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Opinion column: Open up and say AH!

Posted: Wednesday, Jan 30th, 2013

Have you noticed that this year’s legislative session has been a lot like going to the dentist; you dread it, but it’s a necessary evil. Suddenly you find yourself strapped in the dentist chair, with someone’s hands stuck as far in your mouth as they will go (or, in the case of the legislature, substitute pocket for mouth).

Then the anesthesia starts to kick in, and you begin to relax and not really notice as the dentist starts filing on an incisor or drilling on a molar.

Pretty soon, thankfully, it’s over. But when you go to pay the bill, you find out it cost more than you expected and you have to come back again because there is still more work to be done, and as soon as the anesthesia wears off it feels as though someone stuck an ice pick through your jaw.

The House proposed 245 new bills this session. I did not realize that the state of Wyoming was in such dire need of fixing.

Cindy Hill is out of the job for which we elected her; the responsibility of running the state’s department of education now falling on the bureaucratic shoulders of an appointed director. After reading SF 104, the bill that effectively neuters the position of the state superintendent of public instruction, I have decided to throw my hat in the ring for the job in the next election.

After all, under the new bill, the superintendent will have all the power of a grand marshal in a Veteran’s Day parade, make six figures a year and will only have to supervise a couple of people, just enough for a daily pinochle or bridge game. Not to mention the benefits.

The great irony of the “Hill Bill” is that the Wyoming taxpayer will get to foot the cost for both sides of the argument when the constitutionality of SF 104 gets to the Supreme Court. Yeah!

The 10-cent in-crease in the fuel tax is pretty much a done deal. Like you, I have heard the political rationalization that an increase in the fuel tax will not necessarily result in an increase in the price of fuel at the pump. It is good to see that Washington D.C.’s accounting practices and mathematical skills have finally trickled down to Wyoming’s elected officials.

I am relatively sure that compassionate and altruistic petroleum distributors, refiner operators and gas station owners will eat the new tax themselves, forgoing a price increase at the pump. One legislator sympathetically pointed out most of the burden of the $71 million raised by the tax will be borne by drivers from out of state. I am relieved to know that the estimated $114 per year increase in my fuel taxes will be insignificant compared to the amount raised by out-of-state motorists.

It looks as though the bill to allow a lottery in the state will not get out of committee to face a vote. Good for them, but I think they went about the lottery issue all wrong. They should’ve introduced a bill outlawing Wyoming citizens from skipping across the border to play the lottery in Colorado, Nebraska or Montana. It would be Wyoming’s equivalent of a reverse immigration bill. We all know that folks who play the lottery can’t afford to play the lottery.

So what if lottery revenue could help fund road repairs, alleviate Game and Fish shortfalls and add a few more employees for the superintendent of public instruction so they can have a first-class bridge tournament?

Once a lottery starts up in Wyoming, mortgages will go into foreclosure, riff-raff will begin hanging out at the Cum and Go all hours of the day and night and people won’t be able to buy gas for their cars and contribute their fair share of increased fuel taxes.

Maybe if we all promise to spend $114, and only $114, per year buying lottery tickets, the legislature will forget about a fuel tax increase!

There weren’t enough votes to pass the domestic marriage bill, but the civil union bill is working its way through the House. Thank goodness “those people” can’t refer to themselves as married, they will have to refer to themselves as what ... civilized ... unionized? I tip my hat to the legislative members; you have successfully ducked the issue for another year.

It is apparent that this year’s legislative shenanigans have stirred the ire of a lot of folks in the state, a state that has a history of 75 percent or better voter turnout for elections. On several occasions over the last few weeks, voters in letters to the editor, social media and town hall meetings have sworn to use the power of their vote to express their irritation with the actions of this year’s legislature. In a state known for its penchant for perpetual permanency of elected officials, it will be interesting to see just how long-term the memory of an angry electorate will be. I can hardly wait for the campaigns of 2014.

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