Governor Urged to Call Special Session on Ethics Reform

May 5, 2006

Madison - Representatives of 22 advocacy groups today urged Governor Jim Doyle to call the Legislature back into special session to act on Senate Bill 1, the ethics reform legislation the state Assembly refused to take up earlier this week.

The ethics measure, which passed the Senate on a 28-5 vote earlier this session, would strengthen ethics enforcement by combining two existing agencies – the partisan state Elections Board and the Ethics Board – into a single politically independent, nonpartisan Government Accountability Board with the authority to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing.

Doyle has said he supports SB 1 and would sign it into law if it reaches his desk. The bill’s lead sponsor in the Assembly said recently that there were enough votes to pass it in the lower house after polling her colleagues. To prevent a majority of Assembly members from voting in favor of a motion to pull the bill from the Rules Committee and bring it to a vote, several Republican sponsors and supporters of SB 1 had to vote to kill their own bill.

In their letter to the governor, the groups note the recent convictions of top state lawmakers on corruption charges and emphasize that neither the Elections Board nor the Ethics Board were willing to investigate or able to prosecute when evidence of lawbreaking emerged.

“The ethical crisis in Wisconsin government cries out for leadership. We strongly urge you to take the lead by using your power to call members of the Legislature into special session and keep them there until action is taken on Senate Bill 1,” the letter concludes.

Letter

May 5, 2006

Governor Jim Doyle
115 East, State Capitol
Madison, WI 53702

Dear Governor Doyle:

We are writing to urge you to call the Legislature into special session to act on bipartisan ethics reform legislation, Senate Bill 1.

You have publicly stated on numerous occasions that you support SB 1 and would sign this much-needed legislation into law if it reaches your desk. As you know, the state Senate passed SB 1 by a wide 28-5 margin. The bill’s lead sponsor in the Assembly said recently that there were enough votes to pass it after polling her colleagues. But earlier this week, the Assembly rejected a motion to pull the bill from the Rules Committee and bring it to a vote.

There was evidence of considerable arm twisting to ensure the effort to force an up-or-down vote on SB 1 would fail. Even several Republican sponsors and other self-proclaimed supporters of the legislation ultimately voted to kill their own bill.

Wisconsin is in the midst of the biggest political corruption scandal in the state’s history. The recent parade of top state lawmakers into courtrooms and eventually into jail cells is dramatic evidence that ethics reform is sorely needed at the Capitol. In particular, the fact that neither the partisan state Elections Board nor the Ethics Board chose to investigate when evidence of serious wrongdoing emerged shows why these agencies should be replaced by a politically independent, nonpartisan Government Accountability Board with the authority to investigate and prosecute lawbreaking.

The ethical crisis in Wisconsin government cries out for leadership. We strongly urge you to take the lead by using your power to call members of the Legislature into special session and keep them there until action is taken on Senate Bill 1.

Sincerely,
 

Patricia Finder-Stone
AARP Wisconsin

Andrea Kaminski
League of Women Voters of Wisconsin

Tom Frazier
Coalition for Wisconsin Aging Groups
Lynn Breedlove
Disability Rights Wisconsin
Mike McCabe
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Renee Barr
AAUW - Wisconsin
Jane Elmer
Wisconsin Retired Educators Association
Jennifer Giegerich
Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group
Steve Hiniker
1000 Friends of Wisconsin
Jennifer Ondrejka
Wisconsin Council on Developmental Disabilities
Bob Hudek
Wisconsin Citizen Action
Russell King
Wisconsin Homecare Organization

Denny Caneff
River Alliance of Wisconsin

Judy Miner
Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice
Michael Serpe
Kenosha County Executive’s Office
Rebecca Katers
Clean Water Action Council
Guy Wolf
La Crosse Coalition for Peace and Justice
Cathy Van Maren
Coulee Progressives
Lori Nitzel
Alliance for Animals
Kerry Schumann
Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters
Carla Klein
Sierra Club - John Muir Chapter
John Hempstead
La Crosse Progressives