During an appearance on Wisconsin’s Afternoon News with John Mercure Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald hinted that Tourism Secretary-designee Sara Meaney may not be confirmed by the legislature.
“There’s a storm brewing on Sara Meaney,” said Fitzgerald. “She politicized the department of tourism.”
When pressed on how she politicized the department, Fitzgerald responded.
“There’s a couple of different stories floating out there…that has her in the position of trying to manipulate the tourism board,” said Fitzgerald. “I don’t have any facts on that…there’s press reports that are coming out that [it’s] happening.”
On Wednesday, Senate Republicans rejected the confirmation of Agriculture Secretary-designee Brad Pfaff, the first vote to reject a cabinet position in Wisconsin since 1987.
The timing of all this is interesting. Normally when a governor assumes office, his or her cabinet appointees are processed pretty quickly and the Senate is confirming or rejecting based on the appointee’s resume and interviews.
In this case, the timing is different. Late last year, the state passed a law that says that if an appointee is rejected, then they cannot be reappointed for the same job. In the past, if an appointee was rejected, the governor could just keep resubmitting the appointee forever. This had the effect of circumventing the legislature’s advise and consent role by keeping an interim appointee in the job forever. Under the new law, a governor gets one shot at it. If the Senate rejects an appointee, the governor must go find another one.
After the law was passed, the incoming Governor Evers challenged the new law in court. He claimed that the law was unconstitutional because it was passed after the election in which he won. that legal challenge drug on for months and was finally rejected by the courts. The law is good.
The practical effect of this is that the Senate paused on approving cabinet appointments until the legal case was resolved. So now, instead of the Senate evaluating appointees based on their qualifications, they can evaluate the appointees based on how they have actually been doing the job for almost a year. The appointees can’t get away with making promises to appease senators. The appointees have a record to evaluate. This changes the discussion from “do we think this appointee will do a good job?” to “has the appointee done a good job?”
In the case of the Agriculture Secretary rejected yesterday and the Tourism Secretary cited in this story, the answer for a lot of people is “no.”
Underlying all of this is the fact that Governor Evers doesn’t play nice with others. He has no relationship with Republicans and has made no effort to develop one. All he does is go on foul-mouthed tirades in public about Republicans. It’s great red meat for his base, but it’s a poor way to govern. Compromises and deals are based on relationships and trust. He has neither.