By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press Writer
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Appearing to lose his push to give the mayor of Milwaukee control of the city’s schools exemplifies how difficult Gov. Jim Doyle’s final year in office may be.
Doyle could never get traction for the idea with Milwaukee Democrats in the Legislature, which led to the Assembly adjourning on Thursday a special session the governor called specifically to pass the bill.
Democratic proponents and opponents of the bill both declared it dead.
Doyle had been pushing the plan for months and as recently as Tuesday made it a focus of his final State of the State speech.
The issue would have played out differently had Doyle not been a lame duck, said University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee political science professor Mordecai Lee. Members of Doyle’s own party would have been less likely to disagree with him, he said.
Defeat of the Milwaukee bill indicates that Doyle doesn’t have control over his own party, which holds the majority of the seats in the Assembly and Senate, Lee said.
“Every interaction is based on sort of the fear of what the future might bring,” said Lee, a former state lawmaker. “When you’re a lame duck governor, there’s just no fear. Especially when you’re a lame duck governor after the budget is passed.”
Doyle has fought hard against being discounted in his final 11 months. He’s repeatedly focused on what he wants to accomplish in his last year, spending very little time in his State of the State speech reflecting on the past.
A compounding problem for Doyle is that he’s never had the strongest of relationships with lawmakers, even in his own party. Fostering a relationship was difficult in his first term as both houses were controlled by Republicans.
In the first two years of his second term, Democrats controlled the Senate and since last year they also had the majority in the Assembly.
While that has led to Doyle getting much of what he wants, especially in his final budget that passed last year, the apparent demise of the Milwaukee schools issue stands out as a very high profile defeat.
Doyle isn’t conceding, however.
Even after the Assembly adjourned the special session on the Milwaukee bill, Doyle said he still believed in the idea. He has repeatedly said if it were allowed to come up for a vote before the full Senate and Assembly, it would pass.
Doyle has stressed the need for the bill not only to increase accountability in the district that has one of the nation’s worst achievement gaps, but also to help Wisconsin secure federal education stimulus money.
The governor has said that Wisconsin’s application for those Race to the Top grants was weakened because it didn’t include the Milwaukee mayoral control proposal.
Doyle had hoped that because he wasn’t seeking a third term, some of the politics of his pushing the mayoral takeover bill would be removed. But the current mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, is running for governor as a Democrat — which has clouded the debate.
The news wasn’t all bad for Doyle this week. On the same day the Milwaukee bill lost steam, Doyle stood next to officials from President Barack Obama’s administration to announce that more than $800 million in federal money was coming to Wisconsin to build a high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison.
Doyle said the project would create 13,000 jobs, good news in a state where unemployment was 8.7 percent in December. The rail project must be approved by the Legislature’s budget-writing committee. It’s controlled by Democrats.