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House meeting

House Speaker Steve Harshman, R-Casper, standing, addresses the full Wyoming House of Representatives in a closed door meeting Monday morning. Harshman said the meeting was about the House's schedule.

CHEYENNE — In an unusual move, the Wyoming House met behind closed doors Monday morning, barring the public from hearing the discussion.

“We’re just going to be here 15 minutes,” House Speaker Steve Harshman, R-Casper, told a reporter before the meeting began. “We’re just talking about schedule.”

Rather than meeting on the House floor, state representatives from both parties convened in a large committee meeting room. A Star-Tribune reporter was asked to leave the room.

When the Legislature passed the Wyoming Public Meetings Act in 1973, it exempted itself from the law, which requires the meetings of governing bodies of state agencies be open to the public.

However, both the House and Senate and legislative committees allow the public to observe the workings of government.

The Republicans and Democrats regularly caucus independently to discuss party priorities. The Democratic caucuses are open to the public, while the Republicans are closed.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, said that the House usually has met in private for a bipartisan, “whole House caucus” about once per session.

“It’s not totally uncommon,” Zwonitzer said.

On Twitter, Rep. Stan Blake, D-Green River, commented on the meeting.

“Whole House Caucus today. This is pretty rare but have seen it before,” Blake said.

He did not reply to a message on the social media platform asking what was discussed at the meeting.

This is the final, scheduled week of the Legislature’s budget session. However, the House and Senate remain far apart on how to solve the state’s $850 million deficit, including its $660 million funding gap for public schools.

The Legislature operates on a tight schedule that includes several deadlines for when bills must progress or effectively die. The Senate extended one of its deadlines last week, though the House has not yet done so.

Arno Rosenfeld covers state politics.


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