Legislation aimed at taking the politics out of the Department of Natural Resources receive a hearing at the Capitol Tuesday.
State Representative Spencer Black (D-Madison) says the bill would restore a system for naming the DNR secretary that was in place until 1995, where a citizen's board decides who will head the agency.
The governor currently has the power to appoint the secretary, which supporters of the bill say allow politics to influence environmental decisions.
Current DNR Secretary Matt Frank disagrees with those who think the change will keep politics from influencing the agency. He says the need for policy to pass the Legislature would also have to be removed to make sure the agency is completely independent.
Frank also defended the need to keep the DNR as a cabinet-level agency. He says having the governor's backing makes it much easier to pass important environmental protections, such as ballast water regulations and the Great Lakes Compact.
However, Black says the current way of selecting the secretary means the governor controls the priorities of the DNR. He says that can result in policies that do irreversible harm to the environment every time a new governor is sworn in. The Madison Democrat says Mother Nature doesn't wait for political time tables, and damage that's done can be difficult to fix.
The bill is being considered by the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.