In response for missing “the most important committee meeting of the year,” Wyoming Senate President Ogden Driskill said he’s removed Senate Vice President Dave Kinskey as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Driskill, R-Devils Tower, said he flew back to Wyoming from his vacation in Mexico to attend the Legislature’s Management Council meeting March 23. When that meeting was over, he flew back to Mexico to continue his vacation.
Driskill said he didn’t see the same level of effort to attend that meeting from Kinskey, R-Sheridan, who’s also on the Management Council.
“This was the most important committee meeting of the year,” Driskill said. “It was disheartening he wasn’t there.”
Driskill said that’s why he removed Kinskey from his chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Although Senate Rule 2.8 clearly states Driskill is not allowed to remove a senator from a committee without a majority vote from the entire Senate, he said there’s nothing in the rules that prevents him from removing a chair while keeping them on the committee, as that scenario is not specifically addressed.
Importance Of The Meeting
It was at the Management Council meeting in March that topics of discussion were decided for the upcoming interim session, although there is nothing in the rules that keeps the Legislature from straying from these topics if they please.
The interim session plays an important role in shaping the look of the next legislative session, as the committees draft their bills at this stage. Committee bills tend to have the highest rate of success in being considered by the Legislature and passed into law.
Driskill also said Kinskey has failed to communicate with him and the Appropriations Committee since the 2023 session completed in early March.
“That’s not how a chair is expected to run their committee,” Driskill said. “We just aren’t there.”
Kinskey said he was highly surprised by the move, and said maybe there’s a more political reason behind Driskill’s action.
“This may be speculation, but I’m wondering if I’m too conservative for him,” he said.
Driskill said he’s replacing Kinskey as chair with Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne.
How It Went Down
Kinskey said he was first contacted by Driskill last weekend.
The Senate president attempted to meet with Kinskey as he was passing through Sheridan, but the Sheridan lawmaker was unable to meet because of a personal engagement. Driskill spent the night in Sheridan and tried reaching out to Kinskey again to meet the next day. Kinskey informed Driskill that day his wife had COVID-19, so he could not meet in person.
On Tuesday, Driskill informed Kinskey by voicemail that he was pulling him as chair of the committee.
“It wasn’t the way I wanted to tell you, but I missed you,” Driskill said in a voicemail Kinskey shared with Cowboy State Daily. “I was pretty disappointed you didn’t show up at Management Council.”
Although Kinskey attended the Management Council meeting virtually, he only spoke during the afternoon portion of the meeting and, for the most part, only while discussing the interim topics the Joint Appropriations Committee would handle.
But Kinskey wasn't the only member of the council to not attend in person, as Majority Floor Leader Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett also attended virtually.
“I tried working really hard with him,” Driskill said. “He doesn’t work well with his committee.”
Kinskey said he had an obligation that prevented him from attending the meeting in person that day.
He said he sent calls and texts responding to Driskill’s voicemail but received no response. He then sent an email to Driskill on Wednesday reiterating his commitment to the chairman role and that he spent time working on the interim topics with House Appropriations Chair Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne.
“Since the time the Management Council finalized the topics, I, staff and the co-chair have worked on fleshing out each topic, as well as meeting dates, times and places and agendas, and continue to do so,” Kinskey wrote. “I look forward to a productive interim and a good budget session as Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman.”
Kinskey said he received no response to the email.
What The Rules Say
Kinskey doesn’t believe Driskill has the right to remove him as committee chair.
“Under the rules, that can only be changed by a vote of the full Senate. I intend to continue to serve as Chairman,” Kinskey wrote to Driskill in the email.
Driskill disputes this interpretation of the rules, saying that since the rule doesn’t explicitly say he can’t remove a member as chair, he finds it within his powers.
“Mason’s Rules are written very carefully,” he said. “It would have clearly put that in the rules if that was not allowed. It’s totally silent as far as applying to chair.”
Importance Of The Job
What both senators agree on is the importance of the role of the Appropriations Committee in the upcoming interim session, which will pave the way for the 2024 budget session. The Appropriations Committee plays an integral role in this fiscally focused session.
“I’ve been through it,” Kinskey said. “As a business person and former mayor of Sheridan, I always make sure the public’s money is spent like my own. I’m like a hawk, I make sure spending doesn’t get out of control from us.”
Driskill said it’s his reputation on the line when creating the new biennial budget. He could have chosen two other Republicans to lead the Appropriations Committee, but said Nethercott is the only one with enough experience to be chair. She previously served as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee for four years.
“It’s an accountability for how the budget session is run that plays directly back to me as Senate president,” Driskill said.
Even if he isn’t chair anymore, Kinskey will continue to serve on the Appropriations Committee, which will have its first interim meeting in July.
“He’s a valuable member and a smart man,” Driskill said.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com