the defeat, Wyoming had strong showings from Cam Manyawu, who dropped a double-double on 12 points and 12 rebounds, and Brendan Wenzel, who scored 17 points. Manyawu didn’t help Wyoming’s cause all that much against the Spartans on Saturday but the same can’t be said for this game. Less helpful for Wyoming was Akuel Kot’s abysmal 0-5 three-point shooting.

The Broncos pushed their record up to 18-8 with that win, which was their third straight at home. They’ve been dominating during the games in that stretch too, as they’ve won by an average of 31.3 points. As for the Cowboys, they have been struggling recently as they’ve lost four of their last five matches, which put a noticeable dent in their 13-13 record this season.

Boise State beat the Cowboys 75-63 when the teams last played back in February of 2023. The rematch might be a little tougher for Boise State since the squad won’t have the home-court advantage this time around. We’ll see if the change in venue makes a difference.

Series History

Boise State has won 9 out of their last 10 games against Wyoming.

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  • Feb 11, 2023 – Boise State 75 vs. Wyoming 63
  • Jan 14, 2023 – Boise State 85 vs. Wyoming 68
  • Mar 11, 2022 – Boise State 68 vs. Wyoming 61
  • Feb 03, 2022 – Wyoming 72 vs. Boise State 65
  • Jan 25, 2022 – Boise State 65 vs. Wyoming 62
  • Jan 13, 2021 – Boise State 90 vs. Wyoming 70
  • Jan 11, 2021 – Boise State 83 vs. Wyoming 60
  • Feb 04, 2020 – Boise State 67 vs. Wyoming 62
  • Jan 01, 2020 – Boise State 65 vs. Wyoming 54
  • Jan 26, 2019 – Boise State 77 vs. Wyoming 52





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