Debate becomes 'spirited' in Senate Wednesday morning as budget pressure rises - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Debate becomes ‘spirited’ in Senate Wednesday morning as budget pressure rises

Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, center, talks with Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Albany County Sen. Chris Rothfuss stirred a fire in his fellow senators during the Wyoming Senate’s morning floor session on Wednesday, Feb. 19.

Even though it’s only the second week of the budget session, which will wrap up on March 12, the senators engaged in debates multiple times in less than three hours. Much of the spirited discussion was directed at the first few amendments in SF 1, the biennium budget bill. The biennium will begin July 1, 2020 and end June 30, 2022.

This was the third day the Senate has discussed the bill, taking Monday, Feb. 17 and Tuesday, Feb. 18 to read through the lengthy document, which spanned around 140 pages. The Senate voted to pass the budget through the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday evening, readying it for the second reading on Wednesday.

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Rothfuss was critical of approving the amendments on Wednesday, noting that the senators have had more than a week to look through the main budget bill and ask questions about it. They have not had the same time to look through the amendments, however.

“There are probably about five people in this room that have really had the time to look through these amendments and know what they do,” Rothfuss told the Senate. “We should have a debate for every single one of these items in here. We’re being asked to just trust our colleagues.”

He was particularly concerned about waiting to hold in-depth conversations about what was in the amendments until the bill’s third reading. He urged his fellow senators to vote down the first amendment, noting that it could be reworked during the third reading, as well.

Rothfuss also took issue with the way the amended sections were compressed, spanning so many agencies in one fell swoop.

Sens. Eli Bebout and Larry Hicks, who both sit on the Joint Appropriations Committee, defended the work that they’ve done, noting that the amendments were created, in part, to expedite the legislative process.

“There isn’t some nefarious intent to try and hide anything from the body,” Hicks told the Senate. “This isn’t just some ‘trust me’ deal.”

Sen. Hank Coe backed Hicks on this sentiment, with one exception.

“It is a trust me deal, because we should trust the senators on the Joint Appropriations Committee and the amount of time they’ve spent working on this budget,” he said.

The first four amendments were voted for approval by the majority of the Senate by the time its members recessed at noon.