The state Assembly approves legislation (AB-138) that would restore DNR Secretary appointment authority to a citizen board.
Lawmakers again debate whether the governor should retain power to appoint the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. Madison Democrat Spencer Black points out that five past DNR secretaries support having the Natural Resources Board make that decision.
“Now these are people who are no longer subject to hiring or firing but can speak their mind. And it’s really extraordinary that they all agreed.”
Black says some of those secretaries were appointed by the governor and some by the board, serving under seven governors — both Republicans and Democrats. Despite those differences, Black reiterates, the former secretaries show unity in their support to change the law.
Merrill Republican Donald Friske says the issue isn’t so much whether the Secretary would do a good or a bad job; the issue is whether politics will be taken out of the equation simply by having a board. He doesn’t think so.
“There’s no way you’re gonna remove politics … because the existing governor is going to make appointments to that board with people that actually favor that governor, and he’s gonna put pressure on the board to appoint a secretary that they approve of.”
Friske says the governor would simply select board members who favor his politics, and they will then appoint a secretary who favors the governor.
NOTE: Several GOP-sponsored amendments were rejected before Representative Robin Vos objected to the third reading of the bill, causing the vote to be delayed until the morning. But, the Racine Republican later removed his objection, allowing lawmakers to vote on the bill Tuesday afternoon.