We love your optimism!
Reader, it did not get better.
We're not totally clear if it got worse. But "better" was not a descriptor that came readily to mind.
This week things got more obviously personal and petty with the Freedom Caucus not only bringing bills to ban books/art/thoughts they believe you shouldn't read/see/have but also budget amendments targeting specific private membership organizations they don't like.
Oh. And the FC bought everyone Chik-fil-A on the day that teenagers from around Wyoming came to the Capitol for GSA Civics Day and hosted a special event with lunch for the legislators.
We're pretty sure that writing about their boundless pettiness will put us in their crosshairs, too. But we have to call a spade a spade: These are Big Government Republicans who are all for expanding the size and role of state government whenever they can. They're not here to ensure that government will continue to supply useful services (you know, roads, healthcare, safety, education). They'd like government to expand to make sure you don't do anything in your personal life that they don't approve of.
Reader, we can assure you--and all the newbies in the Legislature who are also new to the state--this is not how we do things in Wyoming.
Even though it was written about Alaska, we harken back to the great 2008 essay by Jim Albrecht who wrote:
"We identified not by our ideologies but by our geography. ... This sense of responsibility for the welfare of one’s neighbors...is still alive in glimmers. ... In the old days, people used to leave their cabins unlocked in the winter (with notes saying, 'Take what you need, leave what you can') because it was considered reckless to lock a shelter against those who might come across it in desperate straits. Growing up, we had no Internet to bring us together, but we had a shared geography that did so in a much more powerful way. Wilderness has a bully pulpit all its own, and, back when we could still hear it over the cell phones and the four-stroke snow machines, it preached a repetitive sermon. 1) We don’t all have to agree about everything, 2) but we do all have to survive the winter."
Albrecht was writing about Alaska. But it could just as easily have been about Wyoming. He was writing a decade-and-a-half ago. But it could just as easily have been now. The winter is no less brutal than it once was.
Wyoming and Wyomingites aren't meant to be on the front line of the culture wars. We've got too much work to do just surviving the winter.
Because we *do* all have to survive the winter--which isn't a given--and not one of us can do that entirely on our own. Our interdependence is what has always made us great. Those who would try to tell you that interdependence is a flaw, that it makes you weak, that you should bootstrap everything all the time on your own--those people are peddling a myth and one that serves none of us.
But we digress.
Back to the things that actually happened this week, the work that actually served the people and moved us forward:
Both chambers passed the supplemental budget. They didn't pass the same spending plan so a lot still has to be decided. Tune in for the cage match that will be joint conference committee on the budget.
That's it. We're not sure what other work was done this week to serve the people. So much time and energy was subsumed in the pettiness it'll take us a minute to sort through to the real work.
Here are some other distractions that took up time and attention this week:
A bill banning "crossover voting" advanced while three others on the same topic died. At least four bills looked at what kind of ID you can use to vote. The march to make it harder for people to vote continues.
Two bills banning obscenity died. We're pleased they're dead and gone (long live the librarians, quiet champions of the first amendment!), but we still wasted ALL. THAT. TIME. on those bills when there was meaningful work to be done.
Two bills criminalizing the provision of gender affirming care--one targeting parents and one targeting physicians--advanced. Wyoming knows it has a suicide problem. Wyoming knows it has a teen suicide problem. Wyoming knows it has an LGBTQ+ suicide problem. Wyoming legislators opted to intensify pressure and codify hatred in ways that might well exacerbate all those problems.
A bill that even the most pro-life legislators said would be a detriment to their pro-life cause advanced out of committee. (Spoiler alert: Pro-choice attorneys wholeheartedly agreed with that assessment. For those fighting the trigger ban, this bill is likely a gift to them.) Hours went into this bill. Again, hearing this bill--that does no one any good, no matter which side of the issue you fall on--wasted time and cost the people of Wyoming the time and attention of its legislators.
Budget amendments attacked everything from the UWyo Women & Gender Studies Program (failed, read more here) to the Wyoming Education Association to the murals in the Capitol. If you're reading the subtext of that sentence and would like assurance that we're suggesting that they WASTED YOUR TIME, rest assured, we are telling you that they wasted your precious time.
[Side note: Seems like as good a time as any for a quick Bob Dylan/Susan Tedeschi interlude.
"Oh now I ain't sayin' that you treated me unkind
Oh you coulda done better, but oh I don't mind
You just kinda wasted all my precious time.
Don't think twice, it's alright."]
Here is the good news: There are still traditional Republicans and Democrats in the body. Those people want to do the People's Work. Those people are serious and they embody the principles of servant leadership. Our job, then, is to help amplify their voices.
"Wilderness has a bully pulpit all its own, and [it preaches] a repetitive sermon. 1) We don’t all have to agree about everything, 2) but we do all have to survive the winter."
Let's find a way forward. Together.