The Wyoming Senate during the 2023 general session of the 67th Legislature. (Megan Lee Johnson/WyoFile)

The 2023 legislative session has been difficult to categorize. Some of the legislation passed appears far-sighted and will almost certainly benefit our state for a long time. Yet, some of the conduct we have seen in the session does not reflect well on those we have elected. As the roughly two months of activity in Cheyenne draw to a close, it is time to assess where our Legislature triumphed and where it fell short. 


The most encouraging piece of legislation from the 2023 session was the supplemental budget. The Legislature had approximately $2 billion of surplus funds to work with — significantly more resources than originally intended — and our lawmakers did what we so often wish they would: they exercised restraint. Rather than spend all the additional funds, the Legislature put some toward needed expenditures and put the rest aside. Of the slightly less than $2 billion, the Legislature only spent about $400 million, and tended to do so wisely. The remaining $1.4 billion was split between permanent funds — which are permanently set aside to generate future income for the state — and reserve accounts that can be tapped for future spending if necessary.

This approach was so encouraging because it was a step toward addressing some of our state’s systematic budget issues. With mineral revenues generally declining, our state is faced with questions about how we will fund our government in the future. Many of the options are undesirable, such as increasing sales or property taxes or implementing some sort of income tax. If, however, the Legislature can save enough in the permanent funds, we may be able to fill the gap, instead, with state investment income. This may be optimistic, but if nothing else, increased funding from state permanent funds could at least reduce future tax increases. Our lawmakers deserve credit for voting to set money aside in a way that is likely to benefit Wyoming in the long term.

Some very thoughtful and meaningful legislation passed. A few duds did as well.

Another positive from this general session is that most of the really bad bills either died or were amended into palatability. With nearly 500 bills filed this year, there were too many stinkers to list individually. Instead, we should remember that some of the Legislature’s most important work is in preventing bad policy from being enacted. Just like physicians, legislators should endeavor to “first, do no harm.” This year, it appears that the majority tended to abide by this maxim.

Not everything the House and Senate did is deserving of praise, however. The 2023 session saw a continuation of the division and dogma that have plagued our politics in recent years. Even though the Legislature’s decorum improved over last year’s, that does not mean that the body was entirely focused on problem solving. Rather, this year saw open development of competing camps and bloc voting. Rather than embrace debate and open-minded consideration, too many lawmakers stuck to their entrenched camps and refused to listen to the points of those they disagree with. Legislators who are unwilling to consider input and opposing viewpoints, are unlikely to be responsive to the public or the issues facing the state. This is a foreboding development and it worries me for the future.

Ironically, despite the reluctance to listen to opposing views, a lack of appreciation for the process of good lawmaking often resulted in too much debate rather than too little. Nearly a third of the body had not held legislative office before taking their oaths in January. As a result, the legislative process was unfamiliar to many and the nuance of when to talk and when to sit, satisfied that the point had been made, was not readily apparent. The House in particular struggled with too many representatives feeling compelled to comment on every bill. The result was an inefficient process that slowed important work. Had there been a better understanding of legislative processes and norms, there likely would have been more time to consider the truly meaningful bills.

As with every legislative session, this one was a bit of a mixed bag. Some very thoughtful and meaningful legislation passed. A few duds did as well. I come out of it with hope, and some trepidation, about the future. If those who focus on Wyoming’s long-term well-being maintain their positions, I have faith that things will continue to turn out well for Wyoming. Whether or not that happens is up to us.

Cheyenne attorney Khale Lenhart is a former chairman of the Laramie County Republican Party. He can be reached at

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  1. I’ve been sitting in the Gallery of the House of Representatives off and on since I was 13 years old. Back in the 70’s and 80’s I recognized the leadership and pragmatic way in which many of the legislators went about their business of looking at problems then trying to find amicable solutions to the problem. Both sides of the isle understood that allowing problems to fester only led to bigger problems in the future. This in the 70’s and 80’s they were one if not the first state if I remember things correctly to create a “permanent fund” using the revenues off the coal, oil and gas royalties to fund itself. But arguable they also believed then gravy train of these revenues would never go away and affect the amount of royalties that we would continue to collect and placed into the current permanent fund. Then reality showed up and revenues shrank, then mines closed and their owners tried to skip out on paying back royalties account at that time until the 2021 session they only paid them once a year. Power plants built in the 60,70,and 80 have become more expensive to maintain as many generation suppliers have now turned to natural gas as a better alternative to dirty old coal. This is particular true in Texas where plants shifted from coal to natural gas to fuel the boilers but even found this to inefficient and then went to direct turbine firing using the natural gas, at times right under their feet at about 6000 feet. Soon more coal train were parked than used. It hurt the railroads with more capacity on some lines then others so they went about paying dividends out instead of maintaining tracks and hiring new personal then keeping old personal on because it was cheaper cost. They pushing for less regulation, particularly when it comes to car maintenance and track structures. Derailments and accidents start to creep up and soon they tried to fix this with longer trains up to 3 miles long and a pushed to put just a engineer on a train and use a roving conductor to fix problems when a train gets stopped. Unfortunately nobody still has explained how then a conductor will be able to fix a broken air hose 1 1/2 miles back in a train stuck in the wilderness buried in a snow drift between Altus and Chugwater when the road are closed and snowed in. Meanwhile back in Cheyenne a two new groups along with some National leaders decided the government was too much in control and decided to something about it. These TEA Partiers became the hub of the now Freedom Caucus which along with the rich and powerful oligarchs have guaranteed many years of chaos and stalling in our city through national governments as they continue to fix problems that don’t exist such as voter fraud and stolen elections from a dead Venezuelan Dictator and just outright lies told to them by politicians to sow doubt in our ability to really fix problems that arose. This was shown clealry in the 2019-2021 pandemic that some don’t believe that over a million American citizens died in. Wyoming, in embracing these beliefs are now in civil discord with republicans fighting republicans and if one side does not like the results censor! While this is going on a new ally has appeared and reared up out of ambiguity. Those who claim to be Christian Nationalist and go about removing books from libraries and stopping entertainment that they may find offensive. Claiming at the same time all this is for the kids. I’ve already read about one Christian Nationalists that believe Shakespeare wrote a play called Romeo and Juliet where everybody including the star struck lovers survived the discourse between the two families and everyone lived happily ever after. This type of brain drain if allowed to go on in Wyoming then Wyoming in more trouble then it knows because the jobs of the future will demand a basic understanding of some science and how its is applied. Wyoming it turns out is blessed with large supplies of the rare elements needed for the 21st century but insist on trying to save coal. I can only sigh as yet another opportunity slips out of our grasp to join the 21st century

  2. All that fiscal conservatism the departing Legislature exhibited should be incorporated into the graveside eulogies of the Wyoming residents who died sooner rather than later because we did not enact Medicaid Expansion.

    Over a billion dolalrs put in contingency bank accounts, but not a dime for medicaid expansion for adults , families, the elderly or the needy — just post partum infants. Our overwhelmingly Republican lawmakers are heartless [ out of wedlock ] persons. What is it going to take ?

    This was the very worst legislative session in living memory.

    1. Addendum: I neglected to add my other major criticism of the Wyo leg’s budgetting failure . The Lej approved the establishment of the statewide 988 Suicide/ Mental Health Hotline system now mandated by the federal government, but they were so cheap and ideologized they didn’t appropriate a single dime of operating monies for it. They kicked that can down the road into the old budget woodshed. The various state agencies and other affiliates will have to produce a working 988 Hotline budget request for the next Legislature to approve. That is stupid…. really really stupid, but consistent with GOP boneheadedness on these sorts of matter. And here we are…that state with the very highest per capita suicide rate in the nation and no shortage of mental health crises tod eal with , yet our Legislature flush with $ 1.4 billion in discretionary funds chooses instead to put it in low interest low yield mostly inert savings accounts while people keep blowing their brains out and beating their wives and children or threatening folks. They need professional help, not door busting escalation , incarceration and court dates. Again I ask…what will it take? So much undone in the Lej this year.

  3. I think it was a very bad legislative session . Property taxes did not see much if any relief , the government Medicaid expansion fell, and to bad for the medical marijuana and personal use . The one good thing you put some cash in the saving plan

  4. A very fair analysis Khale. Too bad you couldn’t call out some of the losing ideas and individuals. They need to be called out so their constituents can recognize bad governance when they see it.

    1. The legislation was so bad he did not want to associate himself with it, nor with the legislators that brought these bills. I am pretty sure that voters want this terrible legislation as they supported Trump and Hageman which really says all that needs to be said; however, moderate, thinking conservatives still seem to cling to the idea that they are members of party whose base is built on sanity and not fear.

      1. These people have no shame! they actually believe they did the right thing. You have to remember many of these men received contributions from very rich wanna be oligarchs that just want to profit from their endeavors and let some one else clean up their mess. Freedom Caucus is one of the most dangerous group of people in the country because they talk about freedom al right and in reality take it away a nibble at at time!