CHEYENNE — Legislative leaders on Monday unanimously voted for a study of how to undo the state superintendent of public instruction law passed last year that the Wyoming Supreme Court recently declared unconstitutional.
The legislation could result in a special legislative session later this year to deal with the Supreme Court decision and the duties of the superintendent.
The Management Council, comprised primarily of legislative leaders, will sponsor the bill for introduction in the session that opened Monday.
The state high court’s 3-2 ruling said Senate File 104 was unconstitutional because it left Superintendent Cindy Hill with too few powers.
The Legislature passed the bill and Gov. Matt Mead signed it into law because of dissatisfaction about Hill’s administration of the state Department of Education and her alleged failure to follow legislative education mandates.
The bill transferred her authority over the education department to a governor-appointed director.
It left Hill with mostly ministerial duties such as naming the teacher of the year and creating anti-bullying school programs.
The court’s opinion didn’t identify which powers and duties were improperly removed from the superintendent or which duties could be reassigned, the bill reads.
Hill, a Republican like the governor and the legislative leaders, filed the lawsuit and has said she will run for governor this year on the GOP ticket.
The council bill authorizes the Management Council, along with the co-chairman of the Joint Appropriations Interim Committee and the Joint Education Committee and other legislators as needed, to conduct the study and make recommendations for a special legislative session if one is warranted.
State Attorney General Peter Michael has said he will petition the state Supreme Court for a rehearing. Granting a rehearing is unusual, but if permitted by the court, it would put the decision on hold.
If the rehearing is denied, the case goes back to district court for a final order.
The deadline in the bill is for a committee recommendation on changes in the law and a special session would be held 90 days after the district court order has become final.
Council members, including Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, said the council is acting in the dark at this point because of all the unknowns.
But Burns was won over by House Speaker Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette.
Lubnau said the council has an obligation to unravel the original Senate File 104 and needs a vehicle — a bill — to do it.
The bill, he said, can be amended to fit whatever is the future situation.
House Minority Leader Mary Throne, D-Cheyenne, said the special session will be necessary in any event because of the budget issues. The 2013 law established a budget for the superintendent separate from the budget for the education department.
The council’s bill will require a two-thirds majority vote to be considered this year.
The bill appropriates $20,000 for the study.