I ran into Jonathan Gramling, the editor and publisher of The Capital City Hues and one of Madison's best-known journalists, at the Cargo Coffee Shop on South Park Street the other morning.
Jon knows more about the city, its politics and Madison's black and brown communities than anyone I know. He has spent a lifetime documenting events and stories that don't get a lot of coverage from the mainstream. His little paper is chock full of news and interviews, along with some timely entertainment features, including coverage of the jazz scene in town.
Our attention this week, though, was on the Wisconsin state Senate.
"You know," he told me. "I think the Republican senators are confused. They've forgotten that they're legislators and have come to believe that they're actually the executive branch of state government."
He was referring Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and the Republican caucus that has been sitting on most of Gov. Tony Evers' appointments for nearly a year now. The Republican senators voted in lock-step a few weeks ago to refuse to confirm Evers' pick of Brad Pfaff as agriculture secretary, and is hinting it will do likewise with others, including Dawn Crim, the secretary-designee of the Department of Safety and Professional Services and an African-American woman with impeccable credentials. The GOP is hinting that she isn't making decisions in a timely manner.
The senators apparently believe it is their duty to give the appointments "tryouts" before OKing the governor's choices, allowing them to serve for months and then deciding whether they do the job to the Republicans' liking.
"Seems to me that's the governor's job," Gramling said.
Ah, yes, it is. But, these are different birds in the state Senate these days. They firmly believe that no matter how the state has voted, including selecting a Democratic governor, they're in control not just of the Senate, but of everything.
That's why they and their cohort in the Assembly held a lame-duck session last December to make sure Evers didn't possess the same powers as their guy, the defeated Scott Walker. It's also why they think it's cute to answer a governor's call to hold a special session and then adjourn it in less than a minute.
And it's why Fitzgerald believes it's in the people's interest to refuse to confirm cabinet picks and threaten to fire them unless they walk a carefully defined line set by the Republicans.
Yes, Jon Gramling is right. These professional politicians are confused.
They're also throwing sand into the gears of what used to be a clean and honorable Wisconsin government.
But, these guys wouldn't know what clean and honorable means.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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