The 62nd Wyoming Legislature is finished, but the contention over Senate File 104 has yet to subside.
The Wyoming Constitution Party is spearheading an initiative to repeal the bill that stripped state Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill of the majority of her power.
After canvassing the state last week, party Chairwoman Jennifer Young received enough signatures to begin petitioning for a referendum to repeal the controversial legislation. The referendum would go on the next general election ballot in 2014.
The requirement for getting a referendum on a ballot is no easy task. Young only needed 100 signatures for the prerequisite application. But the next step calls for Young to collect the names of 37,606 registered voters who cast ballots in the previous election. At least two-thirds of the state’s counties must be represented on the petition. Young’s deadline for submission to the state election division is May 28.
“It’s a steep requirement,” said Peggy Nighswonger, director of the state elections board.
The task leaves Young with a full plate. With 80 days remaining to collect the signatures, there’s no doubt in her mind that she will complete the job.
She’s mobilized volunteers in every county and plans to have petitions on the ground in the next few weeks.
Young said she isn’t a politician, lawyer or constitutional scholar.
“I am a concerned citizen,” she said. “These legislators have worked diligently to keep the issue of constitutionality convoluted.”
Young wants to separate herself from the finger-pointing and grandstanding that’s become inextricably combined with the legislation. Hill alienated and frustrated state lawmakers who took issue with how she ran the department’s $1.9 billion two-year budget and 150 employees. Hill said lawmakers had a vendetta against her.
“The bill is a gross exercise of power,” Young said. “It’s a constitutional violation. That’s the impetus for doing this.”
There hasn’t been a successful referendum put on the ballot since 1996. The group that petitioned the state had paid volunteers to canvass. Young and the Constitution Party are doing things grassroots, leaving money out of it.
Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Lingle, was a co-sponsor of the bill that left the elected state superintendent position with some administrative duties but created a governor-appointed director of the state Department of Education. He’s confident that Wyomingites will “see the truth” and eschew the push for the referendum.
“But how it comes down is how it comes down,” he said.
Young and supporters of Hill say the ousting of a constitutionally created, elected position violates the intent of the people and nullifies their vote.
Gov. Matt Mead signed the bill into law on Jan. 29. Before his signature, state Attorney General Greg Phillips issued an opinion claiming the bill was constitutional.