By Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, guest column
Rodriguez represents House District 50 and lives in Cody
The final weeks of the 67th Legislature brought to light the tension within the Republican Caucus. It is clear to any follower of the Legislature that Republicans are divided by two different world views: for purposes of this column, these sects will be referred to as the “conservatives” and the “uniparty.”
In a deliberative body like the Wyoming House, diversity of thought, even within one political party, is a very good thing. Most Americans believe that in the marketplace of ideas, the best ideas will always win out after rigorous debate on the issues.
Unfortunately, many issues were not afforded the opportunity to be considered. The Speaker of the House unilaterally withheld bills aimed at bolstering the rights of Wyoming parents. The Speaker’s reasoning? The bills allegedly did not present “Wyoming solutions for Wyoming problems.”
This line quickly became the go-to method for killing honest debate on any issue the uniparty sought to avoid discussing, and was even repeated in the Governor’s adjournment address to the House on March 3rd. “Wyoming solutions for Wyoming problems” became a facade to hide behind, conveniently concealing from Wyoming voters a true debate on the issues at hand.
Interestingly, the uniparty supported several legislative efforts originating from outside of Wyoming. The body adopted amendments to the Uniform Trust Code (a document written by out-of-state attorneys at the Uniform Law Commission), entered into two interstate compacts dealing with psychologists and counselors (which cannot be amended or tailored), and even adopted the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act (copied and pasted from the federal statute books and currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, challenged on equal protection grounds).
Conservatives engaged in honest debate on each of these issues, never seeking to avoid deliberation by arguing that language written outside Wyoming’s borders should be unworthy of consideration.
Conversely, the uniparty fiercely opposed an attempt to prevent discrimination in Wyoming based on vaccine status. The effort to decide public health regulations, matters properly within the jurisdiction of the State of Wyoming, was met with the uniparty argument that “we will lose precious federal funds, so we can’t do it.”
According to the uniparty, $847 million in federal health funds has made Wyoming unable to decide its future. How can the Legislature pursue “Wyoming solutions for Wyoming problems” with this attitude?
The Wyoming Legislature is a serious place. Ideas – not the perceived origin of those ideas- should be debated seriously.
As every public school student in Wyoming learns, much of our State Constitution was borrowed from other states. Our wise founders meticulously chose the best portions of other state constitutions for their ideas, compiled those with their own ideas, and gifted us with the strongest State Constitution in the Union. The Convention in 1889 should be an example to Wyoming Legislators as we move into the interim.