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The Lack of Transparency is The Dangerous Parasite to Liberty

Rep Ken Pendergraft
March 22, 2024

I hear and read a lot about the lack of civility in the Wyoming Legislature. For example, in a recent Op-Ed for WyoFile, Amy Edmonds writes, “Our legislators should be emulating statesmanship through good governance practices, continual civility and substantive debate that focuses on issues and not personalities.”    Note the last (inaccurate) assertion therein, namely, suggesting that at the heart of the issue are personality differences. This is a misdiagnosis, it’s the proverbial straw man argument.       

The two factions being manifest in the Republican party, not only statewide, but in much of the heartland of America, are actually divided over the proper role of government. What exactly is “good governance” as both Edmonds and Representative Cyrus Western call for in recent op-eds?     

Basic tenets of the Republican Party include smaller government, less spending, and minimal intrusion into our lives. Recent trends, even here in Wyoming, are for ever-larger, more expensive and intrusive government. A cradle-to-grave, provisional government that creates ever-increasing dependence, eventually proving to be a parasite upon liberty that cannot be eradicated.       

The basic purpose for government is to protect individual liberty, specifically the liberty of those unable to defend themselves. When we cede personal responsibility (whether it be to provide for ourselves or those around us), and rely upon the collective to provide, we sacrifice liberty. It is all too easy for those charged with protection to become tyrannical.       

The friction in the house is not about personalities, it’s about these fundamental principles; it’s about what constitutes good governance.   Those labeled the Freedom Caucus (whether or not they are actually members), hold a historically conservative view and fight against this ever-growing, more expensive, and ultimately more dangerous parasite on liberty. Meanwhile, those labeled the Wyoming Caucus, or calling themselves “Traditional Conservatives” tend to see a government solution for virtually any societal ill. They vote continually for more spending and more programs. From this vantage point they claim that Wyoming (here they mean state government and her agencies) “can’t afford” to give anything back to the people.       

Wyoming’s state government has become like a wealthy dictator, ignoring the complaints of his peasants, responding that “you people should be grateful for all I’ve done for you! You are lucky you don’t pay for everything you take.” This dictator collects hundreds of millions more than he needs but is unwilling to give back to the people unless he can dictate exactly how “his” money shall be spent.       

On the other side of the issue, the Freedom Caucus and those in agreement with them hold 42% of the seats in the House of Representatives, but none of the Committee Chairmanships. We have no representation on the Appropriations Committee. When Speaker Sommers appointed Joint Conference Committees, they were virtually always one-sided.      

At the beginning of the session, we (the disenfranchised and outnumbered right) fought back with whatever we had available, according to the rules. We called for the Ayes and Nays to add transparency for the voters, not to “weaponize the system” as some claim.    

We happen to think it’s important for you all to know how we vote, and we are proud of our votes. We voted against many committee bills, not because we had no respect for the traditions of the House, but because they were bad bills that we had no real voice in forming. When we did so, the other side simply resurrected those bills as budget amendments, thereby legislating from the budget. We sought to shine light on that whenever we could. We killed the Capital Construction bill so that each item within could be voted on for its merit in the spirit of Wyoming law. Most of it was reinstalled in the final budget.      

No, it’s not about personalities, it’s about principle.