Just four years after its creation, Republican Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) is now discussing the possibility of disbanding the Government Accountability Board and returning to a system with separate elections and ethics boards. Common Cause in Wisconsin executive director Jay Heck says it’s a “terrible idea” that would return the state to a highly partisan system that did not work in the first place.
Heck says Republicans are simply upset that they are unable to control the GAB, which was established to be an independent body free of political concerns. He says the old elections and ethics boards in the state were filled with partisan appointees and often failed to go after wrongdoing by lawmakers until well after the damage was done, such as the caucus scandal nearly a decade ago that brought down several elected officials.
Heck says the proposal from the Speaker comes after several months of Republican lawmakers criticizing the GAB for decisions related to recalls and the new voter ID law. He says it’s a combination of “sour grapes” and the fact that legislators “can’t stand having an agency of state government that doesn’t kotow to them.”
Heck says the GAB is working exactly like it’s supposed to and serves as a “strong independent voice in state government to be able to make decisions not based on partisan considerations.”
If anything, Heck says, the agency should be given more resources to handle the tremendous influx of issues it has had to handle this year. Those include multiple recall elections, implementation of the voter ID law, and a statewide Supreme Court recount earlier this year.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:08)