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Bill to remove Hill's powers through second House reading

Jan 24, 2013 - Staff and wire reports

The controversial bill that would change who runs the Wyoming Department of Education has survived a second round of floor debate in the state House of Representatives.

The bill got a two-hour hearing Wednes-day before the House Appropriations Committee after it was reassigned from its expected committee, Education. Critics of the bill said the bill was moved from Education because it would not have mustered the votes from that committee to be advanced to the floor with a do-pass recommendation.

But the Education Committee chairman remained involved. According to those in attendance at Wednesday's hearing in Appropriations, committee chairman Rep. Steve Harshman of Casper convened the hearing, then immediately surrendered control of the rest of the proceedings to Rep. Matt Teeters of Lingle, who is the chairman of the Education Committee but is not assigned to the Appropriations Committee.

That move also troubled critics of the bill, who argue that the Legislature is side-stepping normal procedures in order to rush the bill to completion.

Senate File 104 replaces the elected superintendent of public instruction with a director appointed by the governor as head of the education agency. The superintendent would remain an elected state officer and will retain some education duties.

Cindy Hill is the Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction. She opposes the bill strongly.

The bill passed preliminary votes on Wednesday and Thursday. It faces one more round of debate Friday. The measure has already passed the state Senate.

Proponents say the bill would improve delivery of K-12 education in Wyoming and save the state's school reform effort.

Opponents are concerned about increasing the governor's power and diminishing voter influence on education policy. Observers predict a court challenge if the bill passes.

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Legislature, Wyoming