Gov. Mark Gordon and Secretary of State Ed Buchanan characterized an effort by legislative leaders to maintain some control over the Capitol building after restoration work finishes this year as creeping legislative overreach.
The pushback from the state’s executive branch comes on a bill to let lawmakers control decisions over the Legislature’s chambers, committee rooms and office spaces in the restored Capitol.
In the past, those rooms, like all state buildings, have been under the control of the State Building Commission, made up of Wyoming’s five statewide elected officials.
Lawmakers pushing the measure said they have a responsibility to oversee projects the Legislature funds, and cited the hundreds of millions they’ve appropriated for the restoration project.
The bill, Senate File 149 — Capitol complex oversight, initially gave the Legislature an immediate say on building decisions to be made over the “Capitol complex,” a 16-block area in downtown Cheyenne.
By the time it left the Senate, SF149 had been significantly scaled back. Still, the bill directs the State Building Commission to write a master plan for the Capitol complex that would cover maintenance, restoration and construction projects on buildings within the area.
The commission would then need to inform the Legislature’s Management Council any time it deviated from the plan.
The commission also wouldn’t be able to approve any “architectural or structural” changes to the Capitol building or its grounds without first informing the Management Council and then letting a legislative session pass.
The mandate would give lawmakers a chance to act if they dislike a proposed change.
In an interview last week, Gordon and Buchanan said lawmakers seemed to be encroaching on the control of the executive branch. If the turf in question is relatively minor to those who don’t work in the Capitol, the spat shows Gordon and other executive branch officials are worried about a creeping legislative power grab.
“There is a feeling that there’s maybe been a little migration into areas that were traditionally more executive branch function,” Gordon said.
Today, the Legislature appropriates the money for construction projects, but most detailed decisions about state buildings are made by the State Building Commission.
There is an important distinction between the two branches of government, Gordon said. The governor, secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction, state auditor or state treasurer are elected by the entire state, whereas legislators are not.
“If you’re in the Legislature you get to leadership by your colleagues [electing you],” Gordon said.
Too much legislative control over building decisions can lead to regional warring as individual lawmakers seek to bring a construction project to their district.
If the executive officials say they’re trying to protect the Capitol building and other state buildings from politics, Senate President Drew Perkins, R-Casper, said he has the same concern.
Perkins and the state’s five statewide elected officials have a “great personal relationship,” he said. The bill in part considers a future where that may not be the case, he said.
Under current statute, Perkins said, the opposite could conceivably happen. “What if the five [statewide elected officials] were mad enough at the Legislature that they wouldn’t let them use their spaces?” he said.
“Those are the halls and the offices and the rooms of the Legislature,” Perkins said. “Management Council felt very, very strongly about the Legislature maintaining control over those.”
Andrew Graham works for WyoFile.com. WyoFile is an independent, nonprofit, member-supported public interest news service reporting on the people, places and policy of Wyoming.