Wyoming’s legislative session is often a study in contrasts.
On one hand, we see our legislators try to solve complicated issues in thoughtful ways. We see them attempt to balance the views and interests of diverse constituencies. We see them engage in meaningful debate aimed at reaching the best solution. Moments like these make me proud to be in Wyoming and represented by a citizen legislature.
This session, the Legislature has no shortage of important issues to tackle. Our state’s education funding system needs serious attention, for example, and legislators have considered bills proposing solutions to the looming problem. Similarly, our Legislature has spent a great deal of time over the years, including this session, considering whether to expand Medicaid in our state. There are legitimate arguments on both sides of the issue and debating and voting on this matter is a quality use of our Legislature’s time. Of course, many bills can and should fail, but that does not mean the effort is worthless. Our Legislature has taken on other crucial issues with bills that address genuine problems in a thoughtful way.
Despite the Legislature’s good work, however, there are also a number of silly, poorly thought out or downright malicious bills being considered. For example, one bill introduced in the Legislature would ban forced implantation of microchips in employees. While I doubt many people would argue in favor of forced microchipping, this is not a worthwhile use of time. There are no businesses microchipping their employees and no businesses have expressed any interest in doing so. This bill certainly falls under the “silly” category. It is a complete waste of time that addresses a nonexistent problem. Yet, the Wyoming Senate decided to consider, debate and vote on this bill. Hopefully the House shows better judgment.
Other bills not worth the Legislature’s time include those dealing with refugee resettlement plans, requiring that participation in events at the state fair be counted as an “excused absence” at school, and establishing a “federal review” committee. As to the refugee resettlement plan bill, Wyoming has no refugee resettlement plan. We do not have the refugee populations that other states have. This is another bill that wastes time addressing an issue that is not a genuine problem. On the state fair issue, given the real issues facing our state, is it really worth the Legislature’s time nitpicking with school districts over excused versus unexcused absences? Clearly it is not.
The “federal review” committee bill may be the worst of all. Not only is it a waste of time now, it promises to be a waste of time for years to come. First, it aims to create a new committee with the charge to review “all federal action.” I suspect that the sponsor of this bill is woefully ignorant of just what that would entail. The Code of Federal Regulations is changed or amended daily. There can be hundreds of regulatory amendments in a week, and that is just one aspect of federal action. Thousands of lawyers spend their careers evaluating these regulations, but this committee of a handful of part-time Wyoming lawmakers would be tasked with reviewing it in a legislative setting.
Perhaps the worst part of this bill is that it instructs the committee to ignore any holdings of the Supreme Court. There is one institution that has been charged with interpreting the United States Constitution since our nation was founded — the United States Supreme Court. This bill asks the Legislature to ignore centuries of thought and interpretation of our Constitution while reviewing thousands upon thousands of federal acts, and to what end? This bill wins the award for worst of the session. While I have learned not to judge intentions, I certainly have doubts about the good judgment of the bill’s sponsors.
All of this is to say that we must keep a close eye on what is happening in our Legislature. Good bills and efforts to solve real problems should be applauded. Legislative grandstanding, time wasting and poor judgment should be called out for what they are: an affront to the people of Wyoming who depend on the Legislature to make informed decisions on real issues.