By Dave Simpson, columnist
With little debate, 19 state senators kicked the guy who represents me in the Wyoming Senate off his committee assignments last Thursday.
When they did it – a move Senate veterans can’t remember happening before – there was a distinct quiet in the Senate chamber.
The only person to explain what was going on was Senate President Dan Dockstader, accusing Sen. Anthony Bouchard of showing “a continued pattern of intimidating and disorderly conduct and other behavior which is unbecoming of a member of the Senate.”
He accused Bouchard of “vulgar and threatening attacks on a member of the Senate,” and videoing “as a threatening measure.”
No specifics were cited. Reporters like to include the words “without evidence” in their stories these days, and that was the case here.
After Dockstader’s accusations, the only senators saying anything were a few who wondered what was going on.
“What is the conduct?” Sen. Troy McKeown of Gillette asked.
Sen. Affie Ellis of Cheyenne said, “I don’t know what’s going on. I just don’t know what we’re talking about and I don’t feel like I’m making an informed decision.” (Despite that feeling, Ellis voted to kick Bouchard off his committees. Go figure.)
Sen. Bo Biteman of Ranchester wanted more specifics, but didn’t get any.
“I get what you guys are doing here,” Biteman said. “Kicking someone off his committees because we don’t like him sets a dangerous precedent.” He noted that Bouchard is often chastised for not addressing his comments to the chair, while other senators are commonly allowed to commit that infraction. Biteman cited the “good, tall senator from Natrona County,” longtime senator Charlie Scott, who often makes eye contact with senators at the back of the chamber when he speaks.
“It’s getting pretty childish around here,” Biteman said.
Other than Dockstader, no senator in favor of throwing my senator off his committees made a peep. What looked like an embarrassed silence prevailed in the Senate, as they voted 19 to 10 to strip Bouchard of his committee assignments. Nobody looked particularly proud of what they were doing.
Bouchard said, “The RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) who run the state of Wyoming decided that I’m dangerous to their agenda, so they kicked me off my committees. It’s a kangaroo court.”
“I don’t think we understand free speech in this chamber,” he said, adding that the action had to do with his plan to compile a video showing “fear tactics” used by hospital lobbyists regarding a Bouchard-sponsored bill that would have assured family members the right to visit patients.
He also questions which Senate Joint Rule pertains, and the process.
It was reported the next day that my senator was kicked off his committees over a confrontation with Wyoming Hospital Association lobbyist Eric Boley. Boley sent a three-page letter to Senate leadership earlier in the week contending that Bouchard was “combative and disrespectful,” “disruptive,” and uses “bullying and intimidating tactics,” And, Bouchard – oh, my goodness – “entered my personal space.”
(Do we need safe spaces at the capitol? Therapy dogs? Play-Doh?)
The notion of a lawmaker being mean to a lobbyist, and a lobbyist tattling to Senate leadership, is something I didn’t think I’d ever see. Look around in the House and Senate galleries, and the best dressed (way better than any reporter you’ll see), most savvy, tuned-in and most powerful observers are the lobbyists.
Looks like the guy who represents me, and other constituents in a district that extends from eastern Laramie County clear up to Torrington, is held in serious contempt by the powers that be, and that’s why our senator no longer serves on any committees. You might say he got “Pelosied.”
Not a proud moment for the Wyoming Senate.
Here’s how they voted:
Voting to kick Bouchard off his committees: Sens. Anderson, Baldwin, Cooper, Driskill, Ellis, Furphy, Gierau, Hicks, Kinskey, Kolb, Kost, Landen, Nethercott, Perkins, Rothfuss, Schuler, Steinmetz, Wasserburger and Dockstader.
Voting against kicking Bouchard off his committees: Sens. Biteman, Boner, Bouchard, Case, French, Hutchings, James, McKeown, Salazar and Scott.
Excused: Sen. Pappas.
If your senator voted to kick my senator off his committees, without evidence, you should ask your senator why.
And if something comes up in committee, can I borrow your senator?