Supreme Court overturns SF104

By Sarah Pridgeon

The Wyoming Supreme Court has voted 3-2 to overturn the infamous “Hill Bill” that last year stripped the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction of the vast majority of its power. The court ruled on Tuesday that Senate File 104 is “unconstitutional.”

The judgment brings to a conclusion the lawsuit that Cindy Hill brought against the state just four days after Senate File 104 became law. The legislation effectively replaced Hill as the leader of the Department of Education with an appointed director.

The Supreme Court ruling states that the Legislature does not have “unlimited authority to prescribe the powers and duties of the office of Superintendent” and cannot eliminate or transfer these powers to such an extent that “the Superintendent no longer maintains the power of ‘general supervision of the public schools’.”

Chief Justice Kite and Justice Golden, however, voice dissent over the ruling, claiming that the ruling “crosses over the line” of appropriate judicial review and interference in Legislative matters and that Senate File 104 is a “proper exercise” of the Legislature’s right to provide for education, which expressly includes prescribing the superintendent’s powers and duties.

What the ruling will mean in practical terms has yet to be ascertained. Justice J. Davis and Justice J. Voigt state within the ruling that some of the duties “swept up in the tide of the large-scale transfer” could indeed be transferred to another agency and suggest that the Legislature could enact a “more narrowly crafted act” based on the Supreme Court ruling.

“I have asked the Attorney General to provide an analysis of the legal and practical implications of the decision,” said Governor Matt Mead in a statement.

“We understand there will be no changes in the current structure at the Department of Education until the District Court has officially received the Supreme Court decision and further proceedings occur. The Attorney General will evaluate the opinion and provide options.”