The Wyoming Legislature is set to convene this week for its general session, and lawmakers will have plenty to do in the eight weeks that follow.
On top of the myriad bills that legislative committees have been working for months to prepare for the session, there are also dozens of individual bills that haven’t been vetted before they’ll be considered by the Legislature at large.
Moreover, bills will not need the two-thirds introduction vote required in budget sessions. A simple majority will do. This leaves room for many more bills to come before the full House and Senate. And while eight weeks may seem like a fair bit of time, there is no shortage of important issues that the Legislature will need to tackle, and two months will pass quickly.
It’s important, then, that lawmakers use this time wisely. And for that to happen, they’ll have to remember the value of compromise.
In an increasingly polarized political climate, lawmakers may find it more difficult than ever before to work efficiently together. Even in Wyoming, where the Legislature is made up of an overwhelmingly Republican majority, the differing factions within the right may struggle to unite on some issues.
This means not every bill will be considered, and even fewer will pass the full Legislature. Lawmakers would do well to focus the bulk of the time on the critical challenges facing our state: education funding, economic diversity and the staggering cost of health care.
We would urge them to work steadfastly throughout the session on passing legislation of the highest priority and avoid being distracted by more trivial bills. While individual bills make up the majority, it’s important to remember that legislation coming from one or two lawmakers haven’t been scrutinized as thoroughly as committee bills, and their scope may be too narrow.
Moreover, lawmakers will inevitably introduce bills with no real purpose, or ones that are clearly unconstitutional. For example, in years past lawmakers sought to protect us from the nonexistent threat of sharia law or form a task force to deal with a potential societal collapse. These aren’t merely distractions. They take time away from solving the real issues in Wyoming.
There will also be a number of new representatives joining the fray this month. Veteran lawmakers should be sure to offer what guidance they can to novice legislators and model the Wyoming way of governance: civility, pragmatism and problem solving.
Throughout the next eight weeks, we hope our elected officials work tirelessly on behalf of their constituents – not just those who voted for them, but those who didn’t. If they do, and stay focused on the real problems, we expect they will find success in bettering our state.