The 66th session of the Wyoming Legislature promises to be one of the most unusual in its 130 year history. Governor Mark Gordon addressed legislators and the entire state virtually on Jan. 12th at 2:00 p.m., officially opening the session––and fulfilling the requirements of the Wyoming Constitution.
The Wyoming Legislature will adjourn after the opening session to resume at a later date. The calendar for the upcoming legislative work can be found at https://www.wyoleg.gov/.
Some of the key business at hand initially for the legislature was the election of legislative leadership, adoption of rules for the 66th legislature, and Governor Gordon’s address.
While some members of both houses are adamant the entire session be in person, other legislators are less certain, even opposed. Many favor a hybrid solution of remote and in-person work. One concern––in addition to the risk posed to legislators––is that many staff who serve at the Capitol in Cheyenne are retired and the most at-risk for catching Covid 19. While initially, it appears many of the sessions are scheduled remotely, insiders commented that the format of the sessions will be determined.
Gordon promised to offer a more comprehensive State of the State message later. He acknowledged Senate President, Dan Dockstader and Speaker Barlowe. He offered congratulations to the incoming legislators and expressed it was an honor to work with them.
Gordon addressed the issue of the impact of Covid on the state. “We were struck by a global pandemic the likes of which we have not seen for many years. He spoke of the resilience of businesses and the Wyoming economy: “There is a bright light at the end of the tunnel with the arrival of vaccines.”
Gordon also spoke about difficulty, and pain of the loss of life from Covid and the 192 people who died by suicide during the pandemic. In the same vein, he acknowledged the frontline heroes, doctors, nurses and health workers. He said, “They have been magnificent.”
On a brighter note, Gordon noted Wyoming saw a surge in tourism, saying it was one of the best seasons in recent memory. Businesses related to tourism also had a good year. Participation in hunting and fishing remained at near-record level. He lamented he wasn’t able to go this year.
Gordon expressed appreciation of Senators Enzi and Barrasso and Representative Liz Cheney for helping direct 1.25 billion dollars to Wyoming through the CARES Act, the most received per capita of any state. He emphasized the state had taken steps to get people back to work and keep schools open. “We are currently better off than many other states.”
In addition to the pandemic, Governor Gordon addressed the painful subject of the budget. He commented, “We’re in a fiscal blizzard like that of 1949. We’ve got to find ways to stabilize boom and bust cycles. Make no mistake. This budget is a hard one, but we’ve done our best to avoid pain to the most vulnerable.”
He said the pandemic had brought out the best in many people in Wyoming. Many looked in on neighbors, others responded to the First Lady’s initiative to help with food scarcity. “And while the book isn’t closed on pandemic––we have more work to do, especially in health and senior care. It’s best when government is close to the people.”
Gordon closed by sharing ‘The Cowboy Prayer’ by Badger Clark that he learned as a small boy, and saying, “Working together, we’ll succeed and lead Wyoming to a bright future. God bless Wyoming. God bless the United States of America and God bless you, the people of Wyoming.”
A video livestream of the House and Senate proceedings, including Governor Gordon’s full address, are available on the Legislature’s website at: www.wyoleg.gov.
The public may contact members of the Legislature directly using the contact information available on the Legislature’s website at: www.wyoleg.gov/Legislators.