Last Friday was scheduled to be the last day of the 2017 legislative session. By law, the Legislature meets for 40 days in odd numbered years. This year’s session was scheduled for 37 days.
For several hours on Friday, it was unclear if we would leave on time. The Legislature has two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate. For any legislation to pass, including the budget, both bodies must agree. If that happens, the bill is then passed to the governor for a signature or veto.
If a bill passes one house, but is amended and passed in the other, then both must agree on the amendment. It can be a slow process, and that is by design of the founders.
By Friday evening, the Senate had finished all its work, and was waiting for the House to complete its work. The House has twice as many members as the Senate — there are 60 representatives in the House. One-third of the House this session were newly elected freshmen legislators, which perhaps contributed to the delay.
Senate President Eli Bebout of Riverton at one point in the evening asked for a straw poll: What did we want to do? Our choices were to go home, get a good night’s rest, and come back on Saturday morning to see if the House had finished its business, or to order pizzas and wait it out.
But, he told the Senate, before we were to vote, we must consider the following: Every additional day of session costs the taxpayers of Wyoming $35,000.
We ordered pizza. It may have been to save the taxpayers money. It might’ve been the Wyoming “git ‘er done” mentality. It was probably a bit of both.
I wonder if there is any other state in the Union where the cost to the taxpayers of staying another day would even have entered the discussion.
Eventually, the House finished its work and forwarded several bills to us for Senate concurrence. Once we’d finished our voting, Gov. Mead stopped by for a brief address.
The governor noted how tough the session had been, with falling revenue and the need for cuts. There were times he may have been upset with the Legislature, and vice versa. Likewise, there were times legislators may have been irked by other legislators. The reason, the governor said, is because we all love Wyoming and want to do the right thing — especially under tough circumstances. That common commitment to Wyoming, and time, will heal the divisions.
Wise words, and well spoken.
God bless Wyoming.
Dave Kinskey represents Wyoming Senate District 22 which consists of Johnson County and eastern Sheridan County. A businessperson and former mayor of Sheridan, Kinskey can be reached at Dave.Kinskey@WyoLeg.gov or cell 751-6428.