CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Midway through the Wyoming legislative session, the freshmen lawmakers have learned the steps in passing a bill, how to find a committee room without a map and how to function on only a few hours' sleep.
They also have mastered the strict protocol of debate, adhering to the rule that prohibits legislators from identifying any person or place by name.
Members of the House have become creative. They refer to the “county with the hump” (Campbell) and “the land of snow “(Teton) and the “land of the Broncos” (Colorado).
Most of the new lawmakers are having a pretty good time, too, in a Legislature that is unusual in the speed and intensity required to get its work done in 40 days.
Rep. Hans Hunt, a Newcastle Republican, said he foundered for the first couple of weeks but has his footing now.
He is learning how to handle the flood of e-mails he receives and to keep up with the bill reading to prepare for committee meetings and floor action.
“It's a lot of fun,” said Hunt, who at 22 is the youngest legislator this session. “I've always been interested in politics.”
His mother, Donna Hunt, was a Weston County commissioner, and his father, Troy Hunt, recently finished serving eight years as Weston County coroner.
He represents House District 2, which includes parts of Weston, Converse and all of Niobrara County.
Hunt, who has a ranching background, is the first member of the House to receive a Hathaway scholarship. He said the scholarship and a summer job enabled him to pay his own way at the University of Wyoming.
A senior in agriculture business, Hunt took this semester off but will graduate next fall.
During discussion of the Hathaway curriculum bill, Hunt argued against an amendment that would have required both two years of foreign language and vocational training.
He said students should have a choice between the two studies.
“I don't have any specific agenda,” Hunt said.
He was assigned to the House Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee and the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee.
The legislators have busy evening social schedules. Hunt said he enjoys talking with the lobbyists and other people to find out why they are supporting certain bills.
“The free food is always good,” Hunt added.
Rep. Kendell Kroeker is a 38-year-old Republican businessman from Evansville in Natrona County,
“I'm enjoying it. There are some days that are more fun than others and emotionally it can be up and down,” he said.
“I think Wyoming has a great process and I'm glad to be part of it,” he said.
Kroeker is interested in bills dealing with states' rights and individual rights.
He said he was proud to co-sponsor House Bill 35, which declares that the federal heath care reform law, the Affordable Card Act, is void and invalid in Wyoming.
The slow, difficult process of getting a bill through the Legislature is a good thing, he said.
Before he came to Cheyenne he told people that if he was gong to make a mistake it would be by voting no rather than by voting yes.
“I think putting bad legislation into place is a lot worse than not putting good legislation into place, because if we don't get it done this year we can always bring it back in the future,” Kroeker said.
He hasn't been to many parties because he's been too tired after 12-hour-plus days.
Sen. Chris Rothfuss is a 38-year-old Laramie Democrat and chemical engineering instructor at the University of Wyoming.
From almost the first day, Rothfuss has been as heavily and skillfully engaged in legislation as a Senate veteran.
His experience with the U.S. Department of Defense and as a delegate to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in 2003 through 2006 gave him exposure to legislative work.
The Wyoming Legislature has a very good process, he said.
“I'm impressed at how effective the group is getting things done and how unlike the U.S. Senate it is,” he said.
Sen. Mike Enzi and others said the Wyoming Legislature has rules in place to ensure that things get done, he said.
“Whether you agree with the outcome or not, things get done,” he said.
Rothfuss is especially interested in education legislation.
“We're trying to get a good series of bills out of the Senate and be sure they're balanced and have the accountability we're looking for,” he said.
Rothfuss hasn't been to many parties because he works late at his desk.
Asked what he would like to see changed, he said, “I wouldn't mind if we had a little larger (Democratic) minority,” he said.
The Democrats hold only four seats in the 30-member Senate.
“I think we are a little heavy on constitutional amendments this year, though,” Rothfuss added. “We're going to need larger books to put our constitution in if we get all these through.”