The House chamber in the Wyoming State Capitol during the 2023 general session. (Megan Lee Johnson/WyoFile)

CHEYENNE—Monday was an exceptionally deadly day for bills in the Wyoming Legislature. 

The fifth week of the general session traditionally presents a daunting gauntlet to aspiring laws and dozens of bills typically die as they fail to navigate critical milestones by chamber deadlines. This year, however, a record number of bills in the House met their end for lack of an initial floor vote by the deadline. Lawmakers are divided on what that says about the body and its leadership. 

After a bill clears introduction and committee hurdles, when or if it gets debated on the floor is up to the majority floor leader, the second ranking officer in the body. In the House, that’s Rep. Chip Neiman (R-Hulett). It’s his prerogative to move legislation to the front or back of the line of bills waiting to be debated. That gives him a lot of power to decide which bills live and which wither on the vine. 

“It is a weighty challenge,” said Neiman, whose Republican colleagues elected him to the leadership position in a 29-28 vote in just his second term in the Legislature. Neiman said Wednesday he had anticipated shepherding more bills past that initial deadline, but didn’t make much ado about, or express dissatisfaction over the volume of dead bills.  

Giving everybody what they want, Neiman said, will win you a popularity contest — “everyone waves at you, and you’re always liked and when you meet people in the hall, everybody’s glad to see you” — but that’s not “good leadership.” Instead, Neiman sees his position as an important backstop for the body, since there can be “a lot more to [a bill] than what meets the eye.” he said.

“It’s just a lot of responsibility,” he said. With almost half of the House new to the process, the learning curve has been steep for many. Neiman admits that the “youth” of the body may be slowing down the process. 

House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Chip Neiman (R-Hulett) during the 2023 general session. (Megan Lee Johnson/WyoFile)

That concerns Rep. Steve Harshman (R-Casper), the longest serving member of the current House and the first two-term House speaker in Wyoming in more than a century. The tangible effect of “inexperience” in both leadership and the body is that existing problems don’t get solved for the people of Wyoming, he said. 

“We’re [working] extremely slow,” said Harshman, who had seven of his own 10 sponsored bills die on Monday without a debate or vote on the floor. “We’re working fewer hours and we’re talking little, simple bills to death.

“There were some little bills that could solve some problems that are gonna have to wait now,” Harshman said. 

Similar to Neiman, House Speaker Rep. Albert Sommers (R-Pinedale) has the ability to kill bills, but he’s taken a more restrained approach, halting 25 bills from introduction. For comparison, that number was 53 during the last general session. Sommers knows the tough choices Neiman is facing because he served as majority floor leader last session and has been deferential to his successor’s way of doing business. 

The House’s slower pace and higher bill mortality rate has created an unusual opportunity for the opposite chamber. With fewer crossover bills to work, Senate President Ogden Driskill (R-Devils Tower) said his chamber is discussing taking additional days off around the upcoming Presidents’ Day holiday. 

Rep. Steve Harshman (R-Casper) during the 2023 general session. (Megan Lee Johnson/WyoFile)

By the numbers 

Some 45 House bills died without an initial vote on Monday, which is higher than any other general session in the last 20 years, according to a WyoFile analysis of Legislative Service Office data. An average of 19 general session bills succumbed to that deadline since 2003. 

This year, six of the record 45 were committee bills. That type of legislation gets extra attention and deliberation by lawmakers, state agencies and other stakeholders outside the session — a vetting that typically translates into priority during the session relative to individually sponsored bills

“I’ve never seen before so many committee bills not be heard,” said Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne), who’s served since 2005. 

“Every now and then, there’s an issue with a committee bill and it gets held back, so nobody expects all of them [to get through],” Zwonitzer said. It was disappointing to see so many committee bills, which take additional time and resources, make it to the House “just to sit there,” he said. 

Depending on the complexity of a bill, it can cost between $6,800 and $14,350 to propose, draft and enact, according to a Legislative Service Office memo. The cost of a bill can exponentially increase if it requires lawmakers to consider it at one or more interim committee meetings. Prioritizing committee bills might make sense in theory, Neiman said, but harder to do in practice “when you look at the sheer volume of bills” that are proposed. 

