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Home / Commentary / Editorial: Three years in, and some Evers appointees remain unconfirmed

Editorial: Three years in, and some Evers appointees remain unconfirmed

Gov. Tony Evers is seeking re-election this year. In other words, we are in the fourth year of his term.

Amazingly, some of his appointees have still not been approved.

Most of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ appointees to the boards overseeing Wisconsin’s higher education systems remain unconfirmed by the Republican-controlled state Senate, a move that could allow the GOP to quickly gain control of the boards if the party wins the governor’s race in November, the Wisconsin State Journal reported earlier this month.

Five of Evers’ picks for the state technical college system board are unconfirmed, and three of them are unable to serve because appointees of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker refuse to vacate their seats, even though their terms expired last spring.

Why are they refusing? Their replacements haven’t been confirmed by the Senate.

That’s quite the vicious cycle.

And although Evers’ seven unconfirmed appointees to the UW Board of Regents have been serving without the Senate’s stamp of approval, the Republican lawmaker chairing the committee charged with confirming them recently warned that some may be in trouble.

Evers, in a statement to the State Journal, said the individuals he appointed are doing everything that’s asked of them.

“The transfer of power is a part of our democracy, and it’s breathtaking, frankly, that Republicans have decided it’s more important to play politics than confirm appointments they know are qualified, dedicated people who want to serve our state,” he said. “It’s wrong-headed, it’s clearly political, and it’s affecting the work these boards are doing every day.”

Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, who chairs the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges, said he plans to “start moving on some” of the appointees after wrapping up hearings on some bills this month. But he also entertained the possibility of continuing to deny some appointees a vote over the next year or even booting some from their posts. Senate leadership ultimately makes those decisions, he said.

Committee member Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-West Point, said refusing to approve appointees for so long shows that Republicans are more concerned about political gain than governing. “I don’t know what their plan is other than waiting out the next election cycle,” he said.

This is far from the first time that gubernatorial appointments have been bottled up by the opposing political party.

Most recently, Fred Prehn, a Wausau dentist appointed by Walker to the Natural Resources Board, has refused to step down since his term expired May 1, denying Evers’ appointee Sandra Naas a seat and maintaining a 4-3 majority for Republican appointees. Citing a 1964 Supreme Court ruling, Prehn maintains he does not have to leave until Naas is confirmed by the Senate, but Republicans have made no move to set a hearing.

Wisconsin’s Democrats don’t have clean hands in this area, either: When the party controlled the Senate in the early 2000s, it declined to act on Gov. Tommy Thompson’s nominations to the UW Board of Regents for so long that even after he left to become secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services his picks remained held up for the entirety of his Republican successor’s two-year tenure. After Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle was elected in 2002, he withdrew the Republican appointees and replaced them with his own.

We understand that there are plenty of Wisconsinites who did not vote for Evers and may not be concerned with the fact that some of his appointees remain in limbo.

As we often do in this space, we pose this question to a hypothetical Republican: How would you feel if a Republican were governor and the Democrats were doing this?

Follow-up question, for the whole class: Do elections only have consequences when “my side” wins?

We do wonder why the governor hasn’t made more of an issue of his appointees remaining in limbo.

But more importantly, we feel that elections do have consequences, or at least they should.

Whether Evers wins re-election or a Republican takes his place, we believe the person sworn in next January should have his or her appointees given a hearing and, barring evident unfitness to serve, an up-or-down vote.

If you’re elected to be chief executive, you get to put your appointees in place.

That used to be understood across the political spectrum.

– Racine Journal Times

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