CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Pending legislation would reiterate that it’s a crime for a Wyoming lawmaker to offer to support a colleague’s bill in return for a promise of support for other legislation.
Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He’s proposing a bill for consideration at next week’s meeting of the Joint Judiciary Committee in Newcastle that would change state statutes to specify that a lawmaker who offers to support legislation in exchange for a colleague’s support of another measure would be guilty of solicitation of bribery.
The Wyoming Constitution, enacted in 1890, already specifies that such vote-trading, called logrolling, amounts to bribery. It states that anyone who engages in it could be banned from the Legislature and face action in civil court.
Gingery, a lawyer, says he doesn’t believe logrolling has been a problem in the Legislature, but said he believes lawmakers should update the state’s criminal code to address the issue.
“They must have thought it was very important back in 1890, but it’s actually not in the statute,” Gingery said. “So what happens if somebody’s actually doing it, what do you do? Do you just impeach them, or charge them with a crime?
“So I said, ‘Why don’t we just take the provision that’s in the constitution and make it a statutory crime, too,’ so it’s both,” Gingery said.
Dan Neal, director of the Equality State Policy Center, said he believes any legislative body has to address logrolling issue.
“You want people making votes based on an issue’s merits, not based on the idea that you’re doing someone a favor,” Neal said. “It seems to us that it’s just one step away from selling your vote.”
Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, who was first elected to the House in 1979, is the longest-serving member of the Legislature. He said he hasn’t seen lawmakers engage in overt logrolling in his tenure. He said senior lawmakers impressed upon him and others, when they first came into office, that it wasn’t acceptable.
“The constitution very plainly describes that as bribery,” Scott said. “You’ve got a little flowery language in there because they wrote it in 1890. I’m a little mystified why somebody thinks there needs to be a bill. The constitution, I think, is very plain.”
Scott said he regards the ban on logrolling as one of the main reasons he believes the Legislature functions more efficiently than the U.S. Congress.
“It’s had quite an effect on us over the years, I think,” Scott said. “The U.S. Congress does a lot of pork barrel spending things, and passes a lot of things on a you-scratch-my-back, I’ll-scratch-yours kind of basis. We simply don’t do that.
“It means that each item has to stand on its own merits, it makes it much more difficult to do pork barrel spending,” Scott said of the ban on logrolling. “Doesn’t make it impossible. People still do it. It makes it much more difficult because you can’t do an explicit trade, you just can’t.”