$10.8 Billion Budget, 205 Bills To Start 2024 Wyoming Legislature Session On Monday

When Wyoming legislators begin their 2024 session Monday, they’ll start with Gov. Mark Gordon’s proposed $10.8 billion budget and 205 bills already introduced.

LW
Leo Wolfson

February 10, 20244 min read

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The 2024 legislative budget session will begin Monday, and with it consideration of 205 bills that have already been introduced.

Even with all those bills, the focus of the session will be the consideration of the 2025/2026 biennial budget, a weighty $10.8 billion proposal that will take up a significant portion of the three-week session.

To get any legislation introduced that isn’t the budget, a two-thirds majority vote is required, which means many of those 200-plus standalone bills will likely not advance.

Those that do will require at least some level of compromise and collaboration between the Wyoming Freedom Caucus and Wyoming Caucus, the two competing Republican factions of the state House. The five Democrats in the House could also play a role, swinging a balance to either side.

And Legislature leadership is telling legislators they're expected to be professional in those debates.

Senate President Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, said he’s already told his members they’ll have to find a way to work together to get their bills considered.

“It all depends on how we handle the splits between the bodies,” he said. “The friction is so high that if people drag their feet, it will end up just killing bills. If we all work together there will be a good chance we get to hear their bills.”

And if decorum slips, Driskill said he won’t hold back getting legislators back in line. Keeping the session civil has been a high priority for Driskill since becoming Senate president.

“I’ll have absolutely zero tolerance for anyone who talks about someone personally or goes after someone personally,” he said. “I’m fine with very hearty debates on policy, but once it gets personal, I’ll have some pretty harsh things to say to people.”

The Numbers

There have been 144 bills proposed so far in the House and 81 in the Senate.

Of these bills, 122 are sponsored by a committee, or roughly 59% of the total. The rest are being brought by individual legislators.

The number of bills introduced has slightly increased over the last seven years in the Legislature.

Driskill said he expects the grand total of bills to reach 400 by the Wednesday deadline, which would decrease the overall percentage of committee bills. If Driskill’s projection is correct, it would be the most bills proposed during a budget session in the history of the Legislature. The current mark is 399 in 2020.

In the last budget session of 2022, 279 bills were introduced — 122 sponsored by committee.

Legislators will have until noon Wednesday to submit their draft bills to the Legislative Service Office. Any bill that hasn’t been introduced on the floor of either chamber by Friday won’t be considered during the 2024 session.

There were 497 bills introduced during the 2023 session, but this is not an apples-to-apples comparison as non-budget sessions are much longer and do not require the same two-thirds hurdle.

Look At The First Few Days

Both chambers will gavel in separately at 10 a.m. Monday. This will be followed shortly after by Gov. Mark Gordon’s annual State of the State speech, delivered from the floor of the House.

After that, some committee meetings will be held, then the Management Council will meet at 5 p.m. Monday to discuss rules for the upcoming session.

This will involve a discussion on ethics complaints and a proposal by Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, giving the council authority to pause the implementation of an administrative rule if it believes it is unlawful, which would then be considered by the Legislature.

Current law only allows the Management Council to give a recommendation to the governor on a particular rule, which the governor can then choose whether or not to accept.

On Tuesday, Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, will host a Senate Agriculture State and Public Lands & Water Resources Committee meeting that will serve as an oversight hearing on the environmental impacts of Gordon’s net-zero and “carbon-negative” policies.

“It’s an issue that is very serious and needs to have a solid debate,” Driskill said. “It needs a good, honest debate on the policy.”

Around the same time that day, Driskill and House Speaker Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, will host a forest health briefing with input from members of the U.S. Forest Service, BLM and Wyoming State Forester.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter