As the Assembly and Senate gear up to vote on overriding Doyle’s veto of a bill that will return the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources to a board (rather than being appointed by the guv), you’ve got to wonder what different forces are shaping this bizarre political debate.
On one side you’ve got the conservationists and most Democratic legislators (list of co-sponsors). On the other side you’ve got business groups, most Republicans and Doyle. As this Journal Sentinel article details, Doyle considers himself an environmentalist and boasts leadership on a number of environmental issues, including the tenuous climate change bill, but he apparently considers the political appointment of the DNR secretary so important that he switched his position on it last year.
He’s the outgoing governor. It really doesn’t benefit him anymore. Or does it? From whence did this flip-flop come? A political feud? A favor to a certain interest? An honest intellectual change of opinion (they’re rare but they do exist)?
The Republican position is a little easier to explain, but it’s nevertheless a meaningless political issue to them. They’re not going to score a lot of political points by bolstering the position of the unpopular Democratic governor. They’ll probably just do what the business interests tell them is best. The irony is that WMC and co. are coming out and saying “governors should have more direct oversight of the DNR” in justifying their position. What that really means is that some governors are anti-environment, and all governors are more open to political pressure (campaign contributions), which means that the bureaucrats they appoint will be less interested in doing their jobs than in doing what’s politically popular.
Therefore, I support the board-appointed DNR secretary for the exact opposite reason. Because I see the environment as perpetually threatened, and because I see the public as underestimating that threat, I would prefer a committee of professionals play a larger role in environmental and land-use policy in the state. If politicians wish to tinker with day-to-day policy, it’s a little bit harder.