No really…that’s the surface issue…but the real issue is the continuing power struggle between the GOP legislative branches and the Democratic Governor Tony Evers. The GOP has been dragging their feet in confirming the governor’s appointees…it’s November already and they have only confirmed five department secretaries and didn’t even confirm the first one until October.
And now for the first time in 32 years, the Senate has refused to confirm a pick for a department secretary. By a pure party line vote of 19 -14, the state Senate failed to confirm Brad Pfaff as Agriculture Secretary. This is after the original committee vote to move his confirmation to the floor was a unanimous 9 – 0. Hmmm….well there’s more to the story:
Well…the actual problem is Mr. Pfaff made the GOP look bad around monies in the budget that were assigned to mental health care for farmers. But as is typical of the current legislature, they can’t seem to write clear and cognizant bills and there was some issues around how to distribute the money.
The Legislature’s budget committee agreed Wednesday (Sept 4, 2019) to put $100,000 toward mental health services to farmers grappling with low prices, bankruptcies and an international trade war.
The unanimous vote came about a month after the Senate majority leader and state agriculture secretary traded barbs over the program.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ agriculture secretary, Brad Pfaff, in July said “Republicans have chosen to leave farmers behind” because they were holding back $100,000 a year in mental health funds.
Republicans who control the Legislature in June approved the mental health funding in principle as part of the state budget, but they required Pfaff to get permission from the Joint Finance Committee to get the money.
The committee didn’t take up the issue at a meeting in July because leaders said they wanted more information about how Pfaff’s department would spend it. That sparked the July tiff between Pfaff and Fitzgerald.
At the time, Democrats argued Republicans were leaving farmers in the lurch while Wisconsin leads the nation in farm bankruptcies. Republicans rejected that notion, saying Democrats were politicizing an issue both sides care about.emphasis mine
So there’s the bone that stuck in the Republicans’ craw…but they decided to get bent our of shape this week…on manure…on the one hand something they know nothing about (agriculturally)…but are intimately familiar with (politically):
One of the debates was over recent rules outlined by the Scott Walker administration and put forward by Pfaff designed to protect farmers’ neighbors from the stench of manure by expanding setback requirements for manure storage facilities.
Agriculture groups say they urged the agency to abandon the rules in September, but Pfaff didn’t back off from moving forward with them until Friday, just after Fitzgerald told Evers he didn’t have enough votes to confirm Pfaff’s nomination.
“Since holding public hearings earlier this year, the department has held ongoing, constructive meetings with stakeholders on this complex rule,” Pfaff said in a Friday statement. “Given the tremendous importance of our dairy and livestock industries to the state of Wisconsin, we’ve decided to take more time to continue these discussions.”
Pfaff removed the rules from consideration of the agency’s board at a meeting scheduled for Thursday…
Although agricultural associations would like this manure setback rule dropped entirely…please note who originally put the setback rules in motion. So this is more than just a ‘what’s good or not good’ for Wisconsin agriculture…it’s part of the GOP/Evers confrontations.
But of course, Senate Majority Leader (and Congressional candidate) Scott Fitzgerald had to throw another punch at Mr. Pfaff.
“He has bungled this job since day one and I know other members of our caucus feel the same way,” Fitzgerald said in an interview with WTMJ-TV.
And although any number of agricultural associations opposed the manure rules…they in general supported Mr. Pfaff’s confirmation as Ag. Secretary…they do see him as one of their own and they decry changing horses in mid-stream.
Pfaff, the son of a La Crosse County dairy farmer, had previously worked as deputy chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Ron Kind before being nominated as the state’s agriculture department secretary.
Pfaff also worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, overseeing the implementation of federal crop assistance programs, the Conservation Reserve Program and federal farm loan programs.
More than a dozen agriculture-related groups support Pfaff’s nomination, according to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission and Evers’ office, including the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, the Wisconsin Agri-Business Association, the Wisconsin Dairy Products Association and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.
Doug Rebout, the president of the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, also joined a letter sent Friday urging the rejection of the rules. While he wants Pfaff to abandon the rules, he also said Monday it is essential to keep Pfaff on board while farmers are struggling with what he called a perfect storm of trade wars, low prices, bad weather and a dispute over federal ethanol rules.
The Wisconsin Agri-Business Association, Cooperative Network, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association and Organic Valley also appealed to senators Monday to confirm Pfaff.
So the GOP is in the middle of a shit snit and despite being the champions of business and our farmers…chose to ignore the agricultural associations who supported the confirmation of Brad Pfaff. And only because of Mr. Pfaff’s willingness to call them out and put them on the spot for their own ineptitude. And then there’s the GOP/Evers feud.
So don’t expect a lot of action in Madison anytime soon…this ain’t over. And I hope the good voters in Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner’s district don’t elect Sen. Fitzgerald to the House. They should be pretty aware by now of his ego and unfitness to represent his actual constituents.
And what about the other cabinet secretaries that are unconfirmed but successfully serving since January? Not looking good.
Republicans also have raised concerns about some of Evers’ other secretaries, including Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dawn Crim.
Some Republicans are also opposed to Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson because he lobbied for a gas tax increase before he joined Evers’ administration.
Some of them oppose Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm because she chose a former Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin lobbyist as her deputy.
I have traditionally held the belief that elected executive officers should get the cabinets they request and be able to work with the people they select. That has even been true with some of the abysmal appointments in the Trump Regime. Sen. Fitzgerald needs to lay off and confirm the governor’s choices…before the end of the year.