Compact touches off round of Capitol bickering
By Stacy Forster
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Published February 15, 2008
Madison -- This legislative session has been marked by a spirit of bipartisanship that hadn't been seen in past sessions, with little rhetoric of one party blasting the other.
That changed Thursday with a fissure over the Great Lakes compact - an issue that's supposed to be bipartisan.
With word that Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch (R-West Salem) and Rep. Scott Gunderson (R-Waterford) had sent a letter to Ohio senators pledging to work on legislation to change the compact, Gov. Jim Doyle accused Assembly Republicans of trying to derail the compact.
"That's why it is especially troubling to me that Assembly Republican leaders would attempt to derail the Great Lakes Compact," Doyle said in a statement. "It's hard to believe they would prevent Waukesha County communities and businesses from ever getting any water from the Great Lakes, especially at a time when the citizens of Waukesha need a sustainable source of safe drinking water.
"It's also hard to believe Assembly Republicans would take away Wisconsin's ability to protect the Great Lakes from being drained by other states."
Huebsch and Gunderson later Thursday issued a release that charged Doyle was trying to rubber stamp a document that would put Wisconsin's economic development opportunities in jeopardy. The pair said they support a compact - just one that's "done right - not a rush-job passage of an unfinished product."
"In his State of the State speech less than a month ago, Gov. Doyle said that we need to ‘reach across the aisle, put partisanship aside, and focus on the incredible assets we have in this state,'" Huebsch said in the statement. "Today, he is doing the exact opposite by criticizing Republican efforts to improve the compact with reasonable solutions to important concerns."
Senators were just as angry as Doyle about the Assembly Republicans' action, asking why they didn't come to Wisconsin senators before approaching those from Ohio. Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar).
"Frankly, I am stunned that Speaker Huebsch thumbed his nose at the Wisconsin Senate and signed a letter to an Ohio state senator on the same day" a Wisconsin Senate committee held a hearing on the draft legislation. "His rhetoric refers to a strong compact but his actions speak of a swift public execution of our true bipartisan efforts to protect our water."
The sparring over the compact should make for some interesting developments in the remaining few weeks of the legislative session. Gunderson said Thursday there's "no way" the legislation can be done by the end of the session on March 13 because the bill is still in draft form.
But if it passes the Senate, Assembly Assistant Majority Leader Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) said he plans to force a vote on the compact in the Assembly.