Guest Column: Why We Think A Special Legislative Session Is A Bad Idea

Senate President Ogden Driskill and House Speaker Albert Sommers write, "Without special rules governing the special session, it’s likely to be a Pandora’s Box scenario devolving into a mini-session akin to what we witnessed in the 2021 special session, where 41 bills were filed, and only one passed."

CSD Staff

March 27, 20244 min read

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Last week, in the aftermath of Governor Gordon’s veto of Senate File 54, the Department of Revenue conveyed to us that the veto would effectively halt any additional legislative efforts toward property tax relief in 2024.

However, on Monday, the Department of Revenue informed us that property owners could be notified of the exemption in their September tax bills, although it may lead to some confusion for the taxpayer. This information made us take a second look at whether we would recommend a special session. In the end, we think a special session is a bad idea.

The logistics of convening a special session present significant challenges. Since we adjourned the 2024 Budget Session, a quick one or two-day session is not feasible. Without suspending legislative rules, which would occur only after a session is convened, bills must follow the standard process, including multiple readings and committee referrals. A joint conference committee would iron out differences between the houses before bills reach the governor for approval or veto. The Legislature must be in session to receive veto messages and vote by a two-thirds majority to override any vetoes. Realistically, a special session would require at least eight to ten days, with a price tag of about $35,000 per day.

We would likely be in favor of a special session, if we could laser-focus solely on Senate File 54, which would grant a 25% tax exemption for Wyoming homeowners on properties up to $2 million in assessed value for two years. However, we believe differing expectations make it unlikely to garner the two-thirds majority vote required to change legislative rules that would speed up the process.

Without special rules governing the special session, it’s likely to be a Pandora’s Box scenario devolving into a mini-session akin to what we witnessed in the 2021 special session, where 41 bills were filed, and only one passed. Further in 2021, we were unsuccessful in passing limiting rules for the special session. Based on our history, we fear that expecting self-restraint within the chambers might be wishful thinking. Remember, history has a tendency to repeat itself.

Calling for a special session lasting two to three weeks burdens legislators, legislative staff, and their families, who are already balancing numerous commitments including employment, medical appointments, family responsibilities, business obligations, upcoming elections, and interim duties in the months ahead.

It is crucial to emphasize the importance of safeguarding the integrity of our citizen legislature. Calling for yet another special session in 2024 would mark the third such occurrence in the last five years, hinting at a potential trend towards a full-time legislature – a direction we do not embrace. Protecting the institution of our citizen legislature means respecting its intended function and preserving its capacity to effectively address issues within the framework of regular sessions.

Remember, the legislators who are asking for a special session created delay after delay during the budget session by asking for roll call votes, trying to resurrect bills, bringing procedural motions, and filibustering debate. Simply put, they squandered precious time in a budget session where time is our enemy. We had plenty of time in our established calendar to pass bills and do veto overrides.

We cannot justify calling ourselves into a special session for matters better suited to the 2025 General Session, where we can thoroughly deliberate and develop comprehensive legislation. Management Council will meet on April 1 to begin that process of developing sound legislation for introduction at the 2025 General Session. We are calling for a vote of our members to see if they want to come into a special session, but we will be a no vote.

Albert Sommers is the Speaker of the House and has served In the Legislature since 2013. Ogden Driskill is the President of the Senate and has served in the Wyoming Legislature since 2011.

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CSD Staff