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Freshman Legislators Had An Up And Down Session

Bob Beck

At the start of the Wyoming legislative session three freshman lawmakers from three corners of the state explained their goals and what they hoped to achieve. Now that the session is over, the three share their experiences. Cheyenne Republican Senator Stephan Pappas said he was impressed with the ideas the Senate was asked to consider.

"There are virtually no idea that was bad, now there are bad bills, but folks come to the legislature with good ideas."

At the start of the session Pappas had planned to find his place in the Senate. But he ended up being heavily involved in the debate over the Medicaid expansion bill that failed in the Senate. Pappas offered a number of amendments to try and ease concerns about the legislation, but those efforts weren’t enough. 

He also served on the education committee that debated a bill that would allow guns in schools, colleges, and government meetings. Pappas said it was interesting to see how differently people from across the state viewed those bills.

“The overwhelming majority do not want to have weapons in schools. That’s my district here in Laramie County, however if I counted the email, most of it coming from the north part of the state, that’s a different mentality. I do really listen to people in my district however.”

I learned that you pick your battles carefully and you pick your bills carefully and you find who your friends are.

All the new lawmakers found that feedback on legislation was an interesting part of the job. Republican Representative Tyler Lindholm from Sundance said properly explaining his position took up a great deal of time. Sometimes that explanation went better than others. Lindholm noted that he got his share of hate mail. As for the House of Representatives, he was impressed with how rigorously bills are picked apart.

“Overall I’ve been pretty impressed, it’s pretty stringent things that each one of these pieces of legislation have to go through. I mean it’s pretty incredible that any bills survive at all, because the scrutiny is intense.”

Lindholm says the highlight of the session for him was getting a controversial piece of legislation through both chambers. Called the Food Freedom Act, it will allow farmers and ranchers to sell unregulated milk, eggs and other products. It was his primary goal coming into the session. He says consumers should be able to have more access to these products. 

“I’m really, really hoping that the farmers markets undertake a change all of sudden, because of so many people and so many agriculture producers being able to sell their product directly to consumers. That should be a good thing.”

Jackson Representative Andy Schwartz saw an up and down session. The Democrat was especially upset with the failure of Medicaid Expansion. He says it would have helped 17,600 people using federal dollars.  Schwartz is a member of the Labor, Health, and Social Services Committee that will have to find a new solution. He said that will be a challenge.

“So now we are going to figure out how to deal with the issues of making sure our hospitals are stable, and people are using health care wisely and getting insurance and we aren’t going to be getting federal dollars to do that, that we could have gotten with Medicaid expansion. So it’s going to be Wyoming dollars now.”

Schwartz, along with Lindholm, and Pappas, was also deeply disappointed with the failure of an anti-discrimination bill that would have kept people from being fired for their sexual orientation. 

“This discussion was a little upsetting I think it’s hard to listen to people justify discrimination.”

Schwartz was pleased with the fact that the legislature used some of its savings account to pay for things in the state budget. He said saving billings and not using it does little to help citizens. Schwartz plans to be much more active next year and says he learned something important.

“I learned that you pick your battles carefully and you pick your bills carefully and you find who your friends are.”

In other words, legislating is a lot like life. 

Bob Beck retired from Wyoming Public Media after serving as News Director of Wyoming Public Radio for 34 years. During his time as News Director WPR has won over 100 national, regional and state news awards.
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