Gov. Evers criticizes SCOWIS decision allowing conservative DNR Board member to stay
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a conservative member of the state Department of Natural Resources policy board can remain on the panel indefinitely until the state Senate confirms their successors, Gov. Tony Evers is calling for his unconfirmed appointees to be approved.
The case centers on Fred Prehn, a Wausau dentist appointed to the DNR board in 2015 by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker. His six-year term ended May 1, 2021.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers appointed Sandra Naas to replace him, but Prehn refused to step aside.
“Today, I remind the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Republican Party of this state that we do still live in a democracy, a very basic function of which is the peaceful and respectful transfer of power, even—and most especially—when you lose,” Gov. Evers said.
The justices ruled 4-3 that gubernatorial appointees can hold their positions indefinitely until the state Senate confirms their successors. The decision means by not voting the Senate can ensure Republican appointees can hold their spots under a Democratic governor, giving the party at least partial control over executive branch functions.
According to a list provided by Gov. Evers’ Office, there are 299 positions currently among various agencies across the state that require the governor to appoint them and the state senate to confirm them. There are 172 confirmed positions and 127 appointees that are awaiting confirmation.
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Prehn has argued that the state Supreme Court ruled in 1964 that gubernatorial appointees don’t have to resign until the Senate confirms their successors. Republicans who control the Senate have refused to hold a hearing on Naas’ confirmation.
“Since becoming governor, I’ve worked to appoint experienced, hardworking Wisconsinites from every corner of our state to serve in important roles in our government—just like every governor has before me, and every governor will after me,” Evers said. “These Wisconsinites are exceptionally qualified, should be considered on their merit, and should have the opportunity to serve the people of our state, regardless of whether or not they were appointed by a Democrat or share the same ideas as Republicans in the Legislature. They should’ve been confirmed a long time ago now.”
Attorney General Josh Kaul argued that the decision takes power away from Wisconsinites.
Our system of government is premised on consent of the governed,” he said. “This decision departs from that fundamental principle and further erodes democracy in Wisconsin.”
Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu supports the high court’s decision.
“Fred Prehn will continue to serve and defend Wisconsinites from the type of overbearing DNR regulation that would otherwise be stifling our people and our economy,” he said.
LeMahieu continued, saying, “If Tony Evers had all his appointees, all his emergency orders, and all his budgets there is no doubt the state of Wisconsin would be much worse off than we are. Wisconsinites are thankful our state is not shut down, not forced to mask, or left to suffer under Tony Evers’ failed nominees like Caleb Frostman. The Legislature’s strong court victories have kept our state open and our economy on track.”
When Evers announced he had appointed Naas on April 30, 2021, he noted that she had over 30 years of experience related to conservation and was serving as an Agriculture and Natural Resources Instructor and FFA advisor at Ashland High School. She is also the owner of a environmental consulting firm in Ashland.
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