By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — An obscure Wisconsin board voted this week to lift a ban that had prevented employees from working on climate-change matters on state time, a prohibition Republicans put in place specifically in response to policies favored by the executive director of the board, the daughter of the Earth Day founder, Gaylord Nelson.
Driven by concerns from two Republican office holders, the state Board of Commissioners of Public Lands instituted the ban in 2015. Newly elected Democrats who replaced them on the board last month joined Secretary of State Doug La Follette on Monday in unanimously reversing the ban.
Not taking climate change into consideration is “completely reckless,” said Sarah Godlewski, board chairwoman and state Treasurer, on Friday. She, La Follette and Attorney General Josh Kaul, all three Democrats, voted to overturn the ban, which applied to work done by the board’s nine employees.
The board provides money from a $1.2 billion endowment fund for school libraries and makes loans to municipalities and school districts. It also manages 77,000 acres of timber land.
Godlewski said the climate-change ban was making it hard for them to make sound decisions about state lands. Removing it is about fulfilling a responsibility to manage state assets properly, Godlewski said.
The ban was put in place when the board’s executive director was Tia Nelson, the daughter of the late Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. senator from Wisconsin who started Earth Day. Tia Nelson left the job three months after the ban was enacted.
The Republicans on the board who had voted for the ban in 2015 were then-Attorney General Brad Schimel and Treasurer Matt Adamcyzk. Kaul defeated Schimel. Adamcyzk ran for the state Assembly rather than seek re-election as treasurer and was defeated.
Adamcyzk proposed the ban in 2015, saying then that he was upset that Nelson had worked on global warming on board time. She was the co-chairwoman of a global-warming task force set up by then-Gov. Jim Doyle in 2007. In 2015, though, she said she had done no work on climate change since that group had disbanded in 2008.
Adamcyzk said in defense of the ban that global warming had nothing to do with the board’s mission.
Last year, investment income provided $35.7 million to school libraries throughout Wisconsin. The board also loans municipalities and school districts money for public projects. In addition to repealing the global warming ban, the board voted to accept applications from school districts looking to finance energy-efficiency projects.