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Amendment A

Aug 18, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck

Let's make sure changing the rules on UW trustees gets a full hearing before November

Tuesday's primary election ballot for Fremont County is a busy one in most areas, but the section for constitutional amendments and other ballot proposals is light this year.

There is just one. It won't be decided by voters until the general election, but it's worth talking over between Tuesday's primary and November's general.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment A would alter the state's foundational government document to permit non-resident of Wyoming to serve on the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees.

First off, let's be honest with ourselves. This is not an issue that is tearing Wyoming apart with controversy. Most voters in our state probably couldn't name a UW trustee, and fewer still probably know that trustees are required, constitutionally, to be Wyoming residents. (The best-known recent trustee is Taylor Haynes, now a candidate for governor in the Republican primary, who left the UW board a couple of years ago).

Like several other pieces of the Wyoming Constitutions, this requirement reflects the past, when there were fears that out-of-state meddlers would try to get their fingers into the state's only university and take advantage of our inexperienced university and government leadership.

Today, however, Constitutional Amendment A is intended to recognize that there might be concerned citizens with ties to the university who would be of useful service to UW if they sat among the trustees. That seems a fair proposition.

Legislation authorizing the amendment for this fall's ballot was approved with strong majorities in both houses of the Wyoming Legislature, and voters now will be asked to OK it on Nov. 4.

The amendment would leave many controls in place to ensure that our-of-state interests didn't hold sway on the board. The governor still would appoint all trustees, and the Wyoming Senate would approve them, as happens already. And a key provision of the amendment is that no more than 20 percent of the board of trustees could consist of non-residents. This is an odd percentage on a 12-member board -- 20 percent of 12 is 2.4 -- but it means that there is no way out-of-staters could come to dominate the board.

In fact, there would be no requirement that the governor name a non-Wyoming board member at all -- simply permission to do it if he or she chose to.

This has been a lively primary election campaign for governor, but the UW trustee issue has generated hardly a whisper of discussion so far. Once the general election field is set after Tuesday, let's be sure to include inquiries about Amendment A in discussions with and debates among the candidates.

This is not a seminal amendment, but changing the Wyoming Constitution ought not to be done lightly. Think it over between now and November, and ask our gubernatorial candidates to do the same.

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