CHEYENNE — Members of the Wyoming Senate organized themselves Tuesday and received some somber advice from their new president.
The “national vitriol of politics” has filtered down to Wyoming, said Senate President Tony Ross, a Cheyenne attorney.
Ross said he has been in politics since the late 1970s, when he was the Senate’s attorney.
“Unfortunately I have seen in the year 2012 something I’ve never seen in Wyoming politics before, campaigns that are so ugly, filled with such viciousness, anger and lies and some of you were the recipients of those tactics,” Ross said.
He deplored the emergence of fringe parties with extreme agendas that have an attack-only strategy.
“And of course the litmus test of purity,” he added.
These fringe parties cannot be allowed to determine the fate of the state, he said.
Ross did not identify the groups making the attacks.
He gave each of the 30 Senate members copies of the book, “How Do You Kill 11 Million People?” by Andy Andrews, and encouraged them to read it early in the session. The book analyzes the rise of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust and compares that era to the current national political climate and challenges.
Ross said Nazis were able to kill that many people by telling them lies.
The antidote, he said, is the truth.
Political leaders have the duty to speak the truth and people have the responsibility of demanding leadership.
The state Senate is a serious body with serious business ahead, he said.
Many people, he added, are looking to the Senate “to be the body of reason and measure.”
“So my charge to you is to be reasoned, to be measured, to be thoughtful, to listen, to be courteous and civil in your discourse and to have some humor and most importantly to be truthful,” Ross said.
Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kite administered the oath of office to the 15 senators elected and re-elected in November, and to the new Senate leaders.
The new Senate vice president, Eli Bebout of Riverton, who also is the new chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the revenue issues facing Wyoming are always the same because of the state’s dependence on the mineral industry.
Bebout said he wants to look ahead to the rest of this decade in revenue planning.
Sen. Phil Nicholas of Laramie, the new majority floor leader, said he distributed to every Senate member a copy of the 2000 tax reform committee report, which was compiled after a decade of slow growth.
“That committee was looking back at what I think may be our future,” he said.
Nicholas also said state budgets go through a rainy season, but not a rainy day, a reference to the state’s nearly $1.6 billion Legislative Reserve and Stabilization Account — also known as the rainy-day fund.
Democrats want to spend some of the money in that fund while Republicans in general are opposed.
The Senate minority floor leader, Chris Rothfuss of Laramie, said he hopes the two parties will continue to work well together and will rise above politics to do the best for the citizens.
Rothfuss joked that the minority party in the Senate is so small the majority Republicans ran out of names and were forced to “reuse Jim Anderson.”
This year there are two Jim Andersons in the Senate — former Senate President Jim Anderson of Glenrock and freshman James L. Anderson of Casper.
The Senate has only four Democrats out of the 30 members.
The light note continued when Ross was presented with a couple of gag gavels, one tiny and the other an extra-large model that beeped when it hit the desk.
The opening ceremonies concluded with a performance by the Cheyenne East High School Chorale.
The House and Senate will meet jointly this morning to hear Gov. Matt Mead’s State of the State address.