Lawmakers hear public testimony on Assembly Joint Resolution 25 — legislation to reform Wisconsin’s recall laws. Representative Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) is co-author of the state constitutional amendment. “AJR 25 just tightens recall requirements and restores the original purpose of the recall amendment. With this constitutional amendment in place there must be a minimum threshold of criminal or ethical misconduct before an elected official can be recalled.”
Under the measure, recalls would be permitted only if elected officials have been charged with a felony or accused of an ethics violation.
In two years, there have been 15 recall elections in Wisconsin. Steineke says “It’s left us all politically exhausted, and has cost taxpayers $16 million.” He says “These changes will prevent arbitrary recalls over disagreements on policy decisions.”
Under current law, an elected official can be recalled for any reason. Supporters of the measure say elected officials face recall simply by doing their jobs — making tough decisions.
Orville Seymer is with Citizens for Responsible Government. “Just like you’d fire a bad government employee or a contractor who’s not doing the job that you hired him to do, people also have the right to fire their elected officials if they feel they’re not doing their job being a representative.”
Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), who survived a recall attempt in 2011, is also a co-author of the constitutional amendment. She says this measure ensures that recalls won’t be abused for political purposes. Harsdorf says she believes there is a place for recalls. “There is a place when there has been violations of a code of ethics or criminal conduct, but I believe that the general elections are a place where if you disagree with someone on a position or an issue or philosophical difference of belief, you work in the general election.”
In responding to Terece Burceau (D-Madison), who is on the Assembly panel, Harsdorf says recent recalls were triggered simply because people didn’t agree with Act 10, the collective bargaining bill, not as a result of malfeasance. Burceau says “one million people being disturbed about a policy that had been implemented is not inconsequential.”
AJR 25 received a public hearing Tuesday in the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections. The amendment would have to pass two consecutive sessions of the legislature and a statewide referendum before it could take effect.