Today Governor Tony Evers celebrated his 68th birthday sitting in the Senate chamber and watching his nominee for DATCP Secretary go down in flames. The Senate spent much of the day debating rules and jockeying for power over what testimony would be allowed in the discussion about Secretary-Elect Pfaff. 

A particularly tense moment occurred after Senator Jeff Smit (D- Eau Claire) asked to read in committee meeting comments from Senator Jerry Petrowski (R - Marathon) in support of Pfaff's nomination. Senate President Roger Roth (R - Appleton) rejected the request, resulting in a floor fight between Roth and Senator Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) as they each called on the other to control themselves.

In the end, the vote went completely along party lines, 19-14, resulting in the rejection of Pfaff's nomination. Under new laws passed in the last Senate's lame-duck session, Pfaff must immediately stop working and his nomination may not be re-considered or put in again by the Governor. The nomination was originally passed out of committee unanimously, including the votes of five Republican Senators (Kathy Bernier - Lake Hallie, Andre Jacque - De Pere, Howard Marklein - Green Bay, Jerry Petrowski - Marathon, and Pat Testin - Stevens Point) but all five of them changed their vote since the committee voted for the nominee. 

This marks the first time in at least thirty years that a governor's nominee has been turned down by the Senate. The LRB only has tabulated records dating back in 1987 - it is possible this is the first time it has ever happened. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald warns that there may be more denials of nominees coming up. Ten months into Evers' term less than half of his cabinet members have been confirmed. 

Governor Evers said he had attended the session to see why GOP members were objecting to the nomination. After the vote Evers responded in uncharacteristic ways, stating that the GOP was trying to tell nominees "to keep their damn mouths shut" which he called "bullshit". When asked what Evers planned to do about the vacancy now he said he was "too Po'd" to answer.

This nomination looked like it would sail through at one point, but there was a clash between Pfaff and GOP members after Pfaff complained that funds for mental health and suicide prevention services were held up by the legislature. Last week Pfaff announced that the new Livestock Siting rules that DATCP was promoting would not go to a vote, but would be held for the time being. Despite the holding of the rules, many Republican legislators objected to the fact that the rules were drawn up in the first place, claiming they were too injurious to the agriculture business in the state. Interestingly, Pfaff's nomination was being strongly supported by most of the agricultural business groups in the state, which led to the viewpoint that the objection on the part of the Republicans was strictly a political attempt to obstruct Evers' agenda. 

Later in the session the senators also approved stronger penalties for drunk driving in Wisconsin, and approved a constitutional amendment removing the governor's ability to increase funding for a measure in the state budget by executing a partial veto. This amendment was the result of Evers raising the per-pupil allotment in the state budget, which had the effect of indirectly increasing the state education budget over the number in the original budget drawn up by the Republicans. This measure will need to be approved by both the Senate and Assembly in two back-to-back sessions. 

The Senate also just rejected additional funding for CWD testing kiosks in the state. According to local Senator Jeff Smith - Eau Claire -

Tonight, Senate Republicans rejected efforts to provide more funding for CWD testing kiosks. I’m disappointed Republicans continue to drag their feet on this critical issue. Hunters need to ask Republicans why they won’t get serious about stopping CWD.

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Steve Hanson

Steve is a web designer and recently retired from running the hosting and development company Cruiskeen Consulting LLC. Cruiskeen Consulting LLC is the parent company of Wis.Community, and publication of this site continues after his retirement.

Steve is a member of LION Publishers and the Local Media Consortium, is active in Health Dunn Right, and is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of the greater Chippewa Valley

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