Dave Simpson: Is The Wyoming Senate Acting With ‘Absolute Idiocy?’

Dave Simpson writes, “I have long suspected that here in Wyoming, the legislative powers that be allow one house to be the good guys, passing popular bills, confident that the second house would ultimately kill them, usually in committee."

Dave Simpson

March 06, 20244 min read

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Ever wondered how a bill in the Wyoming Legislature can pass easily in one house, but then die a sudden and ignominious death in the other?

It happens fairly frequently, with the House or Senate easily passing a bill, but then lawmakers at the other end of the hall make quick work of killing it.

Last year it happened a couple of notable times, once with a bill making it illegal to talk about sex with the youngest grade school kids, and another outlawing gender switching drugs and surgery on children.

Both passed easily in the Senate, but the talking sex bill died in the speaker of the House’s desk drawer, never even introduced. The transgender surgery bill died after languishing in the drawer, then forced out by a vote of the House, only to die after being sent to a reliably hostile committee.

I thought both bills made sense and should have gotten a full debate in the House after passing easily in the Senate. But it was not to be.

Don’t get me wrong. The last thing we need is for far more bills to become laws. It’s good that most proposed bills do not pass.

In Nebraska, where they’re real proud of their single-house “unicameral” legislature, a bill passed in the early 2000s allowing parents to drop off unwanted children to a safe place, no questions asked.

In a classic case where I believe a second house would have spotted the problem, the bill didn’t limit it to just Nebraska parents. And suddenly, people from all over the country were dropping off kids in Nebraska. A hasty special session ensued to change the law and fix the problem.

I have long suspected that here in Wyoming, the legislative powers that be allow one house to be the good guys, passing popular bills, confident that the second house would ultimately kill them, usually in committee.

This year a bill that easily passed in the House 57-4 would do away with gun-free zones. The argument is that perpetrators don’t obey gun-free zones, but law-abiding potential victims do.

If signs worked, we could post signs at the borders declaring them “illegal immigration free zones.” Lots of murders are done with knives, so if you buy the argument that signs deter crime, we should declare our kitchens “sharp object-free zones.” Signs don’t work, and the House seemed to agree, by a remarkably lopsided vote.

But does that sound like the current House to you, where they wanted to spend $1 billion more in the next budget than the Senate? Where there are a whole lot of Republicans who are far more liberal than you and I?

I suspect House members knew the gun-free zone bill would die a quick death in the Senate, so they were free to vote for the bill and look like Second Amendment supporters. And that’s what happened.

But then a Senate committee killed the bill, but the Senate defied Senate President Ogden Driskill and brought the bill back to life with a simple majority vote instead of the two-thirds vote Driskill wanted. And that’s why Driskill, who can’t get no respect lately, called the process used to revive the bill “absolute idiocy.”

So now the Senate that voted to revive the gun-free zone is probably inclined to pass the bill and send it on to the governor, and who knows what happens there. A veto wouldn’t surprise me, giving the powers-that-be guys the last laugh.

We ran my theory of Senate/House back-scratching past my state senator, Anthony Bouchard (yes, THAT Anthony Bouchard), on Tuesday night and he replied: “Usually that is correct. Ogden (Driskill) and Sommers (Speaker of the House) had a deal. The body revoked it. (Happy face emoji here). You can quote me.”

We may be seeing some cracks in the powers-that-be dam in which the House and Senate trade off the dirty work of killing bills the leaders don’t want.

If you agree that teachers shouldn’t be talking sex with grade-schoolers, children shouldn’t have organs removed and gun-free zones don’t work, then what’s happening in the Legislature isn’t “absolute idiocy.”

No, it’s a good thing.

Dave Simpson can be reached at: DaveSimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson

Political, Wyoming Life Columnist

Dave has written a weekly column about a wide variety of topics for 39 years, winning top columnist awards in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska.