Benched During Session, Sen. Dan Laursen’s ‘Unbelievably’ Good Behavior Gets Him Back On Committees

Powell Sen. Dan Laursen is out of Senate President Ogden Driskill's doghouse and has been rewarded for good behavior by being placed on a committee. He was the only legislator, out of 93, not to be assigned to a standing committee last session.

Leo Wolfson

March 22, 20237 min read

Dan Laursen and Anthony Bouchard 3 22 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

State Sen. Dan Laursen, R-Powell, is out of Wyoming Senate President Ogden Driskill’s doghouse and has been rewarded for his behavior during the recently completed legislative session.

After being the only one of 93 state lawmakers not to be assigned to a standing committee during the 2023 session, Laursen has been put back on the Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee for the upcoming interim session. 

A contrite Laursen said being benched taught him a lesson.

“I learned I shouldn’t attack the Senate president or majority floor leader,” Laursen told Cowboy State Daily.

Driskill, R-Devils Tower, withheld appointing Laursen to any standing committee entering the 2023 legislative session for repeated comments the Powell Republican made last year, pledging to challenge and take out legislative leadership. The snub was a rare one, as legislators are almost always appointed to at least one standing committee for each session.

“I told him if he behaved the way he’s supposed to and treats people the way they’re supposed to be treated he would get his seat back,” Driskill said. “He behaved unbelievably well during the session, and I give him kudos for that.”

‘A Good Deal’

Laursen described being back on a committee as “a good deal,” but also said that it “should have been done earlier or not at all.”

A four-term member of the House and first-term senator, Laursen said he thought he would be returned to two standing committees, his prior commitment level during the 2022 session as a state representative.

“It is what it is,” he said. “We have to all try to get along.”

Because of the snub, Laursen was not able to make any committee-level decisions on bills considered during the 2023 session. He testified on a few of his own bills, however.

Back On Water Committee, Too

Laursen also has been put back on the Select Water Committee, one of the most prominent special committees in the Legislature. 

He has extensive experience with both committees, serving on Agriculture from 2015-2022 and Select Water from 2017-2022 while in the House. Laursen was elected to the Senate in November.

A hydrographer and part-time farmer, Laursen said water issues will become much more important for Wyoming over the course of the century. He wants the state to build as many dams as possible so it can fully utilize its share of water guaranteed in the Colorado River Compact. 

Driskill said he gave up his own seat for Laursen to sit on the Select Water Committee, but Sen. Tim French, R-Powell, also lost out for consideration because he and Laursen represent the same part of the state. A private meeting was held between the three to work out who would be on it.

Laursen started participating in the Ag Committee while it discussed interim topics Feb. 28 and the first Select Water Committee meeting of 2023 was held last week.

Laursen also was placed on the Select Committee on Legislative Facilities, Technology and Process, a body that meets once a year. 

State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, on the Senate Floor during the 2023 Wyoming legislative session. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)


Driskill made personal behavior a point of emphasis before the 2023 session.

 To this effect, he requested the chairs of his top legislative committees sign a pact that included pre-written resignation letters should they fall out of line at some point in the future.

“Decorum is everything in the body,” Driskill said. 

 Driskill said he takes an “old-school” approach to the topic of decorum, inspired by the way former state Sens. Eli Bebout and Hank Coe managed the body. 

Some members of the Legislature have made public criticisms against each other and commonly use labels such as “RINO” and “far right” to describe other members.

For instance, Sens. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, and Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, had sharp remarks about members of certain committees that didn’t pass their bills in the past session.

Driskill said he tries to make as many alliances as possible to get bills passed.

“When you single people out it hurts your chances,” Driskill said. “If you attack me personally, don’t expect me to be so nice to your bill.”

No Word On Bouchard

Also on relatively thin ice during the past session was Bouchard.

The second-term senator was stripped of his committee positions during the 2022 legislative session for a “long pattern” of misconduct, Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, said at the time. Bouchard was given a seat on the Senate Health, Labor and Social Services Committee entering the 2023 session upon the expectation that he would exhibit improved decorum.

 An ethics complaint also was filed on Bouchard during the 2022 session, and two more complaints were filed against him during this year’s session. 

The 2023 complaints filed against Bouchard involved some posts he made on Facebook and a private text message he sent to a Green River woman calling her a “f***ing idiot.” Bouchard defended his actions as free speech. 

 Laursen said he was chastised by Driskill for sharing one of Bouchard’s posts on social media.

Driskill believes members of the Legislature should be held to a higher ethical standard as they tend to be regarded in a different light than everyday residents.

“I believe the legislators are held to a higher degree of standards,” he said.

Driskill sent a letter to Bouchard after the most recent complaint was filed, warning him that if he receives another “substantiated” complaint, Driskill will forward it to the full Senate to consider potential disciplinary action.  

The Senate President said he had no update about any potential action being taken against Bouchard.

All About The Rules

Senate rules differ from the House, where the Speaker can remove a member from a committee at any time. In the Senate, a two-thirds majority is required to take general disciplinary action against a member.

Driskill said there is no guarantee of a “due process” when it comes to legislator infractions. 

Ethics complaints are a bit of a different matter however and are considered by the Joint Management Council. 

 All investigations into ethics complaints are kept confidential until a finding of probable cause is determined. At that point, a special committee can be appointed to formally investigate the complaint if the council wants to move forward with it. The council would then hold public meetings on the complaint. 

On Tuesday, the Management Council held an executive session that was closed to the public. There was no other topic listed on the agenda for the meeting.

Although the Management Council temporarily removed ethics complaint language from its rules during the 2023 session, these rules will be reworked during the upcoming interim session and mechanisms still exist to take action against senators for alleged ethics violations.

Driskill said members will be appointed to a Subcommittee for Complaints at the Management Council meeting Thursday. 

“The body says you should behave in a respectful manner and whatever remedy we have; we need a committee that deals with it,” he said.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter