Dave Simpson: Let’s Give The Legislature A Gentlemanly C-

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

It’s a fair question.

Posed by an inquisitive mind wanting to know – given my disagreement last week with a failing grade given to the Wyoming Legislature for its recent budget session by the Cheyenne newspaper editorial board – what grade I give the session.

I’m reluctant to say, because one point I made in that column was that lawmakers shouldn’t be taking directions from ink-stained wretches, myself included. I wrote my share of editorials, some of them right, some of them wrong.

(I once endorsed a candidate for sheriff in Moffat County, Colorado, who was handily beaten by the guy I didn’t endorse.  I became friends with the sheriff I didn’t endorse, and he took endless glee in telling people he wanted me to endorse his opponent in all future elections. Big laugh. Ouch.)

Since the Cheyenne paper invited opposing views, however, and since my current occupation is being profoundly retired (except for a little writing on the side), I’ll venture a few opinions from the perspective of a harmless, grouchy old coffee drinker who keeps an eye on taxes and is worried sick about the national debt.

When it comes to not raising taxes, I give the Wyoming Legislature a solid A. The majority has withstood the persistent and often hysterical calls to find “new sources of revenue.”

Education is almost always the first “woefully underfunded” consumer of tax dollars cited. But in Cheyenne, on my way to exercise every day, I see a brand new junior high with an artificial turf athletic field, right next to a high school with an artificial turf athletic field (can’t they share?) and a brand new swimming pool. One junior high in town doesn’t have it’s own artificial turf athletic field, and some folks wonder how we can justify such cruel unfairness.

Many of us played on actual grass when we went to school, and if everyone now has to have their own artificial turf field, maybe education isn’t in such dire straits after all. One of Warren Buffet’s rules is to “never ask a barber if you need a haircut,” and it looks to me like there’s some laudable skepticism in the legislature over the need for new taxes. Good.

On rejecting Medicaid expansion, I give the legislature an A. If “free money” (with endless strings attached) from a federal government that’s already $30 trillion in debt doesn’t give you the willies, I don’t know what will.

On spending COVID “relief” funds, we’re far more conservative than some states. Good. In Colorado  Springs, $6.6 million will be spent on irrigation systems at two golf courses. That’s COVID relief? Horse feathers.

That said, when you look at the recent record of our legislature, you have to wonder if this is the state that cast the highest percentage of votes for Donald Trump in 2020. Seven out of ten Wyoming voters supported Trump. But on some important issues, the majority of lawmakers are far more squishy, more milquetoast, more spineless than your average Trump supporter.

Last fall they took a “bye” on protecting Wyoming workers from mandatory vaccines, even as more and more vaccinated people are showing up with “breakthrough” cases of the COVID virus. Their reaction to health care workers demonstrating against mandates: Now, now, now, dearies, we lawmakers know best. Failing grade.

This session, the milquetoasts in the House defeated a bill prohibiting transgender males from competing in women’s sports, even though it passed handily in the Senate. This is the party that voted seven out of 10 for Trump? Sorry, failing grade.

Defeat was also handed to those who want more transparency over what is taught in schools. How do most Trump voters feel about that? Failing grade.

I also give the legislature an F for kicking my senator off his committees, even as they agonized over “one man – one vote” on redistricting. I’m one man, where’s my one vote on those committees? The voters should decide the fate of Anthony Bouchard, not his colleagues.

Bottom line: The milquetoasts get credit for shunning higher taxes, but they shrink from some issues dear to those who voted dramatically for Trump.

Hard to give them anything better than a C-.

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