One committee bill to die without floor discussion was Medicaid expansion, which advocates said would provide medical coverage for 19,000 uninsured Wyoming residents. After House Bill 80 – Medical treatment opportunity act-Medicaid reform passed through the Revenue Committee, Neiman kept it far from the top of the general file. It ultimately died when it didn’t receive a first vote on the floor by deadline. Like his fellow Wyoming Freedom Caucus colleagues, Neiman said he opposed the bill due to its reliance on federal dollars. 

There can be value in giving the body an opportunity to debate a bill even when he personally opposes it, Neiman said. For him, making that determination requires contemplation and divine consultation.

“You just have to pray,” Neiman said. “And try to gather as much information as you can. And be as thoughtful as you can and [not] make a rash decision.”

“I voted against a lot of bills I brought out,” Neiman said. These included House Bill 4 – Medicaid twelve month postpartum coverage, which would extend coverage after giving birth from the current two months to 12 months. The bill passed third reading on Wednesday and is now headed to the Senate. 


Earlier this session, lawmakers bolstered Neiman’s power to single-handedly kill a bill when they adopted a new rule to weaken the body’s ability to override either the majority floor leader or the House speaker. Either maneuver now requires a two-thirds vote instead of a simple majority. 

House Minority Floor Leader Rep. Mike Yin (D-Jackson) was one of approximately 26 lawmakers to oppose the new rule, because, he said, it delegates “our power as the body away from ourselves to those in leadership positions.” 

No one attempted to use the new rule to challenge Neiman and change the order of bills, which Yin said is evidence that “what power the body has to decide what it does and does not hear” has diminished. 

There were several bills that Yin was sorry to see go unheard, including Medicaid expansion, an incentive program for improving neglected or abandoned commercial buildings as well as proposal for a film production rebates program. All had bi-partisan support. 

“When C.J. Box has told us […] this is how much money and economic development that we missed out on, that’s the kind of thing that, it’s disappointing that we weren’t able to hear,” Yin said. The New York Times bestselling author’s books based in Wyoming have been turned into a television series made in other states.

Rep. Mike Yin during the 67th Legislature’s 2023 General Session. (Megan Lee Johnson/WyoFile)

Meanwhile, the body spent considerable time on “controversial bills,” Yin said. Without pointing to specific examples, Yin said “many of the culture war bills tend to fit that category” as well as “anything that took more than 75 minutes in the committee of the whole.”

House Bill 152 – Life is a Human Right Act which would prevent abortion in cases of incest or rape, among other things, was one such bill that ate up considerable time. The debate lasted nearly two hours and wasn’t so much about if the Legislature should restrict abortion, but what would hold up better in court — the proposed bill or the current trigger ban. 

Neiman said that what he saw as some of the “bigger issues” took longer to debate, but he stood by the bills he chose to prioritize, which included at least one bill from each lawmaker. 

Harshman sees things differently, especially when he considers the collection of bills that went unheard on Monday. There wasn’t an even balance between the number of bills from Freedom Caucus members that died without debate compared to bills belonging to other members that met the same fate, Harshman said. 

For instance, of the known members of the Freedom Caucus — the group does not disclose its entire membership — only Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams (R-Cody) had a bill go unheard on Monday. Meanwhile, several establishment Republicans and Democrats had multiple bills meet that fate, including Yin, Harshman and Zwonitzer. 

Neiman rejected Harshman’s assessment. “If we look back across the entire scope of bills, I would dare say that it was very balanced,” Neiman said. 

House bills that passed third reading now head to the Senate for consideration.

Correction: This story originally stated that Rep. Steve Harshman was the only two-term House speaker in Wyoming history. In fact, Jerome S. Atherly served two consecutive terms between 1901 and 1905.

Maggie Mullen reports on state government and politics. Before joining WyoFile in 2022, she spent five years at Wyoming Public Radio.

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  1. The House is now trying to make up for its own incompetence by hijacking Senate Files with unrelated language. Yesterday, they amended a bill about providing medicaid reimbursement to pharmacists to make it an anti-abortion bill. And then the chair overruled the Rules Committee in finding the amendment was somehow germane to the rest of the bill, which had nothing to do with abortion when the Senate passed it.

    Extremists are smothering the House.

    1. Again I’ll ask if this is the “ideal model” of governance as the governor recently proclaimed.

      This session is an absolute embarrassment from the low productivity and even lesser quality of legislation that has been produced.

      Those that can somehow defend the embarrassment of this session should ask themselves how low of a bar do they expect?

  2. Why did the Legislature leave so many bills (including HB0126, vital to affordable housing) unheard? Because radical pols “flooded the zone” with extremist junk bills copied from out of state. The part time legislature only had 40 days!

  3. I usually avoid writing comments on these, however after nearly five decades of independently working legislative affairs for both Wyoming energy, healthcare and non profits, and after reading the hateful comments, I’m finally a retired mediator and well, here’s my two cents. …folks, I don’t agree that every bill set back should have been. We all have may have opinions on each one. However.. you do realize reliance on federal dollars has led this country and our state down a very dark alley. First it’s full matching funds with the state…then it’s less and less, followed by the crowning of a new state funded program. Subsequently, we are all then impacted by higher property and other taxes. It’s a classic case of bait and switch. Then it’s fraud and abuse of “free federal money,” because D.C. is a hot mess, with printing more bucks. Can you say Covid funds claw-back? Wake up and be grateful because less is more in this case. Leave your bias behind and your remarks about religious beliefs or whatever the current talking points are. Please don’t make it personal. (Kinda 4th grade.) Look at the facts and our cyclical budget history. Less reliance on government, not more.

    1. Without federal dollars, this state would dry up and blow away. Also, I’m sick of religion in our politics. These religious extremists think it should be their way or the highway. Religion should not be in politics, end of story. It is personal.

    2. After fifty years, you surely must have noticed that Wyoming’s dependence on extraction industries is what has also led us down this “dark alley”. There is no “free federal money” that is certain. But Wyoming’s cyclical budget history is a direct consequence of our reliance on the minerals industry for nearly 40% of the state’s wealth (, not some nefarious “bait and switch” government plot. Citizens are plainly frustrated that the legislature is so easily distracted by national issues when there are real needs here at home.

      1. The house floor leader should be removed. No leadership skills. Totally driven by religious beliefs and has stated he will decide what is best for Wyoming based on his religious and cult leadership. Disgusting.

        1. Yeah, he seems to lack the experience and leadership skills necessary for the job. In the Senate, they can barely conceal their contempt for the train wreck that’s been happening in the House

  4. Congratulations, Chip. You are now the most despised man in Wyoming , across the board . Quite an accomplishment for a sophomore legislator.

  5. So this is the “ideal model” of governance according to gor-duhn.

    I’d hate to see what he believes is ineffective governance.

  6. We elect people to go to Cheyenne to represent us but, once there, a majority seem to slide into a clown show that produces nothing more then stupid and wasteful Bills and a bunch of posturing and grandstanding. What’d we expect? You’ve got a Majority Floor House Leader who has to “pray” on it…can’t forget the cheap Bolo tie wearin’ howdy doodie Senate President. Can’t forget the little man that wants to hide behind a big man facade introducing a Bill that would of allowed landowners to main or even kill an alleged trespasser. Honestly, this current Legislature and it’s “leaders” plus many of the members are an embarrassment.

  7. Wyoming Freedom Caucus should translate, behaviorally, freely to “Luddite Chicken Little” Caucus. Absolutely panicked by the idea of Process.

  8. This is the most disappointing legislative session I’ve watched in Wyoming. Incompetence and power-mongering, a bad combination.

  9. Prayers and divine insight. Really. This is supposed to be a government body of elected representatives if all the citizens of the state. This freedom caucus/liberty conspiracy group has got to go. Failure is an understatement.

  10. I like the Senate Pres. idea of taking off a few extra days at the Presidents Day holiday. I would reccomend that this Wyoming legislative body should take the rest of the year off.

  11. HB 152 = pro-life until birth.
    then kill HB 80 = if you’re poor, you’re on your own.
    A marriage made in heaven

  12. I noticed that Neiman and the Wyoming Freedom caucus is reluctant to vote to pass bills, including House Bill 80, that would help low income Wyoming people due to the the bills reliance on federal dollars.
    One wonders if Neiman also believes one should not take money from and be reliant on the government for his Tower Valley ranch and his JH ranch LLC properties.

  13. Thank you Ms. Mullen and WyoFile for this coverage: It has been infuriating to watch this legislature mangle democracy on so many levels. And where is the training for new-ish or ignorant legislators who don’t seem to understand their roles? I suggest, for example, they be made to watch video of committee meetings with Committee Chairs who lead well — watching just an hour of Cale Case leading the Senate Corporations Committee efficiently, intelligently, and politely (thank you, Senator Case!) would be helpful for new chairpersons, probably all legislators.

    1. Susan Lasher, do ya one better. Ignorance is just not a virtue of these freshman Reps but a trademark for the so called leadership. A joke show that really isn’t funny

  14. The Freedom (for straight white males) Caucus strikes again. Gay rights, Medicaid expansion, Abortion rights- even in Wyoming these bills would pass by solid majorities if put on the ballot as supported by numerous polls. If we can’t seem to vote these obstructionists then advocate to simplify the referendum process.

  15. Years ago, I was listening to the results of a study on incompetence. The question centered on what the root cause of gross incompetence? Was it experience? Training? Confidence? Corporate culture? Fear? Confusion?
    The results surprised even the study’s authors.
    It was ignorance. Incompetent people have no idea they are incompetent, and, in fact, claim they are the best, brightest and hardest workers of the bunch.
    Hmmmmmm…seems the authors were right.

  16. “For him, making that determination requires contemplation and divine consultation.
    “You just have to pray,” Neiman said.”
    Did Neiman get confused and think he swore on the people’s constitution to uphold his beliefs?

  17. “divine consultation” a factor in killing the Medicaid expansion by Rep. Chip Neiman (R-Hulett)? So God is in on this? Wow!
    We need legislators that work with and for other humans too help humanity. And maybe save the divine consultation for helping our poor, non insured people live another day.

  18. Hi, hoping you could clarify the state of house bill 152. Not clear from article if it has “died” or still in play. What is its current status and timetable? Thank you and I appreciate the work you and wyofile do! Michael Hussin, Pelham , MA

    1. 152 is still in play. It passed the House and has moved to the Senate. But it was amended to be triggered only if the existing abortion ban, which is currently being litigated, is found unconstitutional.

    2. HB 152 passed the house on Wednesday, February 8th, by a vote of 46-16. It was received by the senate on Thursday, but has not yet been assigned to a senate committee. The senate took Friday off.

  19. I think bills that pass committee should go to the floor for a vote and in the order they exit committee. I don’t like the Mitch McConnell approach of prioritizing. I’m really sorry for the lack of concern for the healthcare of Wyoming people.

  20. This session has been a joke. So many hours wasted by a handful of first year representatives barking at us about antivax conspiracy theories

  21. “You just have to pray,” Neiman said.

    And therein lies the problem.

    I learned from this session that obscenity is like religion with one key difference, the religious get to have a hearing on obscenity while the Chip Nieman’s and Pepper Ottman’s get to claim they are not relying on religion but their “worldview” when they vote to use the power of the state to enforce their religious lies on me and Wyoming citizens.

    Hypocrisy is the hallmark of those injecting religion into our laws as I know Religion when I see it.

    Those relying on prayer to guide our law making should not be in the legislature as using voodoo instead of humanity and the rule of law to push bills through is anathema to our Founders intent and every religious zealot knows that is true.

      1. Some elected officials can feel the words from constituents, and they choose the right course of action, yet too many choose not to feel, see or recognize Wyoming constituents. House Minority Floor Leader, Chip Neiman with a 28/29 win has the opportunity to uphold the moral imperative. His senior status is no excuse for a lack of leadership.

    1. Great article Maggie. Keep up the honest and accurate reporting. And well said Greg and so many others. A wasted and costly session. Sadly we have an uneducated and immature onslaught of new legislators that are simply not listening to their constituents. If they want to “pray their way” to decision-making for all of Wyoming, our legislature is not the place. Find some prayerful position in your church instead! How about billing the legislative deadbeats that hold up bills? And BTW, I’m definitely NOT related to Pepper Ottman.