The Wyoming Senate kicked off the 67th state Legislature on the floor Tuesday afternoon, and it didn’t take new Senate President Odgen Driskill, R-Devils Tower, to lay out he expects the 2023 session to be civil and productive.
In an emotional speech after he was unanimously elected Senate president, Driskill said he was “struck by the same sense of reverence that I was when I first stepped into the Capitol as a freshman senator more than a decade ago.”
After acknowledging his family, many of whom were present for the swearing in, Driskill recognized senators who had served in the Legislature for many decades, those who had died and others who are new to the Legislature this session.
Diversity Of Views
Driskill spoke appreciatively of the value of disagreement inherent in the legislative process and called for a respectful exchange of ideas during the session.
“What makes this citizen Legislature so effective is the diversity of views its members bring,” Driskill said. “And we all know the minority party is not short on views.”
He quoted Abraham Lincoln, who referred to the “better angels of our nature” in his first inaugural address.
“We must not be enemies,” Driskill said. “Nationally, and even here at home in Wyoming, the political discourse has become dug in and personal. I believe there’s more common ground that unites us than divides us.”
He pledged to lead by example and conduct the Senate’s business with the “utmost decorum and respect.”
Driskill noted that in the coming session, the Legislature will determine how to allocate $2 billion in budget surplus, which he attributes to surging oil and gas prices, a robust investment policy and federal funding.
“We must remember this is a one-time bump, note a wholesale change in our economic outlook,” Driskill said of the surplus.
He urged his fellow senators that when considering how to allocate the surplus, the “needs of tomorrow” must considered in making their decisions.
He said he would work to keep taxes low and spending lean, while also providing for the needs of the “elderly and underserved populations.”
He said the senate should also strive to find funding to maintain quality education in the state.
“Our success will depend on our ability to work together to put aside individual differences and to focus on common ground,” Driskill said.