Thursday, April 27, 2006

Local Governments: Feeling Used, Yet?

While it appears local governments may need to be pulled from the amendment to restrict public revenue in Wisconsin to allow it to pass, it looks like they may have been added to the ethics bill to help it fail.

Local government officials are upset about being added to an ethics reform bill that was intended to clean up the state capitol. Many justifiably fear the added oversight will deter people from wanting to run for local office, which is already a tough sell for most.

Local governments weren't in the original bill that passed the state Senate handily last November. They were added last month while the bill was in committee in the Assembly.

According to Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, "[Assembly leadership] wanted this bill to die, so they added the locals and got them all fired up and generating calls in opposition."

Rep. Stephen Freese (R-Dodgeville), who is part of the Assembly leadership, denies the charge, although he says he wouldn't mind if local governments were removed from the bill.

Freese just wants to see the state get the complete value out of creating a full-time investigator. He exclaimed that without the locals: "We would be creating a brand new agency with an investigator (whose) only reason to exist would be to monitor 132 people."

Freese failed to mention that considering the number of legislators who have gone down on ethics charges in recent years, with many more implicated but not charged, it's a group that needs close watching.

It will be interesting to see whether the bill gets the nod from Assembly Speaker John Gard, whose opponent in the congressional primary this fall -- Rep. Terri McCormick (R-Appleton) -- upped the ante on him earlier this week by releasing a press statement that claimed the Assembly support is there to pass the bill if Gard just schedules it for a vote.

Who says you can't mix business with pleasure?

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