Republicans Launch Power Grab Over State Agencies

September 10, 2015

Three Republicans in the state legislature have redrafted a bill that would give enormous power to the Republican leadership over major state agencies.

Rep. David Craig, Rep. Adam Jarchow, and Sen. Stephen Nass are co-sponsoring a bill to create the Legislative Office of Inspector General. They tried something similar in June but it met with a lot of resistance, so they have redrafted the legislation.

This time it doesn’t do away with the Legislative Audit Bureau, but it does install inspectors generals in major state agencies with great authority to investigate fraud, waste, abuse, or inefficiencies.

Who will appoint these inspectors general? Republican leaders in the legislature.

The Joint Committee on Legislative Organization, co-chaired by Republican Senator Mary Lazich and Republican Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos, would appoint them for six-year terms.

Republican leaders today (and whoever holds the majority in both houses in the future) would be able to further aggrandize their powers under this bill. It would authorize the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Majority Leader to jointly direct the inspectors general to examine any records of whichever agency they oversee. And the chairs of standing committees would also jointly and similarly be able to direct the inspectors general to examine records of programs or state agencies the committees oversee.

“When one party holds power in both houses, as is the case today, this bill would give that party unprecedented power to meddle in the workings of state government,” says Matt Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

The bill would also be an open invitation to corruption. It would allow the inspector general to review claims by any individual that he or she has been adversely and substantially affected by an agency action or order. If that person were a big donor to the party in power, there would be a built-in incentive for the inspector general to side with the donor.

“These guys just won’t give up on their power grabs,” says Matt Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “They keep coming back for more, like a Hydra-headed monster. This is bad public policy, no matter which party is in power. And no party will be in power forever, which some of our current legislators seem to forget.”