I guess that I shouldn’t be surprised…but after all of the rhetoric about transparency and leaving the pork and nonsense out of bills where they don’t belong…politicians still try to bury special interest perks or non-budget stuff in inappropriate places.
One of the most egregious recent sitings is Governor Walker’s inclusion for the repeal of municipal residency requirements in his 2013 – 2015 budget bill. No matter which side of the argument you find yourself on, I can’t imagine you feel comfortable with such a potentially divisive and game changing provision being included in the budget. Just on the face of it, it has nothing to do with the state budget. And considering the strong feelings on all sides it certainly deserves an open and frank discussion on its own merits and should be introduced into the legislature as a separate bill. And I am not the only one who feels that way:
“Although we anticipated he might propose something of this sort, this is a policy that does not belong in his budget and should be determined by local lawmakers.”
And the editorial board in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel “Budget is the wrong place to change residency rules”:
In Gov. Scott Walker’s two-year state budget outlined Wednesday, there is a single sentence that would eliminate residency requirements for all municipal employees – including school district employees – in Wisconsin. The measure would affect an estimated 127 municipalities across the state.
Under Walker’s plan, local units of government, including school districts such as Milwaukee Public Schools, and counties would not be able to institute or enforce residency requirements for current or prospective employees.
There are good arguments for getting rid of residency requirements. We’ve made some of them. The most compelling is that employees should have the right to live where they want within the confines of their job requirements.
But the state budget is the wrong place to do this. Eliminating local governments’ residency requirements is a major policy change that deserves a full debate and separate legislation. It should not be tucked away as one sentence in the budget.
My side theory is Governor Walker is creating a smokescreen for something else in his bill that is problematic or he’s building a case to remove the clause to a separate bill to mollify the Dems in Madison as a pseudo-bipartisan moment!
The second recent occurrence coming out of Madison is the final version of State Representative (former part time county supervisor) Joe Sanfelippo’s bill to blow up county government. It is the little matter of requesting the state to pay for signage on the interstate for the Wisconsin Black Historical Society and Museum. Normally the venue pays a nominal fee to the state for such informational signs. This may have been thrown into the bill to garner the support of State Senator Lena Taylor who did in fact join as a co-sponsor of the bill, although both legislators deny it. And it apparently appears in the bill without the prior knowledge of some of the other co-signers. But since it is entirely irrelevant to reforming county government, it doesn’t belong in this bill! And Rep Sanfelippo wasn’t originally intent in just blowing up the county with this bill:
When drafting the plan, Sanfelippo said he asked legislative staffers to find antiquated statutes related only to Milwaukee County so he could repeal them in his bill. His bill now would repeal statutes dealing with cat licenses and other topics.
“I don’t think of this as pork,” said the freshman lawmaker. “We’re not throwing something in that’s new.”
Are we ever going to be able to wean politicians from mucking up major policy bills with unrelated items…no matter how important the provisions might be in the scheme of things?