A Republican bill that would make it harder to recall incumbent GOP lawmakers faltered Monday in the face of opposition from a key Senate Republican.
Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, said he opposed a measure that would move up the effective date of new legislative boundaries, passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature this summer, to this November rather than November 2012.
"I'm not interested in further adding confusion by changