Sen. Devin LeMahieu
Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) told WisPolitics.com that the body is done confirming Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ appointees for the rest of his term.
Since Evers took office in 2019, Republicans in the Senate have been slow to confirm many of Evers’ appointees in positions across the executive branch from cabinet level secretary positions to seats on a number of important boards and commissions. With LeMahieu saying his body is done with confirmations, Evers’ ability to extend Democratic control over state government is halted as Republicans focus on trying to retake the governor’s office in the November election.
LeMahieu’s statement makes official what has been the informal policy of Republicans for several years as they look to run out the clock on Evers.
“You’ve got what is essentially a coup to maintain the last governor’s control of the board, they’re basically stealing power,” Jeff Mandell, co-founder of progressive legal outfit Law Forward, told the Wisconsin Examiner in June. “They’ve found sort of a back door way to perpetuate the legacy, power and policies of Gov. [Scott] Walker — who the voters chose to get rid of.”
Currently, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is the frontrunner in the Republican primary for governor.
LeMahieu told WisPolitics.com Republican leaders decided not to confirm any more appointees because some of them are too “partisan,” although he did not offer examples.
“If you go into some of the different appointments, some seem to be highly partisan and maybe not good appointments to these boards,” LeMahieu said. “We definitely aren’t going to confirm some of these appointments.”
The important boards and commissions whose leaders have not been confirmed include the UW Board of Regents and the Natural Resources Board. Several state agencies also still have not had their secretaries confirmed, leaving them with the title “secretary-designee” and giving senators the power to effectively fire Evers’ cabinet members — which they did to now-state Sen. Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska) when they voted not to confirm him after he served a year in office as secretary-designee of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).
On the Board of Regents, six of Evers’ appointees are waiting confirmation but have been able to assume their seats on the board. A Republican governor who assumed office next year, could withdraw those nominations. Currently Democratic appointees hold control of the board — and with it control of important policy decisions involving the UW System, such as the search for a new president of the system and a new chancellor of UW-Madison. The withdrawal of Evers’ nominees would give Republicans control of the body again.
On the Natural Resources Board (NRB), the confirmation of Evers’ nominee would finally remove the board’s chair, Frederick Prehn, who has refused to leave his seat until his successor is confirmed, even though his term expired in May of 2021. The NRB sets policies for the Department of Natural Resources over controversial issues such as wolf hunting and water management.
The Technical College System Board also includes three appointees of former Walker who refuse to vacate their seats even though their terms are expired.
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