Wildlife Management Institute

Conservationists Badger for Veto Veto PDF Print
Tuesday, 15 December 2009 14:21

Wisconsin conservationists are facing perhaps the toughest political battle ever presented in their 20-year push to reinstate an independent secretary to the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In the coming months, sportsmen’s groups and conservation coalitions will attempt to override Governor Jim Doyle’s recent flip-flop veto of Assembly Bill 138, which would have restored authority of the states Natural Resources Board (NBR) to appoint the DNR secretary, reports the Wildlife Management Institute.

As reported in the March ONB issue, the Wisconsin DNR secretary has been a governor-appointed cabinet position since 1995. Prior to then, the secretary was selected by the NBR, whose seven citizen members added, as Doyle stated in his political campaigns, “a layer of insulation between politics and resource decisions.” However, the re-elected governor shocked his constituency when, early this year, he recanted his support of the issue during the annual Wisconsin Conservation Lobby Day. Late last month, Doyle again surprised voters when he vetoed AB138 despite the strong bipartisan support the measure received in both the Assembly and Senate.

In response to the veto, conservationists, environmentalists, legislators and sportsmen’s groups have been voicing strong criticisms of the governor’s decision, calling it a “bitter disappointment.” “Even though the governor had stated that he no longer supported the bill, we still held out hope that it would pass, given the dedicated, bipartisan support it had from the legislature,” said Jennifer Giegerich, Capital Liaison for the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters (WLCV). According to Geigerich, the WLCV has seen an unprecedented response to Doyle’s veto: “We’ve been slammed with calls and letters from a diversity of voters.”

Backed by the WLCV and broad public support, the bill’s sponsor, Representative Spencer Black, has requested that an override vote be scheduled for the upcoming winter session of the Wisconsin Legislature. “If there’s one thing we want everyone to know regarding this bill, it’s that we are not done,” said Geigerich.

According to policy, legislators have until March 4 to override the veto by winning a two-thirds vote in both the Assembly and Senate. Previous to Doyle’s veto, AB 138 was passed one vote shy of a two-thirds majority in both houses. “We will be going back to the great activists and sportsmen’s groups that have rallied the huge general support for this bill,” said Giegerich. “They have been doing an amazing job of lining up legislators district by district for an override.”

The WLCV and other conservation groups have no illusions regarding the challenge of achieving a veto override, however. “It hasn’t happened in 25 years,” noted Giegerich. “Veto overrides are incredibly hard to do. But considering that this issue has been a 20-year fight, if ever an override could happen, it should happen now.” (mcd)