A bill to dismantle the state’s Government Accountability Board is heading to the full Senate after a committee passed it on a party-line vote Thursday.
The bill, which the Assembly passed on Wednesday would split up the board, which serves as a watchdog agency for state politicians.
If signed into law, the Government Accountability Board would split into two commissions, each containing six partisan leaders, chosen evenly between Republicans and Democrats. GOP lawmakers believed the board leaned Democratic during decision-making, Kenneth Mayer, a political science professor at University of Wisconsin, said.
The Assembly also passed the bill Wednesday in a 58-39 vote.
Assembly Republicans introduce bill to dismantle Government Accountability BoardRepublicans unveiled a bill Wednesday that would split the Government Accountability Board into two bipartisan bodies. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Read…
The Government Accountability Board had a meeting Wednesday to discuss the bill’s implications.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said in a statement the legislation would go into effect on June 30, 2016, allowing time for a smooth transition between old board members and new commissioners.
Director and General Counsel of the board, Kevin Kennedy, spoke at the meeting about the transitioning process. He said the Department of Administration is required to come up with an implementation plan.
“The Department of Administration’s plan will now divide up the assets, contracts, pending matters and rules as part of the plan, but we’ll also determine which positions and which incumbents are split between which commissions,” Kennedy said.
Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, also supported dismantling the board. She said in a statement the board, as a law enforcement entity, failed to do their job and actually broke laws.
Vos is optimistic about the bill’s progress, according to his statement.
“Today was a victory for free speech in Wisconsin,” Vos said. “Our reforms moved forward to allow for more participation in the political process, and greater transparency and accountability in government.”
Although politicians were strictly divided over the bill, some wondered whether everyday citizens would notice the changes it will make to current law.
Mike Wagner, UW Journalism and Mass Communication professor, said people will be aware of the bill’s effects.
“I think they’ll notice the difference in the results,” Wagner said. “It’s been a model of independent oversight of our partisan politicians, and to see it changing then raises serious questions about the manner in which our elections are going to be conducted.”
Before the bill goes further, many people in opposition are still looking for ways to voice their concerns, or even turn the tide.
During the meeting, Andrea Kaminski, executive director of League of Women Voters, voiced the organization’s opposition to the bill, and Diane Herman-Brown, City of Sun Prairie clerk, praised the board’s past achievements. She said the board advanced the state’s election process within the last eight years, strengthening integrity, security, accuracy and trust.
But Wagner said the law will not be counteracted unless a great number of citizens who live in Republican lawmakers’ districts call their lawmakers to make a change.
The bill will next move to the Senate floor for discussion.