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Wyoming Legislature Leadership Shoots Down Special Session Request Over Gordon’s Vetoes

Ogden Driskill and Andy Sommers

Reacting to Governor Gordon’s vetoing of certain lines in the state’s budget as well as some bills that were passed with overwhelming majors in the House and Senate, lawmakers asked the leader of the Wyoming House and Senate to have a special session to address Governor Gordon’s decision.

Today, they were denied their requests to re-convene in Cheyenne.

After Governor Mark Gordon released his final decisions on the state’s next two-year budget as well as vetoing some pieces of legislation on Friday night and Saturday, reaction was swift and, for some, not very positive.

Gordon did thank the Legislature for bringing him a budget that “positions Wyoming for a prosperous future.”  He also said that the Cowboy State is “fighting Federal overreach, advancing our industries, providing practical property tax relief, ensuring adequate funding for our schools, counties, and communities and providing the services Wyoming residents expect.”

The Governor also thank legislators for funding certain projects that he had championed, like the the 988 suicide lifeline, new school construction, as well as increased savings. But the governor was critical of certain things in the budget, line-item vetoing some things because, in his opinion, they didn’t uphold the separation of powers.  Governor Gordon struck language, but not the funding, for these lines, and criticized lawmakers for the way they arrived at the final draft for his review.

While he approved the final version, the session was contentious, sometimes chaotic, with a leadership fight in the Senate, moderated by State Senator Ogden Driskell asking for civility, and then the House temporarily walked away from budget negotiations and members of the Senate Appropriations Committee voted against their own work product. Ultimately, it ended with the upper chamber only narrowly passing the budget.

The Governor also vetoed House Bill 125 on Friday night, which would have mandated that most gun-free zones were to be nullified in the state.  Gordon’s explanation hinged on the Wyoming Constitution, writing that the bill “erodes historic local control norms by giving sole authority to the Legislature to micromanage a constitutionally protected right. Any further clarification of the law, if this bill were enacted, would augment the Legislature’s reach into local firearms regulation,” Gordon added. “The bill exceeds the separation of powers embodied in Article 2 of our Wyoming Constitution. I must, therefore, veto it.”

State lawmakers were outraged by the Governor’s decisions, some calling for a special session to meet at the state Capitol in Cheyenne to address the vetoed items.  Wyoming State Representative John Bear and State Senator Cheri Steinmetz both released press releases, adamantly calling on legislative leadership grant their requests for a special session.

In his statement, Rep. Bear pointed to Saturday’s line-item veto of the Legislature’s defunding of the controversial diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programming at the University of Wyoming.

“Our founders wisely created a system of government characterized by a division of power between three co-equal branches of government,” adding, “Legislative leaders have destroyed this division of power, elevating the governor to the position of empirical king with unilateral, unchecked authority.”

State Senator Steinmetz called Gordon’s vetoes an “overreach,” making the claim that, “Bills and issues of great importance to the citizens of Wyoming, which were overwhelmingly passed by a veto-proof majority of the Legislature, have been vetoed by the governor,” specifically citing the governor’s veto of a property tax bill and a bill that would have eliminated gun-free zones.”

Both Steinmetz and Bear made their case that the decision from the Legislature’s leadership to adjourn with three days left in the session, allowed Governor Gordon the ability to veto without the State Legislature to opportunity to override his decision.

“Many sage legislators warned we should never leave town without the governor completing his work and the legislative veto intact,” Steinmetz emplored in her statement. “I would say we learned our lesson.”

This morning, not only was the legislator’s request denied, they were rebuked by both leaders in the Wyoming House and Senate.
Both Majority Floor Leaders, Senator Ogden Driskill, and Representative Andy Sommers said in a written statement that even though they, too, were “disappointed” in the Governor’s “liberal use of his veto authority and tone of his veto messages,” a special session was not going to happen in effectively addressing Governor Gordon’s decisions.
“The Legislature cannot simply meet for one day in a special session to vote to override vetoes. With the Majority Floor Leaders in both chambers motioning to adjourn ‘sine die’ and gaining approval from the members present, all bills and actions of the 2024 Budget Session by the Legislature are finished.”
The two leaders then chided the lawmakers who asked for the special session saying, “We do not recall the legislators who are now clamoring for a special session formally asking us or the chambers to utilize our three extra days. The very legislators who are asking for a special session created delay after delay during the budget session by asking for roll call votes, trying to resurrect zombie bills, bringing procedural motions, and filibustering debate.”
Furthering their point of “time is the Legislature’s enemy,” both leaders when on to point out that during this legislative session, “[The Legislative body] had plenty of time in our established calendar to pass bills and do veto overrides. In fact, we created a calendar where budget debate began on the first week of session, for the very purpose of having enough time to resolve our differences in a conference committee and do veto overrides on the budget.”
They also addressed the cost of a special session saying it wasn’t economically responsible to spend thousands of dollars a day to try to undo the governor’s vetoes. 
“Realistically, a special session would require eight to ten days and cost approximately $35,000 a day. Should we spend $350,000 of taxpayer money because we couldn’t get our job done within the calendar that we had agreed upon? This call for a special session appears to be political grandstanding for upcoming campaigns, not responsible governance. Wyoming taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for that.”

Albert Sommers is the Speaker of the House and has served in the Legislature since 2013. Ogden Driskill is the President of the Senate and has served in the Wyoming Legislature since 2011.




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