Oops! Wyo State Rep Apologizes After Saying “Don’t Get Your Panties In A Wad” on House Floor

Legislative proceedings on Friday stopped right after Rep. Pendergraft said people were "getting their panties in a wad" over a bill changing the Wyoming driver's license. The gallery groaned and Pendergraft offered an immediate apology.

Jimmy Orr

February 10, 20235 min read

Ken Pendergraft 2 10 23

To a casual observer, the statement “don’t get your panties in a wad” might be no big deal. It’s something heard all the time, meaning “don’t overreact.”

In a bar, perhaps it’s no problem. On the floor of the Wyoming House of Representatives, however, it’s breaking decorum and not an acceptable phrase.


Freshman Rep. Ken Pendergraft, R-Sheridan, realized that as soon as he said it Friday morning.

“Everyone’s got their panties in a wad over this thing,” he said, alluding to a bill changing the Wyoming driver’s license.

Everything stopped. Onlookers watching in the gallery audibly groaned. 

Hearing their reaction, Pendegraft apologized and issued an excuse for using the questionable language that he was an “old soldier.”

He then realized that he couldn’t use that excuse, so he followed up with, “It doesn’t make it right.”

Longtime political observers, who were in the gallery when the remark was made and wished to remain anonymous, told Cowboy State Daily that Pendergraft’s statement was not appropriate language for the floor.

“People groaned and some of the ladies in the room were shaking their heads,” one onlooker said.

Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, who spoke in favor of the bill, agreed that the language was not OK.

“To the average person, it’s no big deal,” Brown said. “But we hold ourselves to a different standard. Some could find it offensive, so we don’t say things like that. No slurs. No sexism. We try not to go down those roads when debating issues.”

At Issue

Pendergraft made the statement when discussing legislation (Senate File 20) that would no longer require driver’s licenses in Wyoming to have a color photo on it. 

In 2019, WYDOT changed the driver license card material in order to make cards more secure and harder to counterfeit. That was the impetus for changing material, the security.

“Unfortunately, the new material does not reproduce color photos as well as we would like,” said Doug McGee, spokesperson for WYDOT. “The material does reproduce photos in black and white very crisply. This bill will allow us to use black and white photos instead of color.”

“The main reason for the change is to protect against counterfeits, which was much easier with the prior printing process used to make the licenses, Rep. Brown concurred.

“They are easily mimicked and you could very easily counterfeit a driver’s license,” Brown said.

Skeptical At First

Pendergraft said he was skeptical about the bill when he first heard about it and received a lot of email against it.

But after looking into the issue, he said he changed his mind.

“We looked at them and I’m firmly convinced it’s a better system,” he said.

Because WYDOT will be using a different material for driver’s licenses, color photographs could come out blurry or discolored, he said.

“The new equipment, which has already been delivered, they’re already using it, is able to do a black-and-white image with much more clarity than what you get out of a color one,” he said.

And it’s not like there’s not an option for a color photo. It will just take a smartphone to see it.

He explained that a barcode will be available on the back of the driver’s license that can be scanned with a phone and the full-color photo will become available.

“So if an officer needs to look at a color photo, they have access to that or if you are registering to vote and they need to look at a color photo, there will still be access,” he said.

There was some concern from his constituents, he said, that hair color or eye color wouldn’t be immediately accessible on a black and white image.

No big deal.

“Hair color today tends to be subject to the whim of the week,” he said.

As for the eye color, Pendergast said text will be presented on the front of the driver’s license that details the color of the individual’s eyes. Plus, there’s the alternative photo via barcode on the back.

No one in the Senate seemed particularly concerned with the legislation after hearing that other forms of ID would not be impacted by the change.

Would it impact concealed weapons permits? No.

Or the ability to get an international driver’s license? No.

What’s Next For Pendergraft

Longtime politicos say he may have to fall on his sword again Monday.

“He’ll probably do a more formal apology to the body on Monday and they’ll call it good,” one observer said.

Brown said he thought nothing further was necessary.

“No, it’s over,” Brown said. “The whip went up and talked to him today. We don’t talk about that kind of stuff. Freshman mistake and we’ve all done it.”

As for the bill, as it already passed the House and overcame the first hurdle Friday, advancing to second reading.

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Jimmy Orr

Executive Editor

A third-generation Wyomingite, Jimmy Orr is the executive editor and co-founder of Cowboy State Daily.