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Since Evers took office in January 2019, he has been stymied by the GOP-controlled Legislature on many fronts.
The Legislature has delayed action on a large range or appointees.
These include the Department of Transportation and Department of Workforce Development.
The non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau puts the number awaiting action as of Sept. 10, 2021 at 163.
The political uproar over the state Natural Resources Board chairman who has refused to vacate his seat after his term expired in May has generated headlines as well as legal action.
Frederick Prehn was appointed to the board in May 2015 by former Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican. Prehn’s refusal to step down -- coupled with the GOP-controlled Senate refusing to consider a replacement -- has effectively blocked an appointee of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers from assuming the seat.
It is against this backdrop that Democratic lawmakers have railed against GOP inaction on Evers’ appointees.
"We have a GOP-controlled legislature that is so power-hungry they are allowing the head of the Natural Resources Board to serve months after his term expired, and are refusing to vote on seating his replacement," state Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, tweeted on Sept. 10, 2021. "In fact, they've refused to act on at least 150 Evers appointees."
Senate Republicans plan to take action Sept. 28, 2021 on two of Evers' cabinet appointees who have been waiting for a confirmation vote for nearly three years. The two, Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson and Dawn Crim, who leads the Department of Safety and Professional Services, are part of a slate of 39 appointments Senate leaders plan to put to a vote on Tuesday when the Legislature convenes both houses.
The Natural Resources Board dustup has been well documented, with the latest development coming Sept. 17, 2021 when a Dane County judge dismissed an attempt by Attorney General Josh Kaul to remove Prehn from the Natural Resources Board.
But what about the second part of Larson’s statement? We’re well past the half-way mark of Evers’ term. Has the GOP-controlled Legislature has refused to act on at least 150 appointees?
When asked for backup, Larson’s staff sent PolitiFact Wisconsin a list of appointments that had yet to be confirmed as of August 19, 2021. At that time, the list was 157 names long.
Britt Cudaback, the governor’s communications director, provided the same list, and noted that many are high profile or cabinet-level positions. A selection includes:
Joaquin Altoro, Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority executive director
Dawn Crim, Department of Safety and Professional Services secretary
Missy Hughes, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation secretary and CEO
Amy Pechacek, Department of Workforce Development secretary
Randy Romanski, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection secretary
Craig Thompson, Wisconsin Department of Transportation secretary
Karen Timberlake, Department of Health Services secretary
Hector Colón, UW System Board of Regents
John Tate II, Parole Commission chair
Of course, the list also includes Sandra Dee Naas, the pick by Evers for the Natural Resources Board. The rest of the no-action list include appointees to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, Public Service Commission and a host of other boards, bodies and positions.
We checked with the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau, which as of Sept. 10, 2021, showed 163 appointments awaiting confirmation -- more even than Larson cited. The bureau told us it does not track statistics that would allow a comparison of the state of Evers’ appointees to other first-term governors.
To be sure, in many cases the Evers appointees are functioning in their roles. For instance, department heads are in place and have the word "acting" or "interim" as part of their titles.
And Republicans have acted on many Evers 2021 appointments. The list of Evers’ 2021 appointees contains about 250 names.
Republicans in the Senate have held off on confirming some Evers' appointments, in some cases creating political leverage because once cabinet secretaries are confirmed they cannot be removed by the Legislature.
Democratic State Sens. Tim Carpenter and Lena Taylor of Milwaukee and Janis Ringhand of Evansville have introduced a measure that would set deadlines for the Senate to act on nominations.
A memo from the lawmakers, dated Sept. 8, 2021, notes: "Of the appointments made by Governor Evers since January of 2019, more than 150 are still awaiting senate confirmation. Of those, 104 of them have waited longer than 100 days without confirmation. Several have not received confirmation since January 25th, 2019 — 957 days later."
It calls the lack of action "a dereliction" of duties, and argues 100 days is "more than enough time" to consider and vote on appointments.
An analysis from Legislative Reference Bureau said current Senate rules require that nominations be referred to "the standing committee that the (Senate) president considers the most appropriate committee to pass upon the qualifications of the candidate" and that the committee "must report its findings and recommendations to the Senate in writing."
But no deadlines are specified.
The proposal from the Democrats says an appointment must be referred to committee within 10 days, the committee must act within another 50 days, and the Senate must consider the matter within 40 days after that.
Larson’s office said if the Senate doesn’t act, nothing will happen. Since it’s unclear in statute if the Legislature has any authority over Senate rules, the change Carpenter and others are proposing is simply a change in Senate rules, not state statute. So, the majority party, even if the rule change was passed, would still have control over what happens if Senate rules are violated.
Larson said the GOP-controlled Legislature has "refused to act on at least 150" appointees from Evers.
He provided a list with 157 names. The Legislative Reference Bureau said a more updated tally put the number at 163.
For a statement that is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing our rating is True.
Twitter, Sen. Chris Larson, Sept. 10, 2021
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Dane County judge dismisses Attorney General's lawsuit aiming to unseat embattled Natural Resources Board chair Prehn," Sept. 17, 2021.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Senate to take action on Evers appointments, some waiting for years," Sept. 24, 2021.
Email. Justin Bielinski, Sen. Larson’s communications director, Sept. 14, 2021
Email, Britt Cudaback, Gov. Tony Evers’ communications director, Sept. 14, 2021.
Email, Legislative Reference Bureau, Sept. 20, 2021.
Wisconsin State Legislature 2021 Executive Appointments.
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