New Legislators Find Their Way

Jan 16, 2015

Jackson Democrat Andy Schwartz listens to debate.
Credit Bob Beck

The Wyoming legislative session is underway and it features 3 new Senators in Cheyenne and 14 newly elected Representatives. It’s a big stage for the newly minted lawmakers and 31-year-old Tyler Lindholm is excited. He is a tall, thin, and confident 1st year Representative from Sundance. Lindholm served in the Navyhas, chaired the Crook County Republican Party and is ready to jump into the legislature with both feet. But legislative protocols and the abundance of legislation can be a challenge for newcomers. He’s been getting in early and leaving late in an effort to get himself prepared each day.

“The best way I can put it is trying to drink out of a fire hydrant. You know you are just trying to get as much as possible, but there’s a lot of really good legislators down there that have been a lot of help to me and a lot of the other freshman.”

While it’s overwhelming at times, Lindholm still wants to make an impact in his first year. He hopes his youth will bring a different perspective to the floor, especially when it comes to agriculture. He plans on taking another crack at a hotly debated issue called the Wyoming Food Freedom act.

“We’ve created a situation in where some foods are almost a black market such as raw milk. So what the Wyoming food freedom act would do is to take food off the black market and I think that’s important and I think that’s a huge part of agriculture, production, and part of individual liberty. “

Lindholm is a self-described libertarian, which means he will heavily scrutinize laws that could take away someone's rights.  

On the opposite side of the aisle sits Andy Schwartz. Schwartz has come to Cheyenne many times to testify on behalf of Teton County where he served as a County Commissioner for 12 years. Schwartz jokes that since he is a Jackson Democrat he is working hard to get the Republican-dominated house to accept him.

“I didn’t think coming down here with a strong agenda was necessarily the best way to be an effective legislator and that my real goal in this first term is to learn the process and establish relationships so that next year I can be more effective in any agenda I might care to pursue.”

However, Schwartz is very interested in the governor’s proposal to provide money to local government and another proposal to increase that funding over the next few years. Schwartz wants lawmakers to provide money that cities and counties can count on.

“A reliable stream without requiring strings to the county that they have to use it for capital projects for instance. You can keep funding capital projects forever but if you can’t afford to operate and maintain them, that money really isn’t very useful.”

On the other side of the Capitol in the Senate, sits Stephan Pappas of Cheyenne. The Republican joins the legislature after years of public service, including time with Wyoming Air National Guard. Pappas has not sponsored legislation this session because he wants to get his feet wet. But as a member of education committee he will closely follow those issues. Pappas is already getting constituent feedback on the proposed constitutional amendment over whether to have an appointed State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“And I’ve heard pros and cons on it already, but I’m waiting for the debate before I make my mind up on whether to put it in front of the people.”

On another topic, Pappas says he likes the governor’s proposal to spend money on building and infrastructure projects. He is an engineer by trade and that guides his thinking.

“Well, replacement costs are extremely expensive and so it’s very wise to look at our infrastructure and put money in it now, because it will pay dividends long term.”

Pappas adds that despite concerns about money, the state needs to invest in these types of projects.

“And if it happens to come out of some of the reserve coffee cans then yeah, I think it’s a valid place to fund them from.”

The legislators say that they are awaiting the 2nd week when the pace of the legislature quickens.