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Citizens must see to it that the power grab over superintendent is remedied

Feb 15, 2013 - Mike Lieberman, Riverton


There has been much written about the recent action of our Wyoming Legislature and Gov. Mead regarding the stripping of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill's powers and responsibilities. Clearly, our legislators view what they did as legal. Also as clearly, many citizens in the State of Wyoming are less than pleased by what has transpired.

I did not vote for Ms. Hill, and I carry no grief for her. She may well be a terrible superintendent. To me, that matters little in regard to the actions taken to the office of state superintendent. It seems to me that the actions taken were the coarsest form of frontier justice. Even if legal, it was mean-spirited and simply wrong.

If the Legislature and the governor really want to redesign the duties of the office of state superintendent, the change in law should have only become effective at the swearing in of the next holder of that office, not the current one.

There will be plenty of times in the future when the Legislature will be unhappy with an elected official. To set the precedent that they have now set can only be bad for future conflicts as they come to the fore.

Whether or not you approve of Superintendent Hill, we need to amend the constitution of this great state to prohibit any future legislature from acting in such an ill-tempered, dyspeptic manner. If elected officials believe an office holder has engaged in malfeasance in office, there are other avenues open to such officials.

For those who would wait on others, and hope that the courts will sort this out, I say, no. This is a matter for the citizens, not the courts.

I propose that we develop language for a constitutional amendment that does the following:

1. Bars the legislature from stripping duties from any elected office holder for the current term of that office holders service, regardless of otherwise legal rights to do so;

2. Restores the rights of the superintendent as they were prior to the act known as Senate File 104, and;

3. Mandate that no legislature may strip powers from any of the five top elected officials without the approval of greater than 50 percent of the eligible voters in the subsequent general election.

Is there a legal scholar who would be willing to draft such an amendment? Shall we form community grass root committees, state wide, to circulate such a petition?

Such things can be done. Here in Riverton, the fight over a medium security prison showed how effective grass roots organizing can be. Shall we make sure that this power grab by the Legislature and the governor is remedied and never happens again?

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