Thursday, March 13, 2008

Reasons Why

There are many, many reasons why certain state politicians can go frak themselves, but today I'm going to focus on the two that are currently driving me up the wall:

With the current legislative session ending this week, the Senate and Assembly had quite a few pressing issues to deal with; state budget shortfalls, the proposed statewide smoking ban, and ratification of the Great Lakes Compact. While the Assembly found time to vote through a budget measure that cuts $250 million from various services, and a bill (that will thankfully never see the light of day) to make English the official state language, they couldn't be arsed to pass the long suffering Great Lakes Compact. The GLC has already been ratified by three states, and passed through one or both houses in the other four.

Even though they've had years to look over the bill, some Assembly Republicans are crying about how it's moving "too fast" and they haven't had enough time to look over it. They're also kicking and screaming about a provision in the bill that would allow a single governor from one of the states in the compact to veto water diversion requests from communities inside the Great Lakes basin. What these folks don't seem to be able to wrap their heads around, though, is the fact that this provision provides tougher standards for said vetoes, and actually improves the chances of cities like Waukesha for having their requests granted.

Supporters of the bill as it is currently written point to Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, R-New Salem, and Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, as the main forces holding up the compact.

The lawmakers' two main concerns are the provision that one Great Lakes governor would have the ability to veto any water withdrawals requested by communities in any other Great Lakes state; and that the compact would in some way endanger the state's Public Trust Doctrine with regard to the use of wells.

Rep. Gary Sherman, D-Port Wing, pointed out that Wisconsin is different from the four Great Lakes states to ratify the compact so far, because Wisconsin has also included language on how it would be implemented.

The single-governor veto was included in the language of the original compact, signed by the eight Great Lakes governors in December 2005, and attempting to change any of the original language would mean all of the states — including the three that have already ratified the compact — to start all over again, Sherman said.

"Attempting to change the language of the actual compact itself through our ratification document ... it's not a non-starter because we're being politically stubborn; it's a non-starter because it's not an option," he said.


Jauch said those attempting to change the single-governor veto provision — whom he has dubbed the "flat earth society" — don't realize that the compact actually improves the chances of cities like Waukesha, New Berlin and Kenosha to be granted withdrawal requests.

Diversion requests are currently handled through the federal Water Resources Development Act. Through that law, Great Lakes governors can veto any diversion request for any reason, whether it's based on sound science or not.

Where the compact differs, Jauch said, is that it establishes science-based standards for withdrawals and conservation principles by which communities can defend their requests — putting the burden of proof on other states that may claim a request would be harmful.

Even the mayor of Waukesha supports the compact, as do a whole slew of business and community organizations around the state. For some bizarre reason, it seems that only the Assembly Republicans have a problem with the bill. There's absolutely no sense to their opposition, but there it is, causing problems for us all. "So what's new?" we ask.

As for the Senate, the always delightful Russ Decker (D-Weston) has succeeded in blocking the Breath Free Wisconsin Act from even receiving a vote during the current session. Even Decker's hometown chamber of commerce voted not to back his compromised version of the bill, so maybe he was feeling too stung by the rejection to allow for anything like an actual vote to happen.

Short-sighted douchebaggery apparently knows no bounds in terms of party affiliation.

Now we'll have to wait several months before helpful, necessary and healthy legislation like the compact and the smoking ban will even see a vote, and then yet more time before they go into effect. I think the message these obstructionist legislators are sending us all is loud and clear: it's time to issue some pink slips.

1 comment:

John A said...

Incidentally, while they weren't voting on these other important bits of legislature you mention, at least we can all breathe a sigh of relief that we now have a state tartan.

Way to prioritize.

The Lost Albatross