Wyoming Republicans Trade Barbs As School Choice Bill Stalls


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GOP lawmakers in Wyoming have expressed frustration in the last days of February as a number of socially conservative bills remain unsigned by Republican Speaker of the House State Rep. Albert Sommers.

The Wyoming Senate passed the Wyoming Freedom Scholarship Act (SF 143) on Feb. 2, a bill that would “create education savings accounts of $6,000 each for those students and parents who opt into the program for use at a charter school, career or technical school, or institute of higher education,” the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported. The bill has stalled since then, despite Republican State Rep. Ocean Andrew’s calls for the legislation to be brought to the floor for discussion Feb. 24, Cowboy State Daily reported.

Similarly, the Wyoming Senate passed the Parental Rights In Education Act (SF 117) on Jan. 27. That bill was aimed at prohibiting public schools from teaching students younger than third grade about sexual orientation and gender identity. Sommers refused to send the bill to a committee and it also subsequently died.

“This is about protecting our children. In Congress, I’m fighting for these very issues. I hope the Wyoming legislature will do the same,” Wyoming Rep. Harriet Hageman tweeted about the blocked bills Feb. 25.

State Rep. Landon Brown responded to Hageman on Feb. 27, saying he thought the Congresswoman was overstepping. “Maybe [Harriet Hageman] should stay in her lane. If she wants to have a say in our legislative body maybe she should run for that office. Otherwise, bugoff!” Brown wrote.

“Fundamentally, I believe in local control,” Sommers told the Cowboy State Daily, speaking about the Parental Rights In Education Act. “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.”

Of the school choice bill, Sommers explained to the outlet he held onto that legislation because a similar one had already failed in the Education Committee. He told the outlet it “[made] no sense” to him to bring forth an identical one. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Conservative Student Group Mobilizes Thousands Of Activists To Push For School Choice)

In addition to the bills regarding education, Sommers sent a bill that would prohibit doctors from performing transgender surgeries on children before the House Appropriations Committee, a body some feel is apathetic to socially conservative issues, the Cowboy State Daily reported. When the committee recommended the bill not be considered, the legislation was subsequently shuffled to the bottom of the Majority Floor Leader’s pile, according to the outlet.

Despite calls to be censured by the Wyoming Republican Party for his decision, Sommers told the outlet he wanted the bill to be handled by a “seasoned committee” that is not hesitant to “ask the tough questions.”

“There’s all this pressure out from the outside to do things and I don’t want to put freshman legislators on a committee in the middle where they’re going to feel intimidated. Put the old hands up there that are just going to hear the bill, do the work, and do what they think is right,” Sommers said.