A Democratic lawmaker plans to introduce a bill next session that, if passed, would allow the public to force a referendum to repeal individual laws.
State Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, said the proposal — modeled on an Ohio law — would be a less expensive, more focused way to let the public have a say in the passage of controversial legislation.
"Right now we have a system where it is possible for special interest groups to get something passed that is not popular with the people," Berceau said. "This would be a very targeted way to address that problem."
Wisconsin law allows the recall process to target politicians but not to repeal laws. Under Berceau's proposal, the threshold for having a recall vote on a law would be the same as it is now for statewide candidates — 25 percent of the total number of people who voted in the prior gubernatorial election would have to sign a recall petition.
Berceau said adding an Ohio-style law would be cheaper because the referendum could be added to the next regularly scheduled election instead of the special elections that are usually required now. And since it would be focused on the law itself, there arguably would be more debates on the issues and fewer personal attacks.
Wisconsin's recall law was used 15 times in less than a year. The last round, which included this month's unsuccessful recall of Gov. Scott Walker, cost the state and local governments about $18 million.
Ohio used its law in November 2011 to repeal a collective bargaining law put forth by that state's new Republican Gov. John Kasich. Like in Wisconsin, Kasich's law led to a series of large protests. It was voted down in a landslide.
Opponents of the Ohio collective bargaining law needed to collect signatures from 6 percent of the total number of votes in the 2010 gubernatorial election, or 231,149 signatures. Also, the signatures had to come from at least half of the state's 88 counties.
Since Wisconsin's historic June 5 recall, there has been a lot of discussion by lawmakers on possible changes to the state's recall law. State Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has authored a bill that would change the recall law to limit its use to crimes and malfeasance, a proposal that carries weight with the GOP but is not favored by the Democrats.
Vos said he is skeptical of Berceau's bill. His bill scales back a process that he said has a lot of unintended consequences.
"Adding more forms of recall, I think, would lead to chaos," he said. "In this case, it seems like you would have groups thinking the Legislature is just the first step. They would constantly be trying to recall bills they don't like."