Fireworks In The Capitol: Hutchings Blasts House Revenue Committee For Changing Bill

Sen. Lynn Hutchings said she was ashamed to be a legislator Tuesday after some of her House colleagues overhauled one of her bills. Committee Chair Rep. Steve Harshman called it a "cheap shot."

Clair McFarland

February 22, 20233 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A Wyoming state Senator said she was ashamed to be a legislator Tuesday after some of her House colleagues overhauled one of her proposed laws.  

Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, criticized the House Revenue Committee after the many changes it made to Senate File 151, which proposes to compel prescription benefit managers (PBMs) to be more transparent.  

“I have never seen anything like this in my life,” said Hutchings, borrowing a microphone after the committee had closed public testimony and advanced her bill unanimously – with the changes. “Today is one day out of 13 years of being involved with the Legislature that I’m ashamed to be a legislator.”  

Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, rebuked Hutchings.  

“Woah, now, stop, you’re done,” said Harshman. “It’s called bicameralism … and boy, if I’d have known you were going to take that little cheap shot you wouldn’t have had the mic. Shame.”  

Free Market 

SF 151 passed the committee unanimously and will advance to the House floor. But its passage came after numerous changes and thorough discussion.  

The bill lists several practices in which the PBMs would not be allowed to engage if the bill passes. It is intended, Hutchings told the committee, to spare pharmacists an unequal contracting situation giving PBMs the ability to cheat them.   

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, led the committee in making numerous changes to the bill. He said the changes would help it stick to its intended purpose of sparing rural pharmacies while preventing the costs from shifting onto the consumer.  

“I grew up in a family that had eight furniture stores and my childhood was having one of them go out of business every year for six years straight,” said Zwonitzer. “We’ll just call it the Walmart effect. It’s not fair and it’s not right. But … you can’t pass that cost on to everybody else.”  

Zwonitzer also scrubbed bill language that he said was vaguely or ill defined. 

Who Is Profiteering? 

Proponents and opponents of the bill had debated during the committee meeting on whether it’s PBMs or large pharmaceutical manufacturers that are harming rural pharmacies. Bill opponents said the manufacturers are the ones doing the damage, and PBMs are negotiating, rather, on behalf of pharmacies.

Rep. Tomi Strock, R-Douglas, countered bill opponents, saying SF 151 would shield small pharmacies from exploitive PBM practices so that people in small towns someday won’t have to live in a world with only internet pharmacies. She said PBMs also are hurting large pharmacies like Safeway, and that’s evidenced by the ability of some PBMs to buy insurance companies.  

“I never get an answer on how someone that’s a middleman is able to buy insurance companies,” she said.

Strock opposed Zwonitzer’s amendments, asking if he was leaving anything in the bill “to protect our pharmacies?” 

‘Not Worth Talking About’ 

Hutchings in a Tuesday evening phone call with Cowboy State Daily said she did not want to discuss the exchange over her bill.  

“If you could not clearly see what was going on, then it’s not worth talking about,” she said.  

Zwonitzer also declined to comment in a text to Cowboy State Daily.  

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter