Wisconsin Public Radio

Fitzgerald Says Legislators Plays ‘Goalie” With Evers

Few bills getting passed, most of Evers' cabinet picks still not approved by Senate.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Oct 25th, 2019 10:48 am
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Senate Majority Leader Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, is seen after Gov. Tony Evers' first State of the State address in Madison, Wisconsin, at the state Capitol building on Jan. 22, 2019. Photo by Emily Hamer/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, is seen after Gov. Tony Evers’ first State of the State address in Madison, Wisconsin, at the state Capitol building on Jan. 22, 2019. Photo by Emily Hamer/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

A top Republican legislative leader said Thursday a chilly relationship between Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the state Legislature means few bills are likely to make it to the governor’s desk this fall.

Speaking at a WisPolitics event in Madison, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he believes it’s the GOP-controlled Legislature’s job to “play goalie” with the governor.

Evers has only signed 19 bills into law since taking office in January. For comparison, former Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican who also had a GOP majority in the Legislature, had signed 45 bills into law by this time in his first term.

Fitzgerald blamed the lack of action on Evers’ office.

“It’s up to the governor,” he said. “I’m not finger-pointing, I’m just saying I think it’s up to the governor to come to us with what might be ideas he thinks could garner some bipartisan support. It hasn’t materialized up until this point.”

Most recently, the governor has pushed for legislation to change gun laws in Wisconsin. He points to public polling that says those proposals have broad, bipartisan support.

“There’s no overtures being made, and if they are being made, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of follow through,” Fitzgerald said. “It puts us in a position where we continue to kind of back up and say, ‘What are we going to try and accomplish’ and are we going to be able to cut a deal on whatever it may be. It just doesn’t feel like it. It doesn’t feel like it’s going to happen.”

“We’ve kind of gone to our own corners,” he said.

Democratic lawmakers have accused Republicans of “slow walking” the legislative session to lessen the number of things Evers can say he has accomplished in office.

Fitzgerald also said some of Evers’ Cabinet picks might never get a confirmation vote by the state Senate. The senator said it took some members of his caucus a while to come around to voting on any of the governor’s picks. He blamed that on a rocky relationship between Republicans and the Democratic governor.

“It was such a rocky start on the way this all came together, it kind of set the tempo for us,” he said. “Obviously, the lawsuits around the extraordinary session that happened in December was pretty rocky, so it took awhile for the caucus to get into a frame of mind where they would even consider taking up some of the Cabinet members.”

Now, he said, senators are working through vetting Evers’ choices.

“I think the senators take the job seriously,” Fitzgerald said. “They’re not just going to vote on confirmation for somebody because the governor puts them up.”

So far, five of the governor’s Cabinet members have been confirmed. The remaining 11 Cabinet members can still continue in their jobs without confirmation unless the Senate votes to fire them.

“I could envision a place where there’s people who are never confirmed,” Fitzgerald said.

Listen to the WPR report here.

GOP Leader: Legislature ‘Playing Goalie’ With Democratic Gov. Tony Evers was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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