- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Dick Loseke sat in a leather office chair perched above the Senate floor, watching a contentious debate concerning firefighters’ unions.

At 82 years old, Loseke was the oldest person in the chamber. He observed the lawmakers below from a spot beside Senate President Phil Nicholas, the same spot he’s claimed for the last 14 sessions.

After more than an hour, the discussion finally finished. Time to go to work.

Loseke is one half of the Legislature’s reading clerk team. They read out summaries of all the bills, along with any amendments. Together, they possess the most recognized voices in the Wyoming State Capitol.

The old man reads in a weathered baritone, statesmanlike, the sort of voice you’d expect to hear on an old recording of a president.

His words are too loud to speak over. Lawmakers stop and pay attention to Loseke, who is like a sheepdog marshaling them in the right direction.

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On the opposite side of the building, Rich Moore, 67, soaked in the laughter of representatives.

It’s not an uncommon situation for the former broadcaster. Moore is getting comfortable in the House after three years as reading clerk.

“I just have a weird sense of humor and I know the speaker from way back,” Moore said. “I like to give him a hard time. I got a standing ovation one time.”

The two men have been watching and reading for a combined 17 years.

The job is part of the legislative routine but important nonetheless. Both men read the technical drafts of legislation and floor amendments to ensure lawmakers understand what they are voting on.

“The senators and staff expect you to do your job,” Loseke said. “If it’s sitting up there for two hours on one Senate file, that’s what you do. It’s a part of your job - sit there and try to stay awake.”

Loseke started his work after four years in the Navy and a career selling insurance.

He said the job was one of his toughest to obtain. It started with an audition on the Senate floor.

“They started handing me bills, I started reading them and I suppose they liked what they heard,” Loseke said. “I had a lot stronger voice back then, but I’m still here.”

Moore avoided the audition process, a fact his fellow reading clerk won’t let him forget.

At first glance, reading for pay seems like an easy job. Hardly.

“When you say ‘OK, get up there,’ they back off real fast,” Moore said.

He works with the House speaker, reading to up to 60 lawmakers at one time. The faster pace of that body requires constant attention.

“There is a lot of teamwork involved. Between the chief clerk and the speaker, everybody knows what they have to do,” he said. “We do a darn good job of it. It impresses me to know that I’m a part of the process.”

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Loseke sat in the wood-paneled lobby of the Wyoming Senate, recalling his time at the University of Nebraska.

He remembered a game in the mid-‘50s and quickly reminded Moore that his Huskers beat Wilt Chamberlain and the Kansas Jayhawks at a time they were considered unbeatable.

Sports are a common topic when the two clerks hold court in the lobby. As the two spar over sporting events from years past, Sen. Charles Scott drops by to offer some insight.

Loseke said he values the friendships he’s made on the Senate floor.

“We can’t talk about what’s going on, but just as an example, Sen. Scott, here is a big-time rancher, and we talk ranching,” he said.

Loseke can talk sports and ranching all he wants with the lawmakers. But when it comes to legislative business, he keeps his personal beliefs to himself.

“Sometimes you might want to tell the senators they don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said. “But you just have to sit there and pay attention.”

They have a center seat for the state’s legislative battles. But they remain careful to avoid wading into the scrum.

“I follow the discussion - what’s going on and who’s saying what,” Loseke said. “And remember whether for or against the bill, there’s no nodding your head.”

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Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, https://www.trib.com


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