Shooting The Breeze: Legislative Update With Cat And Rod

Two weeks in, Cat and Rod discuss the 67th Wyoming Legislature: "The good thing about the rules debate is that it took time away from everything else, and I think the less time spent developing legislative solutions to nonexistent problems, the better."

Rod Miller

January 24, 20235 min read

Collage Maker 23 Jan 2023 07 05 PM

By Rod Miller and Cat Urbigkit
Miller and Urbigkit are opinion columnists.

Rod Miller: Since we had our last chin wag, Cat, The Wyoming Legislature has had a couple of weeks to go about our business.  It’s still early in the game, well before halftime, but I think we can see some trends developing, and we can draw some early conclusions.

As the saying goes, the wheels of government grind exceeding slow but exceeding fine. They can also wobble like a crazy wheel on a shopping cart full of Ding-Dongs and Everclear. We’re already seeing a bit of that. With all the important work to be done, the libertarian/conservative/populist/MAGA wing of the Wyoming GOP – putative protectors of our individual liberties – appears to be chiseling away at those freedoms in favor of political leverage.

Bills that tell us what we can read, what we can say, who we can marry, what cars we can drive and other ancillary bs have already cropped up.  I think we can expect more of the same from the spear-rattlin’ culture warriors in the lege.  Hell, they’re even telling us we should eat horses!

But the move that I’m scratchin’ my noggin about is the adoption of new House rules intended to strengthen the hands of legislative leadership.  I’d be interested to hear your take on that, and if you think that was a worthwhile investment of the members’ time and effort.

Cat Urbigkit: Oh hell yeah, it was. This was a move you’d expect from the preppers, but in this case, they are stashing powers into a cubby as they hope they’ll eventually take all the leadership positions, while they opine about the rights of the majority to overrule decisions of leadership that they don’t like. The good thing about this rule is it’s set up to last two years, so they can take it for a quick spin before they have the same debates all over again. Which they will.

The good thing about the rules debate is that it took time away from everything else, and I think the less time spent developing legislative solutions to nonexistent problems, the better. Maybe this debate will prompt members to read the entirety of the rules that govern their procedure and conduct. I’ve been to some intense meetings where the parliamentarian proved to be the most powerful person in the room. Kinda like those badass librarians at the National Archives …

Rod Miller: Ha, touche’ and great librarian analogy!  The rules kerfluffle begs the question about what kind of people we in Wyoming are electing to the legislature.  If the body is full of zealots with axes to grind, and a poor upbringing in the home – you know, muttonheads who strut, flaunt and bluster instead of work – then sure, a strict set of rules and the threat of grounding are necessary.

But we both wistfully remember a time when most of the folks in the lege really didn’t need every move regulated by rules.  They innately behaved first as adults, then like stateswomen and statesmen. The organs of state government likewise behaved with the same diplomacy and civility.  

It’s almost as if government reflects the governed.  We were a calmer, wiser and tougher people back in the day.  Demonstrably so. Today….well, our government reflects us.  The least little perceived slight will curdle our ice cream.  Sheesh, we’re only about halfway through the column, and I already need a beer!

BRB, the ball’s in your court.

Cat Urbigkit: I’m not ready to believe those days are only in our past. You and I both know some overly enthusiastic folks who were elected to serve in Cheyenne who got into office and then had the eye-opening experience of learning that serving in the legislature involves serious considerations and debating substance rather than the my-way-or-the-highway blustering of their campaigns.

The campaign trail is not public service, and the public expects our legislators to serve in our best interests. Some of these newbies quickly realize the difference and will settle in to do the work, learning about public service in the process.

A few of these newbies still won’t get it, but they won’t be effective legislators even if their constituents allow them to stay. I expect history to quickly forget their names.

As I scroll through the list of the nearly 400 bills that have been filed so far, I can see plenty of good work being put forth. Some of the others demonstrate how far we’ve traveled from the notion of limited government. Maybe legislators should consider a principle promoted in medical practice: primum non nocere, “First, do no harm.” Seems like a good place to start.

Rod Miller: Hippocrates, not hypocrites.  I’d wear that t-shirt!

It’s always dicey trying to get a read on a session this early.  Trial balloons often get floated to see if they’ll fly.  Thankfully, most burst during the arduous but necessary process of winding through committee, crossing houses, conferences and ultimately, to land on the governor’s desk.

I guess, in that regard, we can be thankful that government’s wheels aren’t turbocharged, and that we drive in the slow lane. 

I’m gonna loosen the cinch on this column and let it catch its breath.  We have a lot of ridin’ yet to do before the gavel comes down.  Let’s talk again soon.

Cat Urbigkit: ‘Til next time, Rod. Cheers!

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Rod Miller

Political Columnist