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(OPINION) House votes against special session

Wyoming State Capitol (Lisa Hushbeck/Cap City News)

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While a majority of the Wyoming Senate voted for a special session, a majority of the Wyoming House voted against. As a result, taxpayers will be spared the likely $700,000 expense of a 20-day special session in 2024.

We take pride in Wyoming’s history of a citizen legislature, deeply rooted in its connection to the people and in stark contrast to a professional political class. Safeguarding this institution is paramount and more important than any single bill.

The prospect of a third special session in four years presented significant practical challenges for our dedicated legislators, many of whom hold regular jobs. An additional four weeks of legislative duties would have been difficult and impractical.

And yes, it would have been a full four weeks. Unlike the special session of 2020, which had joint rules to limit topics and bills (although members brought unauthorized bills anyway), there would not have been the two-thirds vote necessary this time to adopt joint rules. In 2021, the special session lacked the necessary two-thirds vote to impose such restrictions, and consequently the special session lasted 10 days. In 2021, we didn’t stay in session another three days to see if the governor was going to veto bills, which means veto-proofing would have taken even longer.

While we were disappointed by the governor’s veto of SF54, which aimed to cut property taxes for all homeowners by 25%, we were open to a special session solely focused on revising this bill. However, the obstructionists in the freedom caucus would not agree to that, calling for a minimum of 4-6 different bills, including the budget bill. They wanted to play more political games at the expense of the Wyoming taxpayers.

No bill, except SF54, demonstrated the urgency of necessitating a special session. In the absence of joint rules governing the special session, this would leave a special session vulnerable to potential chaos with each member at liberty to introduce whatever bills they chose.

We were faced with a situation where after the game was played, some players wanted to replay simply because they didn’t win every inning. Life doesn’t work that way.

We did good work this session. Many people will qualify for property tax refunds of up to 75% for 2023–2025. We guarantee their home values for tax purposes will not go up by more than 4% in any given year. We doubled the veterans’ property tax exemption. And long-time homeowners over age 65 will get 50% off their property tax bill.

Although we did not get everything across the finish line, the sky is not falling. There is more to be done and the next legislature will convene in about eight months to continue the work.

Albert Sommers is the Speaker of the House represents House District 20 and has served in the Legislature since 2013. 

Speaker Pro Tempore Clark Stith represents House District 48 and has served in the Legislature since 2017.

Rep. Barry Crago represents House District 40 and has served in the Legislature since 2021.

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