Archives for category: Wyoming

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post points out that some Republicans don’t like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ intervention into everyone’s business to control them. Wyoming is a great example of a state that has refused to join DeFascist’s war against WOKE.

Blake wrote:

A potential flash point in the 2024 GOP presidential race: Conservatives are criticizing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other Republicans for going too farin using the heavy hand of government to combat so-called “woke” entities.

And in Wyoming, the tension between those two approaches has come to a head.

The nation’s least-populous state could be considered its most Republican. In both 2016 and 2020, it handed Donald Trump his largest margin of victory of any of the 50 states, going for Trump by more than 43 points. Republicans hold more than 90 percent of the seats in both of its state legislative chambers.

But recently, the state House has effectively shelved a number of bills resembling proposals that have sailed to passage elsewhere:

  • A school-choice bill that would create a scholarship fund for students to attend private instead of public schools.
  • A bill modeled on Florida’s education bill, dubbed “don’t say gay” by critics, that would ban the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
  • A bill that would ban state officials from contracting with businesses and investment funds that boycott fossil fuels or emphasize political or social-justice goals.
  • A bill called “Chloe’s Law” that would forbid doctors from providing hormone blockers and gender-affirming surgery to children.

All four have passed in the state Senate. But along the way, they lost GOP votes — a significant number of them, in the first three bills — and now the state House is holding them up.

A big reason? The state House speaker says he believes in “local control” and worries about the broader effects of state government dictating such issues.

Speaker Albert Sommers (R) has used a maneuver on the school-choice and education proposals known as keeping a bill in his “drawer.” In the former case, he noted that a similar measure already failed in the state House’s education committee. And on the latter, Florida-like bill, he argued for a limited role for state government.

“Fundamentally, I believe in local control,” Sommers told the Cowboy State Daily. “I’ve always fought, regardless of what really the issue is, against taking authority away from local school boards, town councils, county commissions. And in my view that’s what this bill does.”

He also argued that the bill was unconstitutional, because legislation in Wyoming must be focused on one topic. This bill would both restrict instruction on certain subjects and implement changes in how much control parents have over school boards. Sommers suggested such proposals “do not come from Wyoming but instead from another state, or they are templates from a national organization.” And he echoed some conservatives in arguing that it was a solution in search of a problem. “This type of teaching is not happening in Wyoming schools,” he said.ADVERTISEMENT

On “Chloe’s Law,” Sommers angered some conservatives by sending the bill to the appropriations committee rather than the labor and health committee. While the bill was being considered, some Republican legislators warned the bill would undercut counseling and mental health care for transgender youth and could create problems with the state’s federally regulated health insurance plans. The appropriations committee voted against the bill 5-2, tagging it with a “do not pass” designation.

Sommers also sent the fossil-fuels bill to the appropriations committee, and GOP lawmakers expressed worry that the bill would reduce investment in the state and force out large corporations and financial institutions.

These tensions come as some conservatives have warmed to the idea of using the government to crack down on so-called “woke” policies and practices in private businesses and in public education. That turn is perhaps best exemplified by DeSantis, who moved to prevent cruise lines from requiring covid vaccinations, prohibit social media companies from banning politicians and strip Disney of its special tax status after it criticized the so-called “don’t say gay” bill. He also has repeatedly involved the government in school curriculum decisions.

Such moves have earned significant criticism not just from some free-market and libertarian-oriented groups, but also from DeSantis’s potential rivals for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2024.

“The idea of going after [Disney’s] taxing authority — that was beyond the scope of what I as a conservative, a limited-government Republican, would be prepared to do,” former vice president Mike Pence said last week.

“For others out there that think that the government should be penalizing your business because they disagree with you politically, that isn’t very conservative,” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu added in February. He has said that “if we’re trying to beat the Democrats at being big-government authoritarians, remember what’s going to happen.”

Last year, former Maryland governor Larry Hogan called DeSantis’s moves on Disney “crazy” and said, “DeSantis is always talking about he was not demanding that businesses do things, but he was telling the cruise lines what they had to do.”

Former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, too, criticized DeSantis for his proposed changes to Disney’s special tax status (which have since been significantly watered down). In 2021, Hutchinson also took a relatively lonely stand in his state, against the legislature banning gender-affirming care for children.

“While in some instances the state must act to protect life, the state should not presume to jump into the middle of every medical, human and ethical issue,” he said at the time. “This would be — and is — a vast government overreach.”

Hutchinson’s veto was easily overridden by the state legislature. That, and DeSantis’s rise in the GOP, suggest which way the wind is blowing.

But as Wyoming shows — and the 2024 primary could demonstrate — that doesn’t mean the debate within the GOP about the scope of government is settled

Now that Republican state legislatures have had their way imposing their personal views on what may or may not be taught in the public schools, they are taking aim at what may be taught in state universities. In Wyoming, the legislature wants to defund gender studies.

Legislation to defund gender and women’s studies at the University of Wyoming has stoked faculty fears about how far lawmakers will go to stop public colleges from teaching courses they don’t like.

The Wyoming Senate voted on Friday to pass a budget amendment that would prevent the university from using state money for its gender and women’s studies program and courses, a move that would effectively eliminate them. While a version of the amendment died in the state’s House and its future is unclear, the mere possibility of its passage has left some Wyoming professors shaken by what they see as an infringement on their academic freedom.

This is censorship, plain and simple. Will they next come after science professors who teach about evolution? Or legal scholars who study critical race theory?