Wyoming Legislature Will Vote On Calling A Special Session; Driskill, Sommers Oppose

Enough signatures have been tabulated Wednesday to officially call for a vote on whether to convene a special session of the Wyoming Legislature. Both Senate President Ogden Driskill and House Speaker Albert Sommers say they are opposed to a special session.

Leo Wolfson

March 27, 20246 min read

The Wyoming Senate meets during the 2024 regular legislative session at the Capitol in Cheyenne.
The Wyoming Senate meets during the 2024 regular legislative session at the Capitol in Cheyenne. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

The signatures are in and the results are final: The Wyoming Legislature will take an official vote on whether they’ll be called back to the state Capitol in Cheyenne for a special session.

As of noon Wednesday, the necessary 35% threshold of support from members in each of the House and Senate had been reached to call for an official vote. Now all that remains to convene a special session is a simple majority vote from each chamber. If that happens, the special session would be held at a yet-to-be-determined date.

A push for a special session has been growing since Thursday night when Gov. Mark Gordon vetoed a property tax relief bill many legislators support. He also vetoed increasing regulations on abortions in Wyoming and banning gun-free zones.

In a Wednesday op-ed, Senate President Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, and House Speaker Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, said they remain opposed to convening a special session.

“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,” they wrote.

Shortly after Driskill and Sommers put out their Wednesday op-ed, Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, chairman of the Wyoming Freedom Caucus, responded on Facebook.

“In other words, please wait until it is not an election year so that we can all vote our conscience rather than what the people desire,” he said.

Bear has been one of the most vocal in calling for a special session and said he would want it to focus on six bills.

Vote Breakdown

A total of 12 senators and 26 representatives said they would like a vote on whether to call for a special session. The Senate will have to pick up four votes and the House six for a special session to be convened.

In the House, 11 representatives said they don’t want one, while 25 members didn’t respond to the poll. Reps. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, and Mike Yin, D-Jackson, both of whom didn’t respond to the poll, told Cowboy State Daily they’re against calling a special session.

Every person in the House who said they want a special session is either a member of or aligned with the Wyoming Freedom Caucus, aside from Rep. Jon Conrad, R-Mountain View.

In the Senate, two members said they didn’t want one and 17 didn’t respond.

Sens. Bill Landen, R-Casper, and Stephan Pappas, R-Cheyenne, were the lone dissenters in the Senate.

Members of the Legislature must submit their new votes to the Legislative Service Office (LSO) by 5 p.m. Sunday.

Wyoming voters amended the Wyoming Constitution in 2002 to allow the Legislature to convene special sessions. Before the passage of that constitutional amendment, only the governor could call the Legislature into a special session.

Why Not?

Although Driskill didn’t vote in the initial poll, he and Sommers make it clear in their op-ed they will not vote to support one.

They both said they would “likely” support a special session if it was solely focused on Senate File 54, a bill Gordon vetoed that would have provided a 25% reduction of off fair market value up to $2 million of a home’s value.

But they also expressed doubt it would be possible to only focus on this bill and expressed concern that a special session could become an unwieldy event, lacking in safeguards to prevent it from becoming too time consuming and expensive.

“It is crucial to emphasize the importance of safeguarding the integrity of our citizen legislature,” they wrote. “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.”

In their op-ed, Driskill and Sommers also criticize those asking for a special session for creating “delay after delay” during the regular budget session by asking for roll call votes, trying to resurrect bills that had been defeated earlier in the session, bringing procedural motions, and filibustering debate.

“Simply put, they squandered precious time in a budget session where time is our enemy,” they wrote. “We had plenty of time in our established calendar to pass bills and do veto overrides.”

For And Against

Many conservative groups and legislators have called for a special session after Gordon’s vetoes last week.

When Driskill and Sommers said they would consider a special session Monday night after earlier saying they were against it, Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, celebrated it as a win.

“Presiding officers have reversed themselves. Stay vigilant,” Steinmetz said on her Facebook. “We have a long way to go in order to finish the job for Wyoming citizens.”

Conversely, other groups like the Equality State Policy Center, Wyoming Education Association and Wyoming Democratic Party have rallied against it.

Equality State’s chief complaint with calling the session is cost.

“This session could cost taxpayers anywhere from $35,000 to $100,000 with little benefit in return,” Equality State said on its Facebook on Tuesday. “Reopening bills that are already in process erodes public trust in government and limits access to a fair legislative process.”

The last special session was held in 2021. Although this session was estimated to cost around $25,000 per day, the actual sum ended up being around $33,000 for each day, at a total of more than $233,000, according to the Casper Star-Tribune at the time. The cost if one is held this year is estimated to be around $35,000 per day, not counting security. Security is provided by the Wyoming Highway Patrol and is a separate expense from the total provided by LSO.

If a session is held, three days will also need to be allotted for the governor to issue vetoes.

Whenever the Legislature is in session, even if they are not physically in the building, lawmakers are being paid.

Lawmakers are paid $150 per day in salary no matter the number of hours they work. They also receive $157 per diem for expenses like lodging and meals. Legislators also have the option to waive their wages or per diem.

Lawmakers are also reimbursed for mileage when traveling back and forth to Cheyenne.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at leo@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter