Fifty Three to Fifty Six: Ethics Reform Agreement

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ethics Reform Agreement

From Governor's Office 12/14/06

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today joined with Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch (R-West Salem), Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson (D-Beloit), Assembly Minority Leader Jim Kreuser (DKenosha), Assembly Majority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon), Representative Mark Pocan (DMadison), and Representative Mark Gundrum (R-New Berlin) to announce an agreement to pass major, bipartisan ethics reform early in 2007.

“This agreement is not only a major breakthrough on significant ethics and elections reform, it’s a very hopeful sign that Republicans and Democrats can work together,” Governor Doyle said.

“This reform is strong, far reaching, and most importantly, bipartisan. It is a great step forward for Wisconsin, and I look forward to signing it into law.”

“The public has demanded that Republicans and Democrats work together and we have done that with a fair, bi-partisan solution to restore integrity to our political process,” Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch said.

“These reforms are a good first step toward reaffirming the public’s trust in the integrity of this great institution,” Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson said.

“This legislation creates a strong, independent body that will aggressively address ethical issues,
and help restore the public’s confidence in their government,” Representative Mark Gundrum said.

"This reform measure provides the elements we need to ensure clean government in Wisconsin, as well as strengthens some aspects of previous proposals,” Representative Mark Pocan said.

“This is clearly a victory for good government in our state."

“The autonomy and strength of the new board is a welcome change,” Assembly Majority Leader
Jeff Fitzgerald said. “Clear guidelines and independent rulings will certainly lead to stability in the process where the goal is to prevent violations in the first place.”

“The people of Wisconsin have made their voice heard on this issue – they want change, they want reform. Today we are standing together and saying in unison that we hear them and we are ready to act. I’m proud of the work we’ve done and the bill we’ve created. I hope this is only the first of many cooperative, bipartisan efforts that we’ll be announcing over the next two years.” Representative Jim Kreuser said.

Under this agreement:

􀂾 The State Elections Board and the State Ethics Board will be merged to create an independent non-partisan Government Accountability Board, free from political appointees. Instead of the members being selected by politicians and political parties, a panel of Court of Appeals judges will select a pool of retired judges. The Governor will make appointments from that list and be confirmed by the Legislature.

􀂾 The Board will be given the necessary resources to conduct any investigations it authorizes. The board will not need approval from the Legislature or the Governor to proceed with any investigation it authorizes.

􀂾 The Board will have the authority to investigate criminal and civil matters. The board will be able to prosecute a civil matter itself while criminal matters it investigates can be referred to a District Attorney for prosecution.

􀂾 The Board will be empowered to review existing Ethics and Election Board rulings and opinions in order to provide clear, consistent guidelines. The Board’s mandate will be to ensure the effectiveness and independence of our ethics rules and election practices.

􀂾 The Board will oversee both a Division of Ethics and Integrity and a Division of Elections, with campaign finance matters now being handled by the Division of Ethics and Integrity. The staff of the Division of Elections will now be able to focus exclusively on managing, monitoring and administering elections, while campaign finance and ethics matters will be handled together. Right now, campaign finance issues are handled by the State Elections Board while ethics matters are handled by the Ethics Board.

􀂾 Governor Doyle will call a Special Session for January for the Legislature to act on the bill. The Legislature will hold hearings on the bill and will vote in January.


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