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(OPINION) Letter: Wyoming Senate president has double standard on meeting attendance

"It may be hypocritical to punish a member of the Legislature for attending a meeting virtually when you don’t stand for important roll call votes yourself," John Bear writes.

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Dear Gillette,

According to Webster’s Dictionary, hypocrisy is defined as behavior that contradicts what one claims to believe.

On April 27, it was revealed that the president of the Wyoming Senate unilaterally removed the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The president reasoned that because this chairman attended a meeting virtually, he didn’t care enough about his leadership role and deserved to lose it.

This move might lead one to infer that the Senate president deeply values perfect legislative attendance, being present and ready to vote on all matters during the legislative session and during the interim.

That inference would be true if the Senate president hadn’t traveled to Mexico for a vacation prior to the 67th Session’s end in early March. This sunny getaway, combined with many instances of the president stepping off of the Senate Floor during critical moments, has resulted in the lawmaker missing over 50 key votes on important pieces of legislation.

Constituents of the Senate president may want to know how he voted on bills to ban chemical abortions, to protect unborn life from the moment of conception, to bolster parental rights, or to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage. Unfortunately, on each of these bills and many others, President Driskill’s vote was not cast.

It may be hypocritical to punish a member of the Legislature for attending a meeting virtually when you don’t stand for important roll call votes yourself.

Alternatively, it may be that many in positions of power genuinely believe that different standards of behavior should apply depending on one’s political philosophy.

Perhaps no clearer example of an ideologically-driven double standard exists than the events of Oct. 28, 2021, on the floor of the Wyoming House of Representatives. It was then that former Speaker of the House Representative Harshman breached legislative decorum in a way never before seen in our State.

On the House Floor during debate on federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates, the former speaker referred to a fellow representative using the most famous four letter word along with a homophobic slur. Ironically, the speaker was attending the meeting virtually.

Interestingly, this incident did not result in Representative Harshman’s removal as chairman of the House Revenue Committee, nor did the media spend any time covering the “incivility” of the breach of decorum.

The target of the attack was a conservative, so meaningful repercussions for the perpetrator did not materialize.

The events of Oct. 28, 2021, and the recent politically motivated removal of a committee chairman from his position are not isolated events. These instances demonstrate a deeper problem in Wyoming politics: for the establishment, one set of rules; for conservatives, another.

If you need further proof, investigate the reaction to one conservative legislator jovially using the expression “don’t get your (underwear) in a wad” on the House Floor earlier this year.

Rep. John Bear

Gillette, Wyoming

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