By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A state representative who believes Wyoming is “losing its grip on reality” because of the topics addressed during the Legislature’s recent budget session is considering retiring from his post.
Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, told his colleagues during House debate on Friday, the last day of the Legislature’s budget session, that he was frustrated lawmakers were focusing on “non-issues” such as guns and abortion, rather than the ones they should have been working on, like the budget and redistricting.
“We would have had more time instead of the last day, than the two hours we have left,” he said during debate on the bill that redrafted Wyoming’s legislative district borders to conform with new census results. “But, instead, we were busy debating guns. We were busy debating abortion, we were busy debating non-issues in this state instead of our constitutional obligations.”
“Our constitutional obligations are to set a budget during the budget session, and then every 10 years, we’re required to redistrict,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “And instead of doing those….I think one of our biggest discussions was on wild horse and burro management. Yes, that’s a big deal, but my God, it took us well over an hour of discussion on the floor.”
At the time of his comments on Friday, Brown was reprimanded by House Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, because they were considered “off-topic,” but he was also criticized by Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, for calling the Legislature’s work into question. She told Brown he should apologize for this, but he refused.
“I said, ‘Well, you can want an apology all you want, but you’re not going to get it,'” Brown told Cowboy State Daily. “I’m allowed to vent my frustrations and these were actually frustrations sent to me by a constituent, although what he said was more vulgar. It gave me a push.”
He added that as one of the most conservative states in the nation, continuing to debate abortion and gun-related bills was just a waste of time. He pointed to the bill targeting women who use methamphetamine while pregnant as something that could have been worked on after the budget and redistricting work.
“We need to debate the true issues, like our tax structure, or whether we can attract new businesses here,” Brown said. “We’ve had five abortions in the state in the last 15 years, but every year since I’ve been in the Legislature, we’ve had a bill to fight abortions. I’m a pro-life guy myself, but at why are we passing more abortion laws to show how pro-life we are?”
After six years of being in the Legislature, Brown is now at a crossroads, because he said he is frustrated with the more extreme wing of the Republican Party, and with being accused by constituents and even people who don’t live in Wyoming of being corrupt.
“I’ve told a lot of people that I may not coming back to the Legislature because Wyoming is slowly losing its grip on reality,” Brown said.
He said he recently received an email from someone in Pennsylvania who accused Brown of being a “Republican in Name Only” whose support for U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney was against everything a Republican state stood for.
At this point, Brown said he feels almost complimented when he is called a “RINO,” because it shows he stands for his convictions.
“The Republican Party does not get to choose who registers as a Republican or not,” he said. “That’s the beauty of our country. I’m very much a Ronald Reagan-era Republican, with the big tent for a global party that allowed for different points of view.”
He added he was “deeply disappointed” in the Wyoming Republican Party, which has become “an embarrassment” to him in recent years, as they have proven they are only loyal to former President Donald Trump.
“I am completely embarrassed many times to call myself a Republican from this state, because when people see your name associated with that, they think, ‘He must be one of the crazies,'” Brown said.
Gov. Mark Gordon said during a news conference on Monday that he was happy to see Wyoming focusing on matters important on state and national levels.
“I’ve always found a very practical streak of Republicanism that is fiscally prudent…I think those issues are the ones that consistently motivate Wyoming Republicans, whether they’re more centrist or to the right,” he said.
Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that he felt the most recent legislative session showed Wyoming has the most efficient Legislature in the country.
“We continue to get more work done in a shorter time for less money than any other state in the Union,” he said. “We solved several problems, passed a good budget that supports people and made long-term, midterm and immediate investments.”
“Pro-life bills and Second Amendment bills are important as well,” he said. “In the end it all worked, the interim committee process works, most of the good bills passed and most of the bills that need more work failed and once again more committee bills passed than individual bills.”