Mead chides GOP leaders over criticism of Hill bill

May 5, 2013 The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- The Wyoming Re-publican Party Central Committee acted too hastily in addressing a new state law changing the powers and duties of the state superintendent of public instruction, GOP Gov. Matt Mead said Friday.

Last month, the Central Committee voted 40-32 to approve a resolution endorsing a petition drive to repeal the state law, which was approved by the Republican-controlled state Legislature and Mead. In addition, it had earlier considered but did not approve asking several GOP legislators who pushed the new law to consider leaving the party.

"I don't think that's the right way to go," Mead said.

The law passed this winter severely curtailed the administrative duties of the statewide elected superintendent of public instruction, including replacing the superintendent as head of the Wyoming Department of Education with a director appointed by the governor.

The law took effect when the governor signed it, meaning the current superintendent, Republican Cindy Hill, lost much of her power and duties in the middle of her four-year term. Hill was elected in 2010.

Hill has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law. The case will be argued before the Wyoming Supreme Court sometime this year. In addition, a petition is circulating around the state to refer the law to a statewide ballot in 2014.

Hill also has announced the she will run for governor next year.

The law gained backing in the Legislature after lawmakers complained that Hill was mismanaging the Education Department and hindering legislative work to overhaul the state's K-12 education system. But opponents question whether the Legislature had the authority to make such a major change in a statewide elected office.

In regard to how the Education Department was operated, Mead has created an independent inquiry into the operations of the agency while the Legislature has ordered an extensive financial audit of how the agency has been spending money in recent years.

"I think that will give everybody a baseline on what has taken place there, where we are today, and what we need to avoid in the future," Mead said.

Thus, it would have been better if the Central Committee had waited until after the court challenge and inquiry were completed before considering the issue, he said.

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