Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald makes a point on the floor of the state Assembly. He should stop whining about the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board and respect the difficult work it’s striving to do during chaotic political times.  

Every competitive sports team seems to have at least one player who constantly whines about the referee, rather than focusing on his or her own performance.

That's who Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, is starting to resemble at the state Capitol. He regularly and predictably grouses about calls made by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board — unless, of course, the calls go his way. 

And now the speaker is even suggesting that the nonpartisan GAB be replaced by partisan hacks — Wisconsin's old system of election oversight that was terribly dysfunctional.

Maybe Fitzgerald is just "working" the referees, as players and coaches often do in sports, hoping to affect subsequent calls. We sure hope Fitzgerald isn't seriously trying to send Wisconsin's neutral GAB to the locker room based on one or two allegedly blown calls. 

It's bad enough that Wisconsin is being subjected to incessant recall elections. Now Fitzgerald wants to recall the referees who are sincerely and carefully trying to ensure fair play in Wisconsin's fierce game of politics.

The GAB is a panel of six retired judges with staggered, six-year terms who are required to be nonpartisan. They can't be politically active or have recent histories of partisan advocacy. 

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Virtually every state lawmaker from both major political parties — including Fitzgerald — voted to create the nonpartisan GAB years ago to replace the weak state Ethics Board and the hyper-partisan Elections Board.

The modern GAB has sometimes disappointed the Democrats, and other times upset the Republicans. That's how it goes when tough calls have to be made.

But blaming the referee is a lame strategy for politicians as much as it is for coaches and athletes. 

The State Journal editorial board hasn't agreed with every GAB decision. And the governor is now challenging the GAB in court over its interpretation of state law. 

But getting rid of the GAB is an entirely different matter — one the Legislature and public should reject. 

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

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