CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A number of Wyoming legislative committees are winding up their interim work on bills to be introduced in the Legislature's general session that opens in January.
Some members of those committees who voted on the bills are lame ducks who either didn't seek re-election or were defeated in the general election. They have been working on bills since last winter, although they won't be in the House or Senate when the measures are introduced.
Because of their interim, transitional status, the committees are sometimes called lame-duck committees.
But these bills for the most part survive the transition to newly composed committees and get introduced in the Legislature.
Rep. Roy Cohee, R-Casper, recalled that when he was House speaker the new committees killed one or two of the committee bills.
But in most cases, he said Thursday, the freshmen members of a committee will listen to the discussion but are more likely to defer to the carryover members. And the carryover members aren't likely to change their original votes.
“If it's good legislation, it passes,” said Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper.
Usually, there are enough carryover members on a committee who can explain a bill and will support it.
In the 1993 session, however, after redistricting created single-member districts, the turnover was huge, Scott said.
“The voters just cleaned house,” he said.
As a result, only one carryover member remained on the Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee. The committee had been working to reform the workers' compensation commission but had not gained much ground.
Scott said he asked to switch committee assignments so he could chair the Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee. He said the workers' compensation program was in a mess at the time and was impeding economic development. The leadership gave him a good committee, which included now U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, and it got a reform bill passed.
Sometimes newly elected legislators will sit in on interim committee meetings when they fine tune and vote on bills, said Sen. Curt Meier, R-LaGrange.
He also said he expects new Senate President Jim Anderson, R-Glenrock, to keep continuity in the committee appointments.
“So you can have two or three people who can explain the bills to the new people. You don't want to reinvent the wheel,” Meier said.
The Senate freshman class next year, with seven new members out of 30, is the largest since 1994, Meier said.
“They're going to bring more diversity into the equation,” he said.
Legislators who lose an election may not have much incentive to attend their interim committee meetings. They may be angry and disappointed. But most show up.
Cohee said he heard of one member who skipped the meetings because he was too emotional over losing the election.
Earlier this week two members of the Joint Interim Committee on Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions who aren't coming back were present — Democratic Reps. Ross Diercks of Lusk and Mary Hales of Casper.
“I feel a responsibility to see it through,” said Hales, who lost her seat to Republican Gerald Gay.
She said Thursday that she does not regard the interim committees as “lame duck” committees because each is assigned topics to study.
“It's our responsibility to get bills prepared so they can be introduced” Hales said.
Contact Joan Barron at email@example.com or 307-632-1244.