The Assembly today is attempting to override Gov. Jim Doyle's veto of a bill that would strip the governor's power to appoint Department of Natural Resources secretaries.
Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, the Assembly's chief sponsor of the bill, said the veto override vote will be close and "rests in the hands of the Republicans" at this point.
"I'm much better at telling you how the Democrats are going to vote," Black said.
Democrats have long sought to strip the governor's power to appoint DNR secretaries after Tommy Thompson made the position a Cabinet post in 1995. The governor vetoed AB 138, which would have returned DNR secretary appointments to a seven-member board, in November.
The last time any veto override attempt was successful was the 1985 legislative session, when Democrat Tony Earl was governor and Democrats had the majority in the House and Senate. The last time the override of a bill vetoed in its entirety was overridden was the 1981 session.
Anne Sayers, program director of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, said the override attempt has the overwhelming support of voters who are angry that the governor blocked the bill. She predicted the vote to be very close.
"It will be close, but it will be nonpartisan," Sayers said.
But some Republicans have voiced concern about the bill's requirement that the secretary by confirmed by the Senate.
At a news conference this morning before the Assembly session, Black said he was skeptical of such reasons.
"There's an excuse an hour," he said. "It keeps changing."
Doyle spokesman Adam Collins has said a governor-appointed secretary ensures greater accountability, and that going back to the old system would harm Wisconsin's ability to create jobs.
A vetoed bill can become law despite a governor's opposition, but it requires a two-thirds vote in both houses to override the veto. In the Assembly, that would mean 66 votes in support if all 99 members are present. At least two lawmakers-reportedly one Assembly Democrat and one Republican-are absent from today's session.
Various organizations have spent nearly 3,000 hours during this session lobbying on the bill, according to a Government Accountability Board report, making it the most heavily lobbied bill of the regular session. The National Rifle Association has also weighed in on the issue, urging members to ask their Representatives not to support the override.