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March 13, 2002
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Anti-Terrorism Bills Falter

by Robert W. Black, Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Gov. Jim Geringer on Tuesday lamented that the Legislature passed only one of six anti-terrorism bills this year, saying legislators may be growing too comfortable only six months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I think there's a little sense of complacency that has developed since 9/11," he said during a signing ceremony for the lone terrorism-related measure that passed. "I can't agree with that complacency. It's not a healthy complacency."

Among the measures that failed was one that would have coordinated state anti-terrorism efforts, possibly requiring vaccination and quarantining of the public when deemed necessary.

Other failed bills would have allowed law enforcement agencies to enter into mutual aid agreements with agencies in other states, and would have allowed the state to join a multistate compact to provide mutual responses to disasters and terrorism.

"I was surprised that they all failed so quickly," Geringer said. "For example, the Emergency Management Assistance Compact with other states, I thought that was going to be a slam dunk."

Some bills died because of a feeling that the measures would have given the state too much power, he said.

"The Legislature apparently felt too many police actions were being added to state authority that they weren't happy with," he said. "I don't see it that way. We ought to do something ahead of a crisis."

The other failed anti-terrorism bills would have studied creation of a new statewide public safety communications system and authorized regional hazardous material response teams.

A related, unsuccessful bill would have made it a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, to carry out a hoax that threatens use of weapons of mass destruction.

Additionally, two of the governor's recommendations within the budget bill were deleted by the Joint Appropriations Committee and not restored on the floor.

One would have spent $2.8 million to improve security in the Capitol Complex and the other would have spent $500,000 to improve the Health Department's ability to identify biological agents and build an emergency stockpile of medical equipment and supplies.

The funding to help safeguard the Capitol was aimed at helping ward off not only terrorist attacks but also lesser acts such as vandalism, theft and threats against workers.

"No additional funding was provided for employees or visitors' personal security at the Capitol," Geringer said.

He said he expects lawmakers will continue to address ways to increase security in a way that fits Wyoming.

"I believe the Legislature wants to work on it," he said. "We just need to come up with a little different role for the state and how it responds to that."

The surviving bill, sponsored by Sen. Keith Goodenough, D-Casper, expands the definition of victims compensated by the state to include victims of terrorist acts within the country, not just from attacks abroad.

The law includes immediate family members living in Wyoming who suffer loss as a result of an attack regardless of the victim's residency.

"No one before ever considered a terrorist attack inside the United States," said Goodenough, who attended the ceremony.

Sharon Montagnino, director of the state Victims Services Division, agreed.

"We found out very quickly after 9/11 that every state was in the same position," she said.






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