“Hill Bill” passed Legislature today; Reduces power of St. Supt., creates Education Administrator at WDE; Gov. Mead to review

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UPDATE at 4:23 p.m. from Governor Matt Mead’s office… Senate File 104 Will Receive Thorough Review

CHEYENNE, Wyo. –  All bills, including Senate File 104, sent to the Governor’s Office go through a legal review process before the Governor takes action. From the time a bill is received the Governor has three days to sign the bill, allow the bill to become law without his signature, or veto the bill.

“I am committed to a thorough and thoughtful deliberation before acting on this bill,” Governor Mead said. Governor Mead has until the end of the day on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 to take action.

Many requirements in this bill would be effective upon signature. For example, the legislation would require Governor Mead to appoint an interim director for the Department of Education upon enactment. The process of selecting a permanent director requires the Wyoming State Board of Education to provide three names to the Governor. The Governor selects from those names and appoints a director by December 1, 2013. That appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.

The original post: 

(CHEYENNE, Wyo.)  – SF 104 – Education State Administration – passed the Wyoming House of Representatives today, having previously passed the Senate, and is now headed to the desk of Governor Mead, according to a news release issued at 2:45 p.m. Friday by Rep. Rosie Berger, House Speaker Pro Tempore. The bill was sponsored by the entire leadership of both houses of the Legislature of both parties, the co-chairmen of the Joint Education Committee, and the Joint Appropriations Committee.

According to the news release, “Passage of the bill, once signed by the Governor, will result in a clear separation between the powers and duties of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (Cindy Hill) and the Department of Education, which will be led by an interim director appointed by the Governor. The Governor will have until Dec. 1, 2013 to appoint a permanent director from a list of three nominees from the State Board of Education.

The Wyoming Supreme Court has held, “These and other constitutional expressions should leave no doubt that the legislature has complete control of the state’s school system in every respect…”  (Washakie Decision).  The Legislature passed SF 104 to meet this constitutional responsibility.

As noted by Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau,  “This is not action that is taken lightly, or without diligent study and research over the course of the past several years, and ensures that we have a department that is dedicated to implementing and managing the very important educational laws and policies that the legislature has enacted to drive Wyoming’s educational system to the head of the class…commensurate with the enormous investment that Wyoming has and will continue to make in our children’s education, and our future.”

As it passed the Legislature, SF 104 is financially neutral and does not negatively impact the state budget. It does not increase costs or add additional employees. It does fix the systemic problems that have hampered the Legislature’s efforts to improve education statewide for decades.

These intrinsic dysfunctions and confusion between the policy making role of the Legislature, and the administrative and managerial role of the Department have been noted as far back as 1985 in a Management Audit Report, again in 2006, and most recently in the series of Educational Accountability statutes that have been adopted in 2011 and 2012 following the Legislature’s frustration after essentially doubling funding for education, yet not meeting the Legislature’s mandate to ensure Wyoming’s graduates are career and college ready.

It was noted during debate on the bill in the House that there are many precedents for this kind of action in Wyoming history, including reorganization of the office of the elected State Auditor in 1989, and the simultaneous creation of the Department of Audit as a separate agency with the Executive branch.

House Minority Floor Leader, Mary Throne, noted the history surrounding the office of the Superintendent during the original constitutional convention, and the many times the duties and powers of the office have been changed over time.

In her comments, Representative Throne emphasized the duty and the responsibility of the Legislature to act saying, “We owe it to our children and to our constituents to do the job we are elected to do, to set policy, and to ensure those policies are followed with fidelity. It is our belief that the concept established by SF 104 will stabilize the operation of education in the state and provide the public and educational community with the necessary support to carry out laws enacted by the Wyoming Legislature.”

As passed, SF 104 preserves for the Superintendent a number of important responsibilities including constitutional duties along with a budget and staff to accomplish those duties, but transfers in an orderly process most duties that deal with financial and administrative components.

Find information about SF 104 and all other bills on the Legislature’s website at:  www.wyoleg.gov

—Rep. Rosie Berger, House Speaker Pro Tempore