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New 'Hill bill' dies on House floor, along with amendment restoring previous job

Mar 4, 2014 - By Bob Moen, The Associated Press

A bill that would allow for a special legislative session to deal with fallout from the recent state Supreme Court decision in the superintendent of public instruction case died in the Wyoming House of Representatives on Monday.

Senate File 106 died when the House finished its business for the day without holding its first debate on the proposal. Any bills not debated for the first time by Monday automatically die under the budget session schedule.

"We didn't have time for it," said Majority Floor Leader Kermit Brown, R-Laramie. "It's not that important anyway. There's nothing in that bill that Management Council can't do."

The bill had passed the Senate earlier.

In January, a divided Supreme Court decided that the 2013 law that removed the elected superintendent as head of the Department of Education was unconstitutional.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Superintendent Cindy Hill, who remains in office but with far fewer duties.

However, the district court where Hill's lawsuit was filed still has to issue a final order in the case. In addition, that order can be appealed by the state.

Hill's supporters accuse the state of stalling in restoring her to her previous duties, even though the Supreme Court has struck down the law that removed her from power. They predict that every possible tactic will be used to continue to delay her return to her old job.

Brown said once the courts have concluded with the case, the Legislature can deal with the matter.

He noted that the Supreme Court's decision gave no direction to the Legislature on how to resolve the superintendent's duties so that they meet constitutional muster. The court's decision acknowledged that the Legislature can change the superintendent's duties.

Under the bill, a special interim committee would have been created to come up with a recommendation for a possible special legislative session to consider.

Brown and other legislative leaders had said that the court ruling came too late for the current short budget session so they decided to introduce the bill setting out a process for the Legislature to address the matter. Some leaders also said they wanted to take the initiative and not leave it up to the courts to decide specific duties the superintendent should be given.

But Brown said Monday evening that the bill was premature because the legal proceedings haven't been completed.

Some observers believed the bill was killed so that an amendment which would have restored Hill's previous duties under state law would not be heard.

Brown denied there was any connection to letting the bill die and an amendment proposed by Rep. Garry Piiparinen, R-Evanston, that would have restored all the duties the superintendent had before the 2013 law was enacted. Piiparinen is a supporter of restoring Hill's duties. His amendment would have been taken up on the House floor Monday had the bill been debated.