A Wisconsin lawmaker could not serve simultaneously as a county executive under a bill that cleared the Assembly early Friday morning.
The measure, which cleared the Senate on Tuesday, now heads to Gov. Scott Walker for his approval. It was passed on a 53-40 vote just after midnight.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, introduced the proposal 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.
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.
Both Hintz and Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, who represent districts in Winnebago County, voted against the bill. Schraa tweeted that the proposal demonstrated "petty politics."
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, argued the bill doesn't do anything unusual, noting that state statute already bars several similar arrangements. For instance, a county sheriff cannot simultaneously serve in the Legislature.
"I've never met Mayor Harris, I don’t know if he’s good or bad," Vos said. "I don’t know who he is."
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.