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Gov. Scott Walker addressed reporters after his Business Day speech Wednesday.

A Wisconsin lawmaker could not serve simultaneously as a county executive under a bill signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker on Monday.

That measure was among 46 bills signed in private by the governor at the state Capitol. 

"Bill or no bill ... even if it's not a law that says this, I know having been a county executive, there's no way you can effectively be a county executive and hold another elected position for any period of time and do it successfully," Walker said last week when asked about the proposal. "There's too much involved with it."

Walker said serving as county executive is a full-time position that requires "all of your time and your interest."

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, introduced the bill in response to the candidacy of Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, a Democrat who is running to fill the seat being vacated by Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac.

Fitzgerald said Harris's candidacy raises questions about whether an elected official should be able to draw two taxpayer-funded salaries at once. He also argued serving in both positions could result in a conflict of interest when the state takes up county-related business.

He acknowledged there is a "political piece" to the proposal.

During Assembly debate on the bill, Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, delivered a passionate defense of Harris, who has served as county executive in Hintz's Assembly district since 2005.

Hintz said Harris is "exactly the type of person that we should have in the state Senate," touting his accomplishments in Winnebago County. He accused Republicans of changing the rules whenever they don't like something, and pleaded with his Republican colleagues not to "do Sen. Fitzgerald's work."

Hintz said Harris would simply look to finish his term as county executive if elected to the Senate.

Democrats say the bill is a cheap shot, noting that Republican former Sen. Paul Farrow of Pewaukee served as a legislator when he was elected Waukesha County executive in April 2015. He resigned his Senate seat about three months after being elected to the county executive post.

The bill does not preclude a county executive from running for a seat in the Legislature; it only says he or she cannot hold both posts at once.

Harris, upon passage of the bill, said he is "undeterred."

"This bill is a sign of the misplaced priorities of Republican leaders," Harris said in a statement. "I'm running for State Senate because Wisconsin deserves better ... I have faith that voters will see these tactics for what they are and will support my effort to restore commonsense to the State Capitol."

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.

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