A bill to eliminate the governor-appointed director of the Wyoming Department of Education and return supervision to embattled state schools chief Cindy Hill has been filed with the state Legislative Service Office.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Gerald Gay, R-Casper, said House Bill 110 would reverse Senate File 104, the bill signed into law by Gov. Matt Mead that stripped Hill of much of her power last year. Hill, a Republican, was elected state superintendent of public instruction in 2010.
Gay's bill is 64 pages long because it addresses the specifications of the 66-page SF104, Gay said.
“It goes through, word by word, and replaces everything,” Gay said.
Lawmakers have had a year to think about their vote on SF104, Gay said. His bill would be the chance to undo it, he said.
“Constituents are driving this,” he said. “Frankly, they are mad as hell that the Legislature unelected somebody they elected.”
In a 3-2 decision this month, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled SF104 unconstitutional, saying the Legislature went too far in stripping Hill of her constitutional duties.
“SF104 is not going to last -- no matter what,” Gay said.
Other efforts are underway to address the law, including a possible special session. Gay said the simplest way to address the problem of SF104 is to reverse it.
“To me, it’s like beating a dead horse,” he said.
State Attorney General Peter Michael has said he intends to petition the court for a rehearing in the case. The state's deadline to file for a rehearing is Wednesday, according to Supreme Court rules.
Legislative leaders have discouraged their colleagues from focusing on Hill during the 20-day budget session, which convened in Cheyenne on Monday. They suggested focusing instead on the state's budget priorities.
Rep. Garry Piiparinen, R-Evanston, a cosponsor of the bill, said it is the Legislature's chance to resolve the Hill issue instead of putting it off any longer. A special session would draw the controversy dangerously close to the end of Hill's term in December, he said.
"The Supreme Court has said what we've done was wrong," Piiparinen said. "And I think we need to right the wrong. It's a way of cleaning up the mess that was made."
Piiparinen said he was optimistic about the bill's chances of gaining the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass, even though his colleagues have discouraged such bills during this short budget session.
"I may be in the minority, but that's OK," he said.
Rep. Kathy Davison, R-Kemmerer, another of the bill's cosponsors, said in an email to the Star-Tribune the bill would help guide the Legislature to transition leadership at the Department of Education back to Hill after the session. Rich Crandall, a former Arizona state senator, has held the director position since August.
Rep. Marti Halverson, R-Etna, also cosponsored the bill. The bill will be assigned to a committee in the House, where it was filed.