The Natural Resources Board no longer had a quorum to meet. Two former legislators are among those fired. A domestic abuse survivor is dropped from a board because a senator didn’t like her tweets and asked if she was emotional and hated men.
Senate Republicans engaged in an unprecedented political massacre on Tuesday, rejecting a slew of Gov. Tony Evers’ appointments, including a former legislator dumped from the Wisconsin Elections Commission, most of the state Natural Resources Board, a former legislator fired from the Medical Examining Board, and a former Evers aide and domestic abuse survivor fired from the governor’s Council on Domestic Abuse after a state senator criticized her tweets.
In Wisconsin, governor’s appointees begin serving in positions even before Senate confirmation and there is no deadline for senators to confirm or reject a nomination. But if the Senate were to hold a vote and reject a nomination—even years after the initial appointment—that person is essentially fired. Taking such blatantly partisan action was unheard of before Senate Republicans targeted some of Evers’ nominees, starting with former state agriculture secretary (and now state Senator) Brad Pfaff in 2019.
In rejecting more than half of Evers’ appointees to the state Natural Resources Board, the Senate had rendered it unable to meet or act until the governor names new members—something the governor said he would do immediately. Evers called the move “insanity.”
“These are all good people,” said Evers. “They’re all strong supporters of the Wisconsin Idea. They’re completely appropriate people to serve in those positions. This is a democracy issue.”
Republicans removed Joe Czarnezki from the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC). A former state senator, Assembly representative, and Milwaukee County Clerk, Czarnezki ran afoul of Republicans by standing up for WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe when Senate Republicans tried recently to fire her.
Wolfe has been consistently targeted by 2020 election conspiracy theorists despite no evidence of any wrongdoing or fraud. Lawmakers were forced to admit in a court filing last week that they knew they had no actual authority to fire Wolfe when they took the vote. Evers quickly appointed former Eau Claire city clerk Carrie Riepl to Czarnezki’s seat in order to maintain the WEC’s 3-3 partisan balance.
Former Evers aide and spokesperson Melissa Baldauff, a domestic abuse survivor from a previous marriage, was fired from the Governor’s Council on Domestic Abuse, where she served as co-chair. Baldauff told UpNorthNews it was because of “mean tweets,” according to Sen. Jesse James, a former Altoona police chief who chaired the committee that heard her nomination earlier.
“He had a stack of my tweets printed out,” Baldauff said of James about the hearing. “He told me he had some concerns about them. He asked me if I hated all men. He asked me if I felt I was emotional when I made my tweets.”
Another former legislator, Dr. Sheldon Wasserman, was dumped from his post as chair of the state Medical Examining Board because of his support for women’s abortion rights.
Republicans also fired Jerry Halverson from a board that hears challenges to decisions on where to build livestock facilities because of opposition by business groups.
Republicans continue to sit on more than 100 of Evers appointments. Many appointments languished throughout his entire first four years in office.
“The rejection of these appointments is unprecedented,” said Sen. Melissa Agard, Democratic Leader. “Since 1981, the State Senate has only rejected five executive appointments. The GOP is becoming increasingly extreme and their inability to carry out this basic responsibility highlights their continued dysfunction within their party and inability to govern. Legislative Republicans in Wisconsin are mirroring the chaos of their congressional counterparts. This is alarming.”
Legislators Block UW Pay Raises, Reject Helping Childcare Providers
The firings came on the same day the Senate replaced Evers’ entire special session bill on workforce development with an income tax cut geared toward higher incomes. Republicans rejected the centerpiece of the bill: continuing to fund a childcare support program to keep providers from going out of business. Evers announced Monday an alternative method to fund the program for another 18 months.
GOP lawmakers this week also voted to continue blocking pay raises for 36,000 University of Wisconsin System employees—holding the increases hostage until the UW gets rid of positions and offices that encourage racial diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Also in the UW System: After years of hostile state budgets, UW-Oshkosh announced it would lay off one-sixth of its workforce, 140 positions plus 110 others being eliminated through attrition. And the System announced that in-person instruction will end after this school year at campuses in West Bend and Fond du Lac.
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