Happy Monday and thanks for reading 307 Politics! If you’re already receiving this email every week, thank you for subscribing and if you haven’t signed up yet you can do so at trib.com/email. Last week I covered some interesting statewide issues in the Star-Tribune including the Wyoming Lottery’s expenses, Barrasso starting to sing a slightly different tune on Alabama’s disgraced Senate candidate and a plan to expand Interstate 80 in the name of safety.
CAN KICKING -- I woke up at 4:30 a.m. last Monday to make the drive down to Cheyenne for two days of the Legislature’s revenue committee meetings only to find the Wyoming Department of Transportation warning off all but the most urgent trips south on Interstate 25. I decided my trip was not urgent, and lawmakers agreed they were not going to use the December meeting to hold final votes on the major tax bills like property and sales.
Apparently the revenue folks wanted to wait until the committee looking into the state’s education funding model wrapped up in January, which makes sense on its face but less so under careful examination. Senate President Eli Bebout, R-Riverton and Speaker of the House Steve Harshman, R-Casper, tasked the revenue committee with generating proposals to raise up to $300 million, and that mandate stands even if the Legislature decides to pass a new education model that declares schools obsolete, sends Wyoming’s schoolchildren to be raised by wolves and solves the state’s budget crisis in one fell swoop.
Of course there’s probably a logic to waiting. If the update to the state’s revenue projections released in January find a little more future cash for lawmakers to play with and the education committee sponsors a model that will reduce school spending, revenue committee members may get off easier for failing to generate a plan to raise $300 million.
It was already a little unclear what the revenue committee will be presenting to the Legislature. Each interim committee is given a mandate by the Legislature’s management council -- led by Bebout and Harshman -- and the revenue committee was specifically tasked with presenting options for raising $100 million, $200 million and $300 million for state coffers. But House Minority Leader Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, suggested at the committee’s November meeting that even members aren’t sure exactly what that was supposed to look like.
“I am curious about what the committee will come out with,” Connolly said. “Is it a package? Will that go into one bill? Or will we just say this bill, 144, 160, and 99 are ... giving us $100 million and if we add on bill 75 that gives us another $50 million?”
Revenue committee co-chair Rep. Mike Madden, R-Buffalo, wasn’t sure.
“I don’t know we’ll just have to play that,” he said.
Instead of seeing what that looked like last week, we’ll be seeing in January.
RUN SAM RUN? -- Cheyenne businessman Sam Galeotos is being floated as a possible Republican candidate for governor. If he threw his hat in the ring, Galeotos would spice up a field that is currently empty save for Sheridan businessman and political novice Bill Dahlin. But with two statewide officials -- Treasurer Mark Gordon and Secretary of State Ed Murray -- considering entering the race and trial attorney Harriet Hageman exploring a run and staking out ground on the libertarian right, Galeotos could position himself as the experienced administrator with executive experience.
The Wyoming native made a name for himself outside of the state running or serving as an executive for various technology companies during the dot-com boom in the 1990s, including Cheap Tickets, Worldspan Travel Information Systems and Delta Airlines.
Travel Weekly profiled Galeotos in 2002 when he was working for a company called Galileo in New York but still living in Cheyenne and making a weekly commute:
“On a recent morning in midtown Manhattan, Galeotos sat in Cendant's 37th floor President's conference room, with its Jerome Myers oil painting, inlaid mahogany paneling and skybox view of Central Park, and recounted his odyssey through the travel industry.
You get the feeling that with his open-collared shirt, easy laugh and regular-guy persona, he would be just as comfortable telling his story over a beer and a shot in a neighborhood tavern.
After all, it's a long way from his native Cheyenne, Wyo., where his ‘typical’ Greek immigrant family owned a candy store, restaurant and bar.”
If 2016 showed us anything, it was that high-flying businessmen with an every-man appeal are more electable than ever.
Galeotos confirmed that he was approached by a group of individuals earlier this fall asking him to run, and said he's seriously considering it.
"I’ve probably experienced a degree of humility I've never experienced before," he said of the initial approach and what he said was now a near-daily stream of people encouraging him to run. Galeotos hopes to make a decision in January.
AN ODD FORM -- The national media paid Wyoming its obligatory occasional and kind of odd attention two weeks ago, with Vox.com writing about a musician who turned over $91,800 to the Highway Patrol while driving across the country to buy a music studio.
The whole story is weird -- and days after the article run a judge ordered the state to return his money -- but the one of the stranger elements was the fact that Highway Patrol officers apparently carry around donation forms from the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations.
Specifically, the musician, Phil Parhamovich, was asked to use the form to sign over his property “to be used for narcotics law enforcement purposes.”
Parhamovich claims he signed it under duress, but it is hard to imagine what legitimate purpose a form like that could be used for. Even if someone wanted to donate cash or goods to be used to fight drug crime in Wyoming, why would they ever be turning those items over to a Highway Patrol officer? It seems like things would get sketchy real quick if a motorist who was pulled over asked an officer whether he could donate $100 for narcotics law enforcement purposes.
‘UNDULY CRUEL’ -- WyoFile’s Andrew Graham has the story of Connolly being forced to sit next to members of the public testifying aggressively against her bill to update gender references in state statutes. It was heard by the corporations committee during a November meeting in Sundance and things turned ugly quickly.
There’s a lot to breakdown in the story, including observers who speculated the committee would have voted differently if the meeting had been held in Cheyenne -- not the soundest form of policy making, perhaps -- and Connolly’s statement that she considered leaving Wyoming altogether following the meeting.
-- “I’m not sure where I’m going to go but I’m going to keep driving,” she said. Connolly did not leave.
ENZI TO CONFERENCE -- Wyoming’s senior U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, a Republican, was named to the conference committee that will seek to reconcile the Senate’s version of the GOP tax plan with the House’s version.
-- “Our job will be to find the best parts from the tax reform legislation already passed by the House and the Senate and put it all together,” Enzi said in a statement.
He added that making significant changes to the legislation would slow down the process of passing the bill, though there are notable differences in the Senate and House version so it remains to be seen how a final bill gets approved without quite a few changes.
CHENEY RIBBED BY TIMES -- U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming’s sole representative in the House, backed a concealed carry reciprocity bill that would allow someone with a concealed carry permit in one state to carry a firearm in any other state.
New York Times columnist Gail Collins poked fun at a comment Cheney apparently made during floor debate on the bill.
-- “Liz Cheney of Wyoming declared the right to carry a concealed weapon is ‘God given.’ We will not pursue the question of What Would Jesus Pack,” she wrote.
Anyway, the measure is unlikely to be able to overcome a filibuster by Democrats in the Senate.
ERIK PRINCE, AGAIN -- Former mercenary executive and possible Wyoming U.S. Senate candidate Erik Prince cannot stay out of the headlines and I really don't know whether to keep writing about him given that he hasn't said anything for a while about running for Sen. John Barrasso's seat in the GOP primary next year.
Buzzfeed published a slideshow he delivered to the Trump administration explaining how to privatize the American war in Afghanistan and fund the operation by seizing rare earth metals from the country. The whole story, by investigative reporter Aram Roston, is a doozy and you should read it. But I most liked Prince's comment. Or, more accurately, refusal to comment.
-- "You're a f------ hack," Prince told Roston.
That’s all folks! Stay safe on the winter roads and keep checking trib.com/307politics for the latest in statewide politics and policy news.