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Pinedale Online > News > February 2022 > Wyoming Legislature update - First Day of Session
Wyoming Legislature update - Feb. 14 & 15, 2022
by Albert Sommers, House District #20 Representative
February 15, 2022

February 14, 2022
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on February 14, the first day of the 2022 Budget Session. The 66th Legislative Session opened with Governor Gordon’s State of the State address and Chief Justice Fox’s State of the Judiciary address.

In his address, Governor Gordon reflected on the many challenges Wyoming has faced over the last year. He noted Wyoming can be resilient through it all. Gordon sees potential for Wyoming’s future highlighting the importance of innovation instead of regulation as a crucial way to continue providing energy and solving climate concerns. Governor Gordon emphasized new opportunities as they relate to coal, mining, and wind as essential to our state’s future as an energy exporter.

Governor Gordon stressed that education must continue to be one of Wyoming’s top priorities. He explained that well-educated students, plus a surplus of new opportunities, will benefit our economy and help keep our young people in Wyoming. The Wyoming Innovation Partnership will be a key tool in achieving that goal. Governor Gordon then recognized two teachers who have made a significant difference in this effort: Brittany Montgomery of Casper and Alexis Barney of Evansville, who were honored as Teachers of the Year.

Chief Justice Kate M. Fox followed the Governor with a judicial update. Justice Fox discussed the importance of the judiciary system and the role the judiciary plays in upholding our constitutional rights. She detailed challenges such as hiring and retaining quality employees on a limited budget. Fox asked for a budget increase and explained that this money will serve Wyoming by ensuring a more efficient and well-run judiciary.

In the afternoon, the House began its bill introduction process. Speaker Barlow assigned HB100 – Legislative redistricting, to the House Education Committee, on which I serve.

A consent list of multiple committee bills was presented to the body for introduction vote. Any member of the House can pull a bill off the consent list. A bill removed from the consent list must be separately debated and voted on for introduction. If a bill is approved for introduction, the Speaker assigns it to a standing committee. The committee chairman then decides when or if the committee will hear public testimony, debate the bill, and vote on it.

The House will continue to vote on bills for introduction through Friday.

I can be reached at with questions or concerns. The Legislative website can be accessed at This website will show you all the bills before the Legislature.

February 15, 2022
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you on February 15, the second day of the 2022 Budget Session.

On January 22, the Secretary of State’s Office received a complaint from the Wyoming Central Committee of the Republican Party regarding the residency of a member of the Wyoming House of Representatives. It alleges that Representative Dan Zwonitzer, District 43, does not reside in the district he was elected to represent, as the Wyoming Constitution requires. The Secretary of State sent this complaint to the Speaker of the Wyoming House, because the Secretary of State has no authority over the qualifications of a legislator to hold office. The Wyoming Constitution, Article 3, Section 10 provides that each chamber of the Wyoming legislature shall be the sole judge of the qualification of its members to serve in that chamber.

On Tuesday afternoon, Speaker Barlow scheduled time to debate motions on whether Representative Zwonitzer is qualified to remain a member of the Wyoming House of Representatives. The Central Committee complaint states, "The Wyoming Constitution Article 3 Section 2 requires that a legislator must reside in the District he or she represents." This representation of the Wyoming Constitution is inaccurate.

Article 3 Section 2 of the Wyoming Constitution states, "No person shall be a senator who has not attained the age of twenty-five years, or a representative who has not attained the age of twenty-one years, and who is not a citizen of the United States and of this state and who has not, for at least twelve months next preceding his election resided within the county or district in which he was elected." There is no Constitutional provision that requires a legislator to reside in his district after the legislator is elected. These qualifications are paramount, because the Wyoming Constitution does not give the legislature the authority to create additional qualifications.

However, that is exactly what the Legislature did in 2003 when it enacted additional qualifications with the passage of Wyoming Statute 22-18-101. In fact, W.S. 22-18-101(f) states, "In addition to subsections (a) through (c) of this section, a vacancy shall occur in the office of a member of the state legislature when the person fails to reside in the legislative district from which he is elected."

Clear as mud, right? When in doubt, a legislative body must follow its state constitution first, its rules second, its customs/precedent third, and then statutory provisions. The only precedent which binds the House are the requirements of the US and Wyoming constitutions. The Wyoming Constitution clearly does not require a member of the House to continue to reside in his district after the election. The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that a statute cannot add qualifications for a constitutional office. In a term limits case, the Court stated, "[t]he question is simply whether it was the framers' intent to allow the legislature to add qualifications to those established in the constitution. In reading the pertinent provisions in pari materia, and in light of the general spirit of the instrument, we have concluded there was no such intent."

The Wyoming Supreme Court has adopted the view that statutory and constitutional provisions which tend to limit the candidacy of any person from public office must be construed in favor of the right of the voters to exercise their choice and should be construed strictly and not extended to cases not clearly covered.

A motion was brought today to create a special committee to investigate the allegations against Representative Zwonitzer. Representative Zwonitzer stated that he leases a residence within his district, but owns a house outside his district. Zwonitzer stated he splits time between his two dwellings, and believes that he is satisfying the conditions of his office.

I voted against the motion to form an investigative committee. In my opinion, the Wyoming Constitution is clear that Representative Zwonitzer’s qualifications for office are being upheld, and that his current ownership of a home outside his district does not disqualify him from continuing as a House member for District 43. I do not believe in taking away the vote of the people, and if Mr. Zwonitzer runs for office again, then those voters will judge him.

I can be reached at with questions or comments.

Pinedale Online > News > February 2022 > Wyoming Legislature update - First Day of Session

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