LEGISLATIVE WATCH WYOMING: Lawmakers of the 67th Legislature Sworn into Office
Elected chamber leaders call for looking past political differences and working together
- Published In: Politics
- Last Updated: Jan 11, 2023
By Shen Wu Tan
Special to the Wyoming Truth
Wyoming lawmakers were sworn into office on Tuesday, officially kicking off the general session of the 67th legislature, with the occasional sheddings of tears and expressions of gratitude for their supportive family members.
Representatives and senators took their oaths of office in the state capitol building in Cheyenne and selected key leaders for their respective legislative chambers.
In the House, Rep. Albert Sommers (R-Pinedale) was elected as speaker of the chamber. Meanwhile, Rep. Clark Stith (R-Rock Springs) was voted in as speaker pro tempore.
“To now serve this body as its speaker is humbling,” said Sommers. “Like our predecessors, we face challenges. We also have great opportunities. It is incumbent upon us to move beyond our differences and seize those opportunities for the betterment of Wyoming and its people. I pledge to help maintain the integrity of this institution.”
Rep. Chip Neiman (R-Hulett) will serve as the majority floor leader for the House. Rep. Mike Yin (D-Jackson) will serve as the minority floor leader.
While on the floor, Neiman stressed to his fellow representatives the importance of looking to future generations in everything they do and to preserve the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“Above all you do, I charge you all to protect freedom,” said Neiman. “In every piece of legislation that you provide and that we act on here, the key thing that we would be reminded of as citizens of this great and mighty nation is that we would work diligently to preserve freedom first.”
Also on Tuesday, senators unanimously elected Sen. Ogden Driskill (R-Devils Tower) as president of the Senate.
“Nationally, even here at home in Wyoming, political discourse has become dug in and personal,” said Driskill. “I believe there is more common ground that unites us than differences divide us…. We’re a citizen legislature. Our members bring a diversity of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives – all of which will help us forge a path forward.”
For vice president of the Senate, legislators unanimously selected Sen. Dave Kinskey (R-Sheridan).
Sen. Larry Hicks (R-Baggs) will serve as the majority floor leader; Sen. Chris Rothfuss (D-Laramie) will serve as the minority floor leader. Sen. Mike Gierau (D-Jackson) will serve as the minority whip.
At the podium, Rothfuss discussed his concern with senators about the state’s young people leaving Wyoming, as well as the need to solve the boom-bust nature of the state and to diversify the economy.
“Trying to find ways to build a state 10 to 20 years from now that our children, my children will want to be coming back to, and that’s always been our best export,” said Rothfuss. “What do we export that’s our most valuable quantity right now? It’s our children, our highly educated, exceptional children that we end up sending off to other states, and we need to change that.”
Back in the House, Secretary of State Chuck Gray, a former representative of the 57th district, offered some words of advice for lawmakers at the beginning of the session. Among his tips: cherish time in office, remember the cyclical nature of the state’s revenue, be thoughtful about spending and never forget what it means to be a citizen legislator.
“This is about service, and we must keep it that way,” said Gray. “Always remember what your constituents, who may not be here due to distance or due to work and who are working hard each day at improving our state, always remember what they would want you to do.”
On Tuesday, both chambers referred bills to specific committees. The general session is scheduled to last about 40 days with a spate of bills on hand for legislators to consider. It will adjourn by midnight on Friday, March 3.
On Wednesday, Gov. Mark Gordon is set to deliver his “State of the State” address. Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justice Kate M. Fox will also deliver her “State of the Judiciary” remarks.