Asking a lotMar 8, 2017 By Steven R. Peck
Our legislators are working near the exhaustion point a lot of the time
Many Riverton residents remember Tara Nethercott. Years ago, she was a Ranger advertising intern and later a full sales representative for us while still a very young woman. Now she is an attorney in Cheyenne, a partner in a law firm there, and, as of this year, a Wyoming State Senator as well. (She earned high marks as one of the most effective "rookies" in the Senate.)
A few days ago, after the long and highly demanding session of the Wyoming Legislaturehad adjourned, she made an interesting comment that could stand as a lesson both to the Legislature and the state.
Specifically, she noted how disruptive the legislative session can be to a normal sleep schedule. She's an early to bed, early to rise kind of person, and serving in the legislature made the "early to bed" portion of the equation difficult.
In her interview with Wyoming Public Radio, she noted that she and many other lawmakers were working to the point of exhaustion much of the time. Speaking more frankly then many elected officials do, she said that such work conditions are not conducive to producing the best results.
Think of yourself when you are lacking sleep or physically exhausted. You probably tend to lose focus. Your judgment is impaired. You aren't able to absorb, process and retain information very well. You may be shorter-tempered, less conscientious, less sympathetic.
Most of simply function much better when we are sufficiently rested. Sen. Nethercott recognized the effect the grueling work schedule had on her. She said the danger of poor decision-making was higher among tired-out legislators.
She is a young, vigorous woman who lives in Cheyenne and got to sleep in her own bed every night. It is safe to assume that the effects of the exhausting pace of work are even greater among older lawmakers toiling far from home.
We do not have a full-time legislature, and that's the way most people in Wyoming say they like it. Lawmakers are compensated to some extent for their expenses, but nobody in Wyoming makes a living as a legislator. For many, legislative service is a money-losing proposition.
We ask a lot of our legislators. It is a privilege to serve, but it is worth remembering that they are volunteers being asked shoulder an enormous task. That is true in any legislative year, but the session that just has concluded appears to have been more arduous than most.
Some legislative bodies limit the number of bills that can be considered in a given time period. Some limit the number of hours a body can be in session on any calendar day. Wyoming isn't hearing any loud demands to lighten the work load for our lawmakers, but no one should be surprised if that does happen in the future.