Our View: Crying fowl

By Jeff Moberg

In a legislative session with some truly weighty issues related to funding schools, state agencies and the like, the “Chicken Freedom Act” kind of stands out.

H.B. 134, sponsored by nine legislators including our own Representative Lindholm and Senator Driskill, aimed to “prohibit a political subdivision from imposing specified restrictions relating to live chickens” – essentially making it a fundamental right for anyone in Wyoming to be allowed to raise up to six chickens – whether their neighbors like it or not.

The bill failed introduction in the House because it didn’t meet the two-thirds majority required during a budget session, but, considering that 32 legislators voted for it and a “poultry” 27 against, one suspects we’ll be hearing more about this in the future – and that’s not a good thing.

As you’ll recall, the chicken issue came up not long ago in Sundance, and our council made the decision to leave their current ordinances in place, which prohibit raising poultry in town. Agree or disagree, it was a decision our council members and mayor are all accountable for.

And, I am quite sure they wouldn’t expect to have it any other way. Their discussion was fair, inclusive, transparent and reasonable. It’s how we expect government to work.

If the “Chicken Freedom Act” were to have passed, however, the city would never have had the ability to make that decision and that should ruffle your feathers. It would thwart a fundamental governing tenet and is far more disturbing than a simple question over where chickens should roam.

H.B. 134 may give our legislators’ fowl-loving friends a reason to rejoice but this misguided bill is a case of the Legislature sticking their beaks where they don’t belong. We have a duly elected mayor and council who are perfectly capable of making decisions that directly affect their community without micromanagement from a government entity that is further removed, less transparent and not nearly as answerable to their constituency.

Heaven knows how many times we have seen and heard the grandstanding from our politicians about the horrors of government overreach. We even see a bill floated in Cheyenne each session aimed at transferring control of federal lands to our state – in spite of the Legislature’s own study that says it would be foolish – because “local control” is, the preaching goes, the best way to govern.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s Cheyenne or Washington, D.C. hen pecking our local governments – it’s a hypocritical, bird-brained philosophy.

Surely we can do better.