Cat Urbigkit & Rod Miller: The Lookout At The Halfway Mark Of The Legislative Session

Columnists Cat Urbigkit and Rod Miller discuss the Wyoming budget session as they see it shortly after the halfway mark. Both agree there are too many non-budget bills introduced and too many peacocking gubernatorial hopefuls.

Cat Urbigkit & Rod Miller

February 28, 20245 min read

Mix Collage 28 Feb 2024 03 08 PM 2430
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Cat Urbigkit: Hey Rod, now that the Wyoming Legislature is about at the halfway point in the calendar, it’s time to have a chat about this budget session.

Rod Miller: Howdy, Cat.  First out of the barn, I think there are too damn many non-budget bills that try to worm their way into a budget session. I can remember when there'd be just a couple dozen or so.  Now there are hundreds!!

I understand the idea behind "trial balloons," but enough's enough. Dealing with culture war bills that have nothing to do with the fiscal business of the state only serves to distract legislators from doing the thing that only they can do ... deal with Wyoming's money issues.

Cat Urbigkit: Agreed. The culture wars are taking up waay too much time when they’ve got to get property taxes fixed and set the budget. To top it off, when some of the stand-alone bills have fallen by the wayside, I see new amendments added to the budget to accomplish the same things that were killed in those bills. No wonder it’s taking so long to agree to the budget.

And this budget includes all kinds of weird stuff. This is one you’ll enjoy: A few legislators put forth a proposal to have the state spend $75,000 to acquire mammoth jack donkeys to place on state lands “to effectuate biological control of federal feral wild horses.”  

Rod Miller: You can't make this stuff up!  I wouldn't be surprised to see that legislation melded with legislative zeal to send money to Texas to protect the border and give money to religious schools.

I can foresee some sort of compromise omnibus bill whereby we end up importing Pentecostal donkeys from South Texas to turn out on Curt Gowdy State Park. I bet the Wyoming Freedom Caucus would gobble that one up like bbq.

Speaking of the Freedom Caucus, a few of their hardcore whip-hands are using the budget session to send up trial balloons about their own gubernatorial ambitions.  While that always makes for good political soap opera, that nonsense is also a waste of legislative time and energy when the state's budget is on the table.

Cat Urbigkit: Feral mammoth jacks would make for a great horror movie, but I generally try to avoid horror. Speaking of entertainment, I don’t watch reality shows, but who needs those shows while the legislature is in session? For my political party that touts limited government, they sure seem to forget the “limited” part when it comes to filing bills.

Still, I picked up a few little gems on the Senate side in the last week. I never could have predicted Senator Dave Kinskey would be quoting Henry David Thoreau on simplicity on the Senate floor. That was pretty great. More of that, please.

And Senator Tara Nethercott dispensed some words of wisdom she’d received from other legislators in the past: “If you don’t understand it, vote no.” Seems like a good plan.

At this point it looks like we could have a full remuda stampeding for the governor’s office. (Now where’s those mammoth jacks when we need them?)

This campaign season is bound to be brutal and crazy. We’re already hearing the daily bellyaching about the uniparty and RINOs when members of opposing parties happen to agree on anything.

The folks slapping on those labels just can’t comprehend that sometimes they bring forth terrible bills that deserve to hit the round file, while other bills are supported because they address a need or a problem in the least intrusive way.

Anything else you want to chat about before we call this a column?

Rod Miller: No, Ma'am...I think we've covered it for now. I always enjoy these chin-wags, Cat. Now....where did I put that whiskey bottle?

You can tell that Senator Chris Rothfuss is tired of the culture war debates. He put forth a principled opposition to a bill banning transgender treatment for minors, speaking of his opposition to the government inserting itself between parents and health care providers in deciding on treatments for children.

He noted that the mantra of most legislators is usually to support parental rights and proclamations that parents should decide what is best for their children, “except this time, the legislature knows best,” he said, before voting against the bill.

Kudos to him for pointing out the hypocrisy that we’re witnessing by those who proclaim themselves to be the true conservatives.

Rod Miller: It may be wishful thinking on my part, but it looks like to me that this session was the high water mark of the Freedom Caucus. Their brittle, antagonistic, bombastic form of populism appears to be wearing thin with folks. It certainly hasn't borne much legislative fruit. And the infighting has begun within their ranks. Their behavior contrasts starkly with that of Driskill and Sommers, and they don't come out well in the comparison.

But there's always next year. And there's already scuttlebutt about an interim study to come up with a bill to wrest federal lands from the federal government. Talk about dead horses, sheeesh!

I'm reaching for the whiskey now. These are always fun, Cat. Thanks!

Cat Urbigkit: Easy there, pardner. They’ve still got at least another day for shenanigans, so hold onto your hat – it ain’t over yet!

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Cat Urbigkit

Public Lands and Wildlife Columnist


Rod Miller

Political Columnist