From Wyofile.com (Angus M. Thuermer)via The Gillette News Record:
The bill would require Senate advice and consent of the governor’s appointment of water division superintendents, the four officials who settle water disputes across the state. Senate File 42 Water division superintendents, also would limit appointees to six-year terms at which time they would have to be re-appointed or replaced — again with Senate approval.
Sponsored by the Select Water Committee, the bill would give legislators the ability to respond to constituents’ complaints, Sen. Larry Hicks (R-Baggs) told colleagues Friday.
“As the process now sits those are lifetime appointments,” until a superintendent resigns, dies or is fired by the governor, Hicks told the Senate. “The water users felt there ought to be more oversight over these superintendents.”
Under current law, such oversight, including the authority to dismiss superintendents, resides in the executive branch.
The Senate Agriculture Committee passed the bill 5-0 last week and it cleared the Senate on its second reading Monday. But Governor Mark Gordon questioned its need at a press conference last week.
“I’m not sure that bill is necessary,” Gordon told reporters.
Other influential voices, including that of the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association, also criticized the bill. Wyoming State Engineer Pat Tyrrell, who oversees the superintendents, told the Senate Agriculture Committee how imposing Senate confirmation could influence decisions that are supposed to be made on technical and legal grounds.
There are four water division superintendents who are state employees appointed by the governor and serve at his or her will. Superintendents have vast legal powers and sit, along with the state engineer, on the state Board of Control. The board is a quasi-judicial body that has jurisdiction over administration, amendment, and adjudication of water rights.
Tyrrell told the committee he didn’t want superintendents who are making a technical or legal decision about water rights and water use to worry about a looming senate confirmation.