Weston wields legislative power

By: 
Alexis Barker, NLJ News Editor

Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, during a Republican Party Meet and Greet prior to the 2022 primary election. 

Legislators who represent Weston County occupy leadership spots in both the Wyoming House of Representatives and Wyoming Senate after Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, was elected Senate president and Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, was elected majority floor leader for the 67th Wyoming Legislature by the Republican caucus on Nov. 19. 

Both will assume their new positions on Jan. 10, the start of the legislative session. 

While Neiman’s role was made official by the caucus vote, Driskill will be referred to as president-elect until the entire Wyoming Senate holds a formal vote before he can be sworn in.

“To be honest and quite frank, it was a God thing.  … I really do believe in the Lord and his choice. That he raises people up and picks them out, and I trust him to lead me through this,” Neiman said, noting that he offered his time and service as the majority floor leader after being approached by others. 

First elected to the House  in 2021, Neiman topped veteran Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, by one vote to secure the position of majority leader, something that is rarely seen. According to Neiman, it was a very humbling experience to beat the more senior representative in the 29-28 vote cast by the 57 Wyoming Republican Representatives.  

“It was a very humbling vote by my colleagues, that they would see it fit to trust me to be able to do that,” Neiman said. 

Much like when he ran for office, Neiman said he was very clear that he was a conservative who believes in those (conservative) values and that he is committed to those values, but he will try to create a better relationship between those who hold different viewpoints in the House. 

Neiman said that he was “keen to know that 28 of my colleagues did not support me,” and said he was motivated to work for everyone. 

He said that he will not do anything to undermine the Republican Party but that he will hear the concerns of all of the representatives and be a responsible leader with integrity, someone people can count on. 

“It is a community effort, it is not a one person show. Everything that happens takes everyone to be involved and I told them all that,” Neiman said. “I am not going to shoulder the whole role. I need the knowledge and wisdom of others.” 

Neiman said he will be able to have a lot more say on what bills are seen by the House and therefore what bills get passed. 

“To help northeast Wyoming, I have a lot more say on what legislation gets passed and what people will get laid on them and what we can keep laying on them,” Neiman said. “As the majority floor leader, I can manipulate what bills are heard and what ones are put in the drawer.” 

This ability to somewhat control what legislation is heard by the House gives him the opportunity to stop tax increases for the people and more government overreach, he said. 

“I can look at each piece and say what will this do for Crook and Weston County? Do they want this?” Neiman said. “I have to hear the entire state, but my first responsibility is to make sure I don’t do anything to harm and take freedoms and rights away from the people of this district (House District 1).” 

Driskill has served in the Senate since 2011, representing House District 1, which includes Crook County and parts of Weston and Campbell County. 

He is the first senator from Crook County to serve in this role since 1965 when Leslie Hauber served as Senate president (1963-65). Before Hauber, Al Harding of Moorcroft served as Senate president (1951-61), according to a press release from Driskill, who did not respond to requests for additional comment. 

In Weston County, the last Senate president was Jerry Dixon of  Newcastle (1993-94), while Campbell County’s John Hines served as president of the Senate from 2009 to 2011.

Before being elected president by the caucus, Driskill served as the majority floor leader from 2021 to 2022 and was vice president from 2019-20. 

“He (Driskill) will continue to be a budget hawk and continue to work to create jobs and business in Wyoming without government spending,” Driskill’s press release claimed. “He is working to tackle school choice, education budget stability and civility in the Capitol. He is looking for solutions to our meteoric property tax increases.” 

The release also notes that Driskill will continue to cut regulations and red tape to diversify the state’s economy, as well as continue to support and strengthen the state’s oil, coal, gas, trona and mining, along with agriculture and tourism.

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