After a rather lively debate, the state assembly Government Operations Committee approved Representative Sanfelippo’s Milwaukee county government reform bill (Assembly Bill 85) by a vote of 6 – 3. There is little surprise here and the bill will move to the assembly for a vote next Wednesday. Representative Steve Nass said the bill has a lower priority in the state senate and probably wouldn’t be taken up until the fall.
Democrats still feel that changes to Milwaukee county governance should be handled at the local level rather than a state mandate. And they have suggested that issues between County Executive Chris Abele and the County Board be resolved via mediation and that there be a six month cooling off period. If he state senate won’t take up the bill until fall, the board should have sufficient time to propose their own platform of reforms.
Representative Sanfelippo doesn’t feel that the board will reform itself because it hasn’t done so in the past. But with the state ready to impose it’s will on the county, there is every reason for the board move forward with their own agenda. Considering that we have a relatively new County Executive, a new County Board Chair, and a considerable number of recently elected board members (including two elected just last week), I don’t think we can use past experience to predict what the current board might be expected to do.
One thing that wasn’t addressed was the county board’s request to be able to redistrict and reduce the board size. They are only allowed to do so…under current law they can only change the board size once every ten years and they eliminated one supervisory seat last year.
And of course the committee totally ignored the hundreds of Milwaukee county citizens who have attended the local listening sessions who oppose county government reform or oppose the state’s imposition of changes.