By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
A state Senate leader said Wednesday what had been reported as an altercation with another legislator was actually an accident.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, publicly apologized to Sen. Tom James, R-Green River, who said he had been involved in an “incident” Tuesday with Driskill.
“I had no intent to cause any harm, was just clumsy,” Driskill said during comments to the Senate on Wednesday afternoon.
James had confirmed to Cowboy State Daily that Tuesday evening after the Senate’s budget session had concluded for the day, he and Driskill were involved in an incident.
James did not clarify what happened, but said he was waiting to receive video footage from floor proceeds at the time, and would comment further after that.
The event may have been part of Wyoming Highway Patrol security footage of the session, but it was not part of the video of the proceedings livestreamed to the public via YouTube.
Driskill told the Senate he owed its members an apology, adding he bumped into James by accident.
“Yesterday when I was trying to get out of the way of a couple of our staff members in front, my bad leg led me to trip into you,” he said. “I know you’re offended by the bump into you. And I’ve apologized to James, and it’s from the bottom of my heart.
“And now I apologize to the body; I’m sorry for any problems I’ve caused or any heartache,” he continued. “For all of you, this body needs to run in harmony and I’m sincerely sorry if I’ve caused discord between any members or any people.”
Driskill’s voice thickened slightly. “I’m sorry Tom – Senator James.”
James told Cowboy State Daily he had no comment on the apology.
Gun Bill, Tension
Just before the reported incident, senators approved the initial review of a gun rights bill sponsored by Senate Vice President Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, that Hicks called “constitutionally sound.” The bill would prohibit Wyoming government agencies from using state resources to enforce federal gun restrictions that are seen as an improper infringement on Second Amendment rights.
Earlier that day in the Senate Corporations, Elections, and Political Subdivisions Committee, James and Driskill had sparred over a proposed budget amendment to one of James’ bills.
James, as a guest speaker, had presented his bill Senate File 50 to the committee, which Driskill chairs.
SF 50 would establish a hotline for individuals hoping to report government fraud or misuse of resources. It also would protect whistleblowers from employment ramifications from reporting government misdeeds.
In an sharp exchange, Driskill pressed James multiple times to ascribe a financial cost to his bill. Eventually, James estimated it would cost no more than $10,000.
“That solves it,” answered Driskill.
But action on the bill was postponed until Thursday, because both the House and Senate floor sessions were about to start.