Members of the Wyoming Legislature were sworn in Tuesday afternoon and, along swearing in and naming of legislative leadership, the 67th Legislature is officially underway.
State Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, was unanimously named speaker of the House in the opening session on the House floor, where he was given a standing ovation.
Sommers’ election avoided any possibility of a surprise, last-minute nominee for speaker.
Sommers narrowly beat Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, during the Republican caucus elections in November. There were rumblings that a nomination for Jennings would be made from the hardline conservative wing of the Legislature, but that never materialized.
Rep. Barry Crago, R-Buffalo, made the original nomination for Sommers.
“Like our predecessors, we face challenges,” Sommers said in his opening remarks. “We also have great opportunities.”
Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Sheridan, said he never expected the caucus elections to be called into question.
“I expected to be pretty straight forward,” he told Cowboy State Daily after the vote.
An Emotional Moment
Sommers choked up while introducing his sister Jonita Sommers, a fellow rancher, to the House chamber.
“Jonita, I appreciate all you have done for me, for ranching and for the preservation of ranch history,” he said.
Receiving one of the loudest applauses was Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, when introduced as majority floor leader. Neiman is entering his sophomore term as a state lawmaker.
He lauded the opportunities afforded citizens of the United States and its participatory political system.
“It is truly an honor to serve in the Wyoming House,” Neiman said. “It is nothing that I would have ever thought about in my life. As I look back on a very short career politically, it astounds me at what you can accomplish in this United States of America.”
Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs, was named speaker pro tempore, and he described Wyoming’s Legislature as the hardest working in America.
“We will get it done in 40 days what other legislatures will take months to do,” Stith said.
Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson was named minority floor leader.
Gray Calls For Follow-Through
Secretary of State Chuck Gray also addressed the House on opening day. The former state lawmaker was elected SOS in November. He initiated a standing ovation for the staff of the Wyoming Legislature.
He also told lawmakers they have a responsibility to make sure they make good on their campaign promises.
“Now is your moment to follow through on those ideas, those visions that you put forward to your neighbors that you represent,” Gray said.
Gray urged them to use restraint and fiscal conservatism when managing hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus over what was originally budgeted for during the 2022 session.
Although he faced his share of opposition and criticism during his six years in the Legislature, Gray took the high road in his speech, receiving a standing ovation at the end.