Gov. Mike Pence misjudged his role when he effectively rendered meaningless the job of Glenda Ritz, whom voters chose to be superintendent of public instruction. He also misjudged the sure-to-come political fallout that will be worse than he expects.
The Libertarian Party of Indiana supports more school choice than Ritz would prefer. Still, that is absolutely no reason to cut her off at the knees as Pence did when he pushed the State Board of Education to alter its rules so that the board can immediately overturn any procedural decision made by Ritz (until now, that would come up at the next meeting) and board members may add agenda items with neither Ritz's consent nor advance public notice. This came after a 7-3 vote of members that he appoints.
Libertarians remind Pence that Hoosier voters elected Ritz, not Pence, to the head of Indiana's schools.
Just because Ritz and Pence differ does not mean he has the statutory authority to do her job. If Pence has a problem with her personally, too bad. Part of being an adult is dealing with people you disagree with. Besides, the governor does not have dictatorial powers. Sometimes he'll have to work with people who are - horror of horrors - not from his party. She does happen to be the only one, as all other state offices are Republican, as are both houses within the General Assembly. What would happen if a Democrat and Libertarian won statewide office this year? Would he try this stunt again?
Right now, Article 8 of Indiana's constitution prescribes an elected leader for our schools. Should it still be elected or would appointed superintendents work better? That's a great question, just like whether or not our constitutionally prescribed county coroners should be elected or if Indiana ought to switch to appointed medical examiners. It's a topic deserving of a lot of debate. Pence took the chicken's way out by pushing for what amounts to an edict without any serious debate.
The right way to address this would be to seek an amendment to Indiana's constitution.
Would amending the Indiana Constitution be frustrating? You bet.
That's the point. It's not supposed to be something done in a snit. Hint: This is a snit.
Changing the state constitution would entail passing legislation in two consecutive legislatures - in this case, the to-be-elected General Assembly will start its 2-year term in 2015, and another will be in 2017. Once passed, it would have to go before voters as a referendum in 2018 at the earliest - 2017 is an off-year for Indiana elections. By then, Pence would be hot and heavy in his campaign for president...er, he'd only fewer than two more years left on his tenure as governor, presuming he's re-elected.
This doesn't take into account how this egregious overreach will rile up the Democratic base. Our hunch is that this would bring Democrat donors to hand over their checkbooks, run for office themselves, take off work to campaign on Election Day - anything to make the Statehouse not-so-Republican. And as for Pence's re-election efforts, don't be surprised if he faces very strong opposition in 2016, with the rallying cry of ENOUGH!
And this doesn't take into account how this egregious overreach will create strange-bedfellow political alliances that will make passage of such an amendment very, very difficult. We Libertarians will be joined by others outside of the Democrat Party who find this power grab beyond the pale.
Pence's overreach deserves whatever political dope-slapping he receives. And he will receive a huge dope-slapping, loud and clear. Count on it.