Legislative session

Few legislators sit in a nearly empty House chamber during a COVID-19 special legislative session Friday, May 15, 2020, inside the state capitol in Cheyenne. The legislature is eyeing an abbreviated start to the general session in January with a more complete session later in the year as a COVID-19 precaution, but Teton County Sen. Mike Gierau says the decision has yet to be reached.

The Wyoming Legislature’s Management Council approved in concept the idea of delaying the bulk of the upcoming legislative session, but Teton County Sen. Mike Gierau cautioned that it’s not necessarily a done deal — and won’t be until the 66th Legislature convenes.

“We didn’t necessarily make a decision not to meet,” said Mike Gierau, D-Teton. “That’s still an open question.”

Gierau sits on the Management Council and was a part of its Tuesday meeting where, among other things, the council’s Republican and Democratic lawmakers tussled with different ways to enforce COVID-19 restrictions — or not — in the state capitol as new members of the Wyoming House and Senate are sworn in.

At one point, Democratic lawmakers like Rep. Cathy Connolly, of Albany County, called for requiring “compliance with public health related orders or requests” for new legislators when they show up to be sworn in. A recommended motion only required that for guests.

Senate President Drew Perkins, R-Casper, has COVID-19, according to the Casper Star-Tribune, and another senator, Republican Jim Andersen, of Casper, also tested positive earlier this year. Rep. Roy Edwards, R-Gillette, died from the disease earlier this month.

Republican members of the management council pushed back on Connolly’s suggestion, which failed. Senate President-Elect Dan Dockstader, an Afton Republican who represents Teton, Lincoln and Sublette counties in the Legislature, was among them.

“I don’t think we have to command them in their every move,” Dockstader said. “Let’s not dictate to them how they have to be there.”

Other motions allowing for the Joint Appropriations Committee to meet virtually in December and the swearing in of members before Jan. 12, the projected start of the general session, passed.

In summary, Matt Obrecht, the director of the Legislative Services Office, told the Management Council that he would tell other legislators to be prepared to meet virtually Jan. 12 “to only conduct the essential business of the Wyoming Legislature.”

He confirmed in an email to the Casper Star-Tribune that the plan coming out of Tuesday’s meeting “is for an abbreviated January session and to reconvene later in the first or second quarter of 2021, depending on the public health situation and other factors.”

But Gierau cautioned that the current 65th Legislature can’t bind the next. He said that on Jan. 12, the 66th Legislature will make the call.

“There’s a lot, still a lot of moving parts. It has not been officially decided that we’re not going to meet until May,” Gierau said. “The body has the opportunity to make its own rules, and can do so when they get sworn in. This group of members cannot actually make rules for the next.”

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or barnold@jhnewsandguide.com.

Teton County Reporter

Previously the Scene editor, Billy Arnold made the switch to the county beat where he's interested in exploring Teton County as a model for the rest of the West. When he can, he still writes about art, music and whatever else suits his fancy.

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