- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 24, 2010

CHEYENNE, Wyo. | Some members of the Wyoming Legislature want to instill “cowboy ethics” in state law, lest lawmakers and citizens forget the state’s western roots.

The code would stress the importance of living with courage, keeping promises, finishing what you start and saying more by talking less.

Based on the “Code of the West” outlined in a 2004 book by James Owen, a Wall Street investor from Texas, Senate File 51 galloped through the Wyoming Senate last week and on Monday lassoed unanimous approval from the House Minerals Committee.

The bill is a symbolic gesture that carries no criminal penalties and is not meant to replace any civil codes.

The full House of Representatives is expected to take up the bill soon.

Sponsor Sen. Jim Anderson, Glenrock Republican, said Mr. Owen’s book captured his interest, and he was inspired to introduce the bill after seeing the December premier of a related video project, “The Code of the West: Alive and Well in Wyoming.”

“There’s a work ethic in all things that we do, particularly in government,” Mr. Anderson said.

A number of states have enacted ethics codes, but Wyoming’s proposal has a unique flare, said Peggy Kerns, director of the Ethics Center at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“It’s OK to put in statute these kinds of aspirational statements, and then of course, the proof comes in how it’s played out,” she said.

Brent Hathaway, dean of the University of Wyoming College of Business, keeps a copy of the cowboy code hanging above his desk.

“It’s a nice way to remind the young people or the business people that come into my office to say this is how we believe we should act toward one another and what we should be,” Mr. Hathaway said.

The code is also the centerpiece of an ethics class at Wyoming Business Leadership Institute, a continuing education program for executives.

The college put $20,000 from a fund of private donations toward producing Mr. Owen’s film, “The Code of the West: Alive and Well in Wyoming,” and the Wyoming Business Council contributed $10,000.

Robert Jensen, the Business Council’s chief executive officer, said the council will use the film as part of the curriculum for the Business Leadership Institute and as a marketing tool for businesses interested in Wyoming.

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