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Bill would boost Building Commission membership

By Paul Snyder

A bill that would increase the number of state Building Commission members is facing criticism that more representation further frays the group’s commitment to checking politics at the door.

“Historically, the Building Commission has stayed out of politics and partisanship — until this year when (Democrats) have steamrolled us on every single issue,” said state Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, a commission member. “My initial reaction is they just want to stack the deck even further.”

Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Schofield, said the bill is about projects, not politics. Decker and Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, introduced the bill to add two voting members — one from the state Senate and one from the Assembly — to the Building Commission.

“No one’s asked for this,” said Decker, who is not a commission member. “We’re just trying to get more representation because there are an awful lot of projects that are reviewed. It’s a very big part of what our budget is, and I think it’s good public policy to have more elected representatives involved.”

According to Wisconsin Department of Administration documents, the commission was created in 1949 and always consisted of eight voting members: three senators, three representatives, the governor and a governor-appointed citizen member. Three DOA officials — the secretary, an engineering representative, and the state’s ranking architect — are nonvoting, advisory members.

The Senate and Assembly membership on the commission is determined by each house’s majority party, with a total of four commission members representing the majority and two representing the minority.

But even some Democrats, who represent the majority in both houses, are wary of the bill.

“I’m not sure it’s a good idea,” said state Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar. “I have confidence in Sen. Decker and Speaker Sheridan, but I’d be less confident if it were Republican leadership making appointments.”

Industry representatives, for now, are staying out of the fray.

“There could be a very good reason for it,” said John Mielke, vice president of the Associated Builders & Contractors of Wisconsin Inc. “I just haven’t heard that reason yet. I don’t know that it’s going to make a big difference either way.”

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