The Assembly approved legislation to limit the Milwaukee County Board’s finances and authority Wednesday due to complaints the board abused its power and in is the midst of its pending illicit union negotiations.
The Republican-controlled Assembly voted 59-39 to pass the bill along party lines and move the measure to the Senate. The Senate’s Committee on Elections and Urban Affairs also endorsed the identical bill Wednesday, which could bring it to the Senate floor as soon as next week.
The bill proposed by former board supervisor Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-West Allis, would cut out two-thirds of the Milwaukee County Board’s annual budget, limit their four-year terms to two years and reallocate the board’s authority in contracts, union negotiations and property sales to the Milwaukee County executive.
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said in a statement he supported the Assembly’s passage of the legislation restructuring of the board in a statement. He thanked Sanfelippo for understanding the measure’s importance to the Milwaukee taxpayers and looks forward to the objective of achieving county government reform.
Additionally, the bill would give Milwaukee residents the choice to halve salaries of board supervisors down to about $24,000 during a referendum vote next April.
Sanfelippo said the Milwaukee County Board overstepped its bounds on numerous occasions and cannot continue to act like it is above the law. Given Gov. Scott Walker’s support of his bill as well as the Republican majority in the Senate, Sanfelippo said in the Assembly session he is confident the board’s reforms bill be written into law.
“We’re at the point where we know this thing is going to pass,” he said.
However, opponents of Sanfelippo’s measure argue the referendum vote should occur in November, rather than April, when turnout is higher traditionally and that it should encompass more than just the salary of board supervisors.
Assistant Assembly Minority Leader Sandy Pasch, D-Shorewood, said state government should not dictate how Milwaukee County should run its operations. She added she was upset that no meetings were held in Milwaukee regarding the overhaul of the board until last week, accusing Republicans of not listening to what local constituents have to say.
“I’ve been in Milwaukee County – born there, lived there all my life – and I think for the people in this body from all over Northern Wisconsin, and Western Wisconsin and Southern Wisconsin telling the people of Milwaukee County how to do business is arrogance,” Pasch said. “I am incredibly disappointed.”
Prior to the Assembly session Rep. Paul Tittl, R-Manitowoc, called on representatives to do what is right for Wisconsinites while putting all personal biases aside.
However, Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, called out Ablele for simply being unable to cooperate with the Milwaukee County Board members.
Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, said it is contradictory for supporters of the bill to rally against what the federal government tells states to do but to have no problem adding regulation to smaller, local units of government such as the Milwaukee County Board.
“When I see the overuse of power in Milwaukee County, I fear for my own counties, my own cities, my own villages, my own towns and each and every person in this room should do so as well,” Bewley said. “If you don’t think this body is going to some go after some body in your district, you are assuming far more influence than you have.”