Young Lawmakers Look to Bring “Fresh Perspective” to Wyoming House (Part 2)
Incoming freshmen enter session with different priorities
- Published In: Politics
- Last Updated: Jan 02, 2023
Pictured at a Sweetwater County Republican Party meet and greet in July, Rep.-elect J.T. Larson (R-Rock Springs) handily defeated a Democratic incumbent in November’s General Election. (Courtesy photo from J.T. Larson)
By CJ Baker
Special to the Wyoming Truth
As a trio of young lawmakers join the Wyoming House of Representatives next week, expect them to add some new views to the chamber.
“We can bring a fresh perspective,” said Rep.-elect Dalton Banks (R-Cowley). The 27-year-old noted many members of today’s older generations are done raising kids, “so they’ve forgotten about, what are we going to do now for those [young] people coming up?”
Making Wyoming a more attractive place for youth to stay and work – combatting the state’s long-running “brain drain” – was a part of the platform for Rep.-elect J.T. Larson (R-Rock Springs). At an October candidate forum, the 21-year-old mentioned that young people are more interested in careers involving computers and technology than working in a coal mine.
“Although that’s supported our way of life for so many years, that’s just not what a lot of students are looking at now,” Larson said.
Rep.-elect Daniel Singh (R-Cheyenne), who’s 25, told the Wyoming Truth that he and other members of Generation Z “have a perspective that’s completely different from older generations that have been around rural Wyoming for a long time.”
The three Wyoming natives share an age bracket and a desire to represent their peers. However, Banks, Larson and Singh also bring different life experiences and priorities into the 67th Legislature.
Larson’s election to the state House follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, who served three terms in the Montana Legislature more than a half-century ago. While his political aspirations are new, Larson has long been involved in his community: He began volunteering for the Rock Springs International Day — a celebration of the city’s multicultural heritage — before his age had hit double digits.
Larson said last month that he was still working on the list of bills he’ll back in the session, but broadly said he wants to make data-driven decisions that benefit his constituents. He ran on a platform that included protecting the state’s water, expanding broadband service and staying focused on issues related to his district.
Banks is also following a tradition of public service: His father, Dave, appeared alongside him on the November ballot, winning re-election as a Big Horn County School District 1 board member.
Banks brings diverse experience to his new role in the Legislature, having worked in the agriculture and energy sectors, as well as having served as a Northwest College admissions representative in Powell. Currently, he is an employee in the Town of Cowley’s public works department.
Banks has been working to draft several bills aimed at specific issues, such as one that would make it easier for landowners to mark their property as off-limits to trespassers and another that would boost independent pharmacies. On the campaign trail, he pledged to preserve Wyoming values, saying he’d work to provide property tax relief and remove critical race theory and sexually explicit material from schools, among other issues.
Singh similarly ran on a conservative platform that included opposition to gay marriage, support for more education options and a pledge to fight for individual rights, including giving people more freedom in their medical decisions. If you’re living in Wyoming, Singh said, “you’ve probably come to distance yourself as much as you can from any sort of government.”
He calls Wyoming the “the greatest state in the greatest country in the world” and speaks from some experience: Singh’s parents are Christian missionaries — his father immigrated to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago — and his travels have included stops in India and Scotland.
Now, he’s committed to his role in the Legislature, explaining that, “I’ve dreamed of this for my whole life.” In mid-December, Singh was working to turn a couple ideas into viable legislation.
“You can go into the Legislature with broad philosophical ideas, but then actually nailing that down and seeing how, like, your ideas relate to statute, and what kind of things actually need to be changed in order to see your idea come to fruition, I mean, it’s complicated,” Singh said. “But that’s what the job is.”
The learning curve
As the incoming Speaker of the House, part of Rep. Albert Sommers’ job has involved reaching out to the incoming freshmen. There will be 27 newbies in the 62-member chamber, and as they prepare for the General Session, Sommers has let them know he’s available to help; Banks is among those who’ve already taken him up on the offer.
Sommers’ seating chart for the House floor attempts to place new lawmakers near more seasoned ones, allowing them to ask questions as they arise. Meanwhile, he said some extra training was added to ensure lawmakers can obtain as much information as possible. When he joined the House in 2013, Sommers didn’t realize how much he had to learn.
“It’s a learning curve not only on issues, but process,” he said. “And process matters, because process is how we create a platform to have debate.”
As those debates get underway Jan. 10, Sommers indicated that he’ll welcome the younger lawmakers’ views.
“Young people bring a different perspective to the table than older people,” he said, and that helps expand the Legislature’s overall perspective.
While they’re ready to offer their thoughts, Banks, Larson and Singh all said they’re looking forward to learning from their older colleagues.
“I don’t believe that one age group is going to have all the answers,” said Larson. “The way this Legislature will be successful is by having a diverse group of people with different experiences, backgrounds and ages.”
The young legislators are set to serve together for at least the next two years, and Singh is excited about the possibilities.
“I think we’re going to get a lot done,” he said.