Following a legislative meeting a few weeks ago where some citizens verbally attacked a legislator, the Wyoming legislature’s management council says it will better train committee chairmen to properly handle such attacks.
The controversy was over an attempt by Laramie Representative Cathy Connolly to take gender-specific language, such as the current description of marriage in Wyoming law, and make it more gender neutral. Members of the public, urged on by a national conservative organization vehemently opposed that effort. Connolly, who is married to another woman, said she felt personally attacked.
Some have blamed Chairman Cale Case for not having better control of the meeting, but Case said he was trying to let citizens have their say about the legislation. Members of the Management Council didn’t blame Case, saying that the public comments caught everyone on the committee off-guard. Green River Senator John Hastert said the response by the citizens in Sundance was disappointing, but not surprising
“There seems to be a growing lack of respect, and respect for the process, respect for the individuals, and people in general. And I’m seeing it more and more.”
Speaker of the House Steve Harshman disagrees there is a growing lack of respect, but he thinks legislative leadership can do a better job preparing chairmen for how to handle such situations in the future.
“So I think we take this and say was it a learning experience? Probably was…absolutely. Let’s learn from it and move forward and continue to get better. But I think by-and-large I don’t see this thing where people have gone off the edge and we’re going to destroy the process and start carrying torches in the streets.”
The Management Council plans to both train chairmen and provide them with a handbook on how to run a meeting. Connolly said it’s a good step.