Late Saturday night, I posted a blog presenting strong evidence that Foley and Lardner’s lobbyists are authoring legislation on behalf of Michael Grebe’s Greater Milwaukee Committee, and Koch Company public lobby interests. The presumed legislation would be similar to that in Michigan; as evidenced by sponsored studies and publications historically referenced by Grebe’s groups (Bradley Foundation also), and Koch-sponsored American Legislative Exchange Council “model legislation” for municipal governance(see previous posts).
On Monday, I received confirmation from an inside source at Foley and Lardner that work is being done there on Municipal Governance legislation. The source indicated that, in my sources opinion, the bill to be introduced is not as punitive as the Michigan Legislation. Rather, it focuses on “public transparency” and “fiscal stress tests” for the state to use as guidelines to gauge “open fiscal practices.” There is no plan on introducing any type of “martial law” or “punitive” statutory penalties as in the Michigan model, rather the focus is on “transparent government.” No other specifics were disclosed, but the source stated that “when the legislation is introduced,” the public will be able to debate the merits (par.). The use of “when” in that statement makes it seem imminent this bill will see the light of day.
When pressed in regard to the Public Policy study commissioned by the Greater Milwaukee Committee (previous blog), and its exploration of dismantling Milwaukee County Government, my source stated “people have backed away” from that type of action. It was confirmed, however, that the influence of this group remains. Note the language of “stress test,” and “transparency in municipal government” aligns verbatim with GMC study language.
In confirming this activity, it leads to the question of accountability which now begins. There is no stopping the lawyer/lobbyist from drafting such a bill on behalf of the group(s) who sign the paycheck. There is, however, a constitution that guarantees free, open, and honest debate over these “private interest” corporate pieces of legislation. Although I was encouraged the suggested language in this bill-soon-to-appear is less authoritarian than first presumed; I feel we must be more vigilant during its introduction. Now is the time for pre-emptive publicity and making our thoughts known on this topic – lest it be introduced and passed in 7.5 minutes in the dead of night; with amendments making it every bit as authoritarian as the Michigan Legislation. There are already laws requiring fiscal responsibility in Wisconsin, and municipalities ELECT officials to do just that. This legislation referenced here continues the overwhelming power consolidation to the Governor’s Office, and his Secretaries. It is ironic that the so-called party of “less government” is imposing itself so greatly on municipalities. It will become nearly impossible for cities and counties to manage their financial houses; with state funds depleted and soon-to-be “stress tests” from the state…what happens when a city fails a stress test? Allow me to speculate. Just as with Public Schools, Governor Walker will have private companies and agencies waiting in the wings to step in and fill the “management gap” – just as in the case of his Charter School proposals. Again, just speculation. But if there is a test which one can fail – there must be consequences. What those consequences are remains to be seen, but we better have a long, hard look at any such state infringement on municipalities that constitutionally elect their leaders.
Stay vigilant, stay informed, and keep on – one day longer. As John Nichols referenced Thomas Paine recently…we must be “winter patriots.”