The bill naming the jackalope as Wyoming's official mythical critter isn’t exactly dead on arrival.
But the prognosis doesn’t look too good at the capitol in Cheyenne.
After passing out of the House on Jan. 25, the bill, House Bill 149, waited for more than 10 days for introduction in the Senate. That wasn't a good sign.
On Monday, Senate President Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, sent the bill -- a tribute to former, late legislator Dave Edwards -- to the Senate Rules Committee.
Bill sponsor Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, is frustrated.
“Historically, the Rules Committee is known as a death sentence,” he said in an email.
The committee doesn't have to meet to consider bills assigned to it unless its convened by Ross, the chairman.
Ross said he loved Edwards, but the bill doesn’t rise to the level of significance of other issues.
“When we take up such bills as that, we end up potentially killing some other bills that could be meritorious,” he said.
The Senate is busy hammering out the state budget, which faces cuts to align with decreased mineral revenues, Ross said.
Zwonitzer's only hope for the jackalope bill is if Ross calls the committee together to consider other legislation.
But Zwonitzer's realistic about the bill's future.
“I do not believe the bill has any chance of getting out of the Rules Committee,” he said.
HB149 is similar to a 2005 bill that Edwards sponsored when he represented District 6 in the Wyoming House of Representatives. If passed, the law would be called David Richard Edwards Memorial Act.
Edwards, who also served as a Douglas city councilman and Converse County commissioner, died just before this year’s Legislature convened. Edwards introduced the original bill with gusto, as a tribute to his hometown, which has marketed the mythic animal for tourism.
Back then, as now, the bill was criticized as a waste of the Legislature’s time. Zwonitzer described Edwards feeling crushed when it didn’t become law. Even though he served for three more years, he never introduced it again.
In the House, this year’s bill had support from both parties.
It breezed through the House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee and all three readings before the full House, except for one amendment: The original bill called the jackalope a “mythical creature;” now it’s called a “mythical critter.”
The amendment was proposed by Rep. Hans Hunt, R-Newcastle, during the bill's second reading.
“’Critter’ is a little more Western than ‘creature,’ creature being a little more upscale for Wyoming – and I say that in a good light,” he said.
Majority Floor Leader Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, then consulted a dictionary for the precise meaning of “critter.” It’s synonymous with creature, he said.
“Our debate has found itself at a new level,” deadpanned Tom Lubnau, speaker of the House.
But in the Senate, consideration of the bill accompanies less levity.
Ross said he’s pressed for time. The session is expected to adjourn Feb. 28.