I sent the following letter to my local governor. I don’t think it will make a difference, but you never know. The short of it is: We need to respect the text of the constitution enough not to twist it. Penumbras and Emanations do not good law make.
One of the governmental principles which we teach our children is the system of checks and balances. Under this system, no one branch of government reigns supreme. If one branch tries to exceed its constitutionally mandated power, the other two branches exist to keep the offending branch in check, offering a balance. The most well known is the power that the Supreme Court has to overrule legislation that goes beyond what is constitutionally allowed. However, just as important is the executive power to veto legislation that would go against the constitution. This provides immediate relief to legislative overreach, without the expense or delay of judicial intervention. It is in this capacity that I write to you today.
The plain text of our constitution states, “The general supervision of the public schools shall be entrusted to the state superintendent of public instruction whose powers and duties shall be prescribed by law.” (Article 7 section 14)
The specific powers and duties prescribed are to allow for carrying out “the general supervision of the public schools.” Can anyone reasonably believe that Senate File 104 is designed to allow this? An editorial in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle in favor of the bill even admits “This newspaper has argued for an appointed schools head for more than a decade as it has watched previous superintendents fail to lead this state toward education excellence… Only 10 states continue to vote for school superintendents.” In other words, the State Constitution is too hard to change, so the legislature should simply ignore the plain meaning of the text for the good of the people.
The people of Wyoming may have a different opinion of what is in their best interests. But no one has asked them. The last time their opinion was sought, they elected Ms. Hill to serve in this position. If the legislature wants to change the system, there is a specific procedure for doing so. We must not let the cry, “For the CHILDREN!” override the rule of law. The children are not being sent to gulags each day. They are being sent to schools, where they are educated by their teachers. That there are differences between the superintendent and the legislature as to how this should be done only shows that the system is working. As I noted in a letter to the honorable Dan Kirkbride, I am looking forward to my next opportunity to elect a school superintendent, and will likely exercise it in opposing the incumbent. But if you do not veto this bill, and it becomes law, then you will have aided and abetted the legislature in taking away my right to vote for the elected supervisor of public instruction. I will only be able to vote for a constitutional figurehead.
I realize that I am asking for an extreme step: vetoing an action of our duly elected legislature. However, failure to do so will be in effect a veto of the right of the citizens of Wyoming to vote for their public officials, as laid out in the Constitution. Unless and until that constitution is changed by the legal mechanism that exists to do so, the legislature must contend with a superintendent who is elected by We the People.
Let us not take the step of simply ignoring those parts of the constitution that are inexpedient in our current circumstances. We see enough of that behavior from Washington. I like to believe that in Wyoming, we take seriously the commitment we have to each other to abide by our constitutional principles.
Please Veto Senate file 104. If you do not, you veto the rights of the electorate.