Better Wyoming conducted a series of interviews on important state issues throughout 2016. Below is an interview with Lee Filer.
What do you think about the attempt by some Republican legislators who want the federal government to turn over all of its public lands to the state to manage or own?
I’m totally against the transfer of public lands. The state can’t afford to manage them, and since 1890 we’ve had these federal public lands for public use and we need to keep it that way. When I was in the Legislature [in 2012-13] it was pretty much a non-issue; it’s only been the last couple of years that this kind of stuff has come up — the big push to take over those lands. It’s a total joke. Everyone knows we can’t afford that. Also the fact that everybody hunts on those lands, [we can’t] give them to the state to sell to the highest bidder.
As a matter of fact my opponent [Lars Lone] flat-out said at a Natrona County commissioners’ meeting before he got appointed to the Legislature, they asked him about public lands, and Troy Thompson, a county commissioner, said “I’m a hunter and I hunt on those lands,” and Lars Lone said he doesn’t allow ranchers [to hunt] on his land. Lars Lone hasn’t hunted in his life. He doesn’t understand what it means to most of the people of Wyoming. He grew up in Colorado, came to Wyoming and went into the Navy. He never hunted or fished a day in his life. He doesn’t know what that actually means to the people. To him [the transfer] looks good — we’re going to get all of this land that we can sell and make money off of and we can develop, we can do all this — but he doesn’t look at the consequences.
Some Republican legislators either don’t believe the gender wage gap is real or that if it is, state government shouldn’t do anything about it. What do you think needs to be done?
We need to do something to fix that. I think the best way is for the state itself to start showing by example that for state employees each position is paid the same whether it’s a woman or a man. If we’re going to push out those laws we’d better abide by them too.
I’m a big union guy, and I have women working right next to me making the same money because they’re doing the same job and they have every right to get the same amount of money [as a man does]. When I was in the Air Force it was the same way. It didn’t matter what your sex was, you get that rank and guess what, you get paid that wage whether you’re a man or a woman — here’s no discriminating.
Rep. Mary Throne sponsored a wage transparency bill. I think it’s a good bill as long as it has protections for everybody. If people want to tell you how much they make, they should be allowed to do that. But they shouldn’t be forced to disclose that information if they don’t want to.
Are there other laws that need to be on the books to protect victims of domestic violence?
I think we need to look further than just domestic violence. One of the main causes of domestic violence is alcohol. You talk to the people and they’ll tell you that most of the domestic violence calls they get have to do with alcohol. If you’re going to drink there’s got to be some kind of consequence to make people think and react the right way. Whether that’s harsher penalties for domestic violence then I’m for it. Because we have to do something. I think the Police Officers Association and a whole bunch of people ought to get on board with something like that because this is very important in Wyoming, especially in rural areas — they have a lot of domestic violence too.
It’s one of the most important issues in Wyoming, and our legislators want to turn their cheek to it. You’ve got lobbyists with the alcohol groups pushing to not raise taxes on alcohol, that penalties for using alcohol are so low it’s pretty sad that you can get a DUI and can get a harsher punishment than if you beat the crap out of your wife. It doesn’t make sense at all, and I just wish the legislators would wake up, but they won’t, you know. They’ll just keep on operating as usual.
Many Republicans oppose spending state funds on early childhood education. What needs to be done so programs are fully funded?
We need to fund early childhood education. The benefits are proven, you look at Colorado and they have a heck of a early childhood education program. These kids are light years ahead of where they need to be [when they] go to kindergarten. Also what about literacy, and what about kids with developmental disabilities? My daughter is autistic, and now they’ve got programs like STRIDE to actually help her. That way she can get up to speed with everybody else that goes to school.
I think it’s terrible that Wyoming takes it out on its youth; we created this mess, so let’s not take it out on them.
The Legislature hasn’t passed my bills restricting reproductive rights in recent years, but there are GOP lawmakers who have tried to introduce bills mandating ultrasounds and penalties for not reporting abortions. Are you pro-choice?
As long as [Rep.] Matt Winters is in the Legislature those bills will still always come. I’m pro-choice 100 percent. I think it’s kind of funny how the Legislature wants to become moral with the Bible and believe the Bible, but when a man gets a vasectomy that’s OK though. It’s up to a woman to do what they do. If they want to be on birth control they can. I would want to not have any unwanted births so I definitely support education, birth control, planning for the family, those types of things. All three of my kids are four years apart for a reason. My wife and I planned that for future things like college, so we won’t be paying two tuition fees at the same time. We planned our family together but ultimately it was her decision. We decided to use protection.
Why this keeps coming up is beyond me. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled a long time ago. To me it’s not even a real issue in Wyoming because we have only one abortion clinic in Wyoming. There’s very few abortions in the state. What are the real issues in Wyoming? It’s the economy, it’s where are we going to get new revenues, are we going to keep tourism going, are we going to keep our public lands, restructure our tax rates for businesses — these things are real issues in Wyoming.
I don’t think Roe v. Wade is an issue in Wyoming. I wish the Republican Party would quit using Roe v. Wade as a campaign token. It’s none of the government’s business what anyone does in their sex life. They talk about government not being intrusive in our lives, so here they are trying to be the most intrusive. It’s just sickening. I can’t vote for anything that gets into your private house or your bedroom and mandates what you can do.