The state agency that oversees elections and ethics issues in Wisconsin would be split into two new entities, under legislation now headed to Governor Scott Walker’s desk. The state Assembly on Monday signed-off on changes to the bill that were made in the state Senate earlier this month.
The legislation calls for splitting the GAB into separate ethics and elections commissions, with six-member boards appointed on a partisan basis. The bill has been the subject of heated criticism from Democrats and watchdog groups, who argue it will limit transparency and set up a highly partisan system that makes it more difficult to eliminate government corruption.
Republicans have maintained the current GAB, which was created in 2008, was granted too much power, which they argue has been abused through investigations that have targeted conservative lawmakers and political groups. Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson), a sponsor of the bill, said Monday that the agency’s “actions over these last few years have been a stain on Wisconsin’s reputation for clean and open government” and argued that it would be a mistake to let more time pass without making serious reforms at the agency.
A spokesman with the GAB declined to comment on final passage of the bill.
A spokeswoman for Governor Walker said he would review the final version of the bill, but added Walker supports “overall reform of the GAB to provide a replacement that is fair, transparent, and accountable to Wisconsinites.”