CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- The Wyoming House of Representatives on Tuesday narrowly voted down legislation to launch a study into what the state should do in the event of a complete economic or political collapse in the United States.
House Bill 85 was rejected 30-27 in a final House vote, as opponents said the task force wasn't needed and that the bill's message had already been delivered thanks to significant national media coverage of the legislation in recent days.
The bill would have created a state-run government continuity task force, which would study and prepare Wyoming for potential catastrophes, from disruptions in food and energy supplies to a complete meltdown of the federal government.
The task force also would have looked at the feasibility of Wyoming issuing its own alternative currency, if needed. The original legislation asked for $32,000 to fund the task force; the Joint Appropriations Committee subsequently halved that.
The bill's sponsor, state Rep. David Miller, R-Riverton, said he didn't anticipate any major crises hitting America anytime soon. But with the national debt exceeding $15 trillion and protest movements growing around the country, Miller said Wyoming -- which has a comparatively good economy and sound state finances -- needs to make sure it's protected should any unexpected emergency hit the U.S.
The bill received prominent media coverage around the state and the nation, especially after lawmakers tacked on a facetious amendment instructing the task force to examine conditions under which Wyoming would need to implement its own military draft, raise a standing army, and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier.
Many legislative supporters of HB85 said that they were caught off-guard by the amendment, and that several supporters didn't realize what was going on until the amendment had passed. They stripped the amendment out of the bill on Monday.
Before Tuesday's vote, Miller said he was optimistic the bill would pass the House. But after the legislation was rejected, Miller said the only things he was surprised about were that the bill made it as far as it did and the overwhelming show of support he's seen for the proposal, both inside and outside Wyoming.
"I think the political class here in Cheyenne has a little myopic view of the world in relation of what government can do to people," Miller said, when asked why he believed the bill failed. "I think people should wake up that there's a lot more people out there concerned about this issue than they realize."
State Rep. Jeb Steward, R-Encampment, said he voted against the bill Tuesday because he has an aversion to forming more government task forces -- especially ones that he thinks aren't needed.
"To me, they didn't make a good case for the purpose or need of it," he said. "It's just not a priority for me at any price."
House Speaker Ed Buchanan, R-Torrington, said he voted "no" on the final vote because he believed the proposal had achieved its goal: bringing attention to the serious issue of the mounting national debt.
"We sent the message, and it was received," Buchanan said. "We had a little fun with it, tongue-in-cheek. But that's what got the attention. That's what that made sure the message was received."
Miller said Tuesday he wasn't yet sure whether he or another legislator would try again next session to get the task force passed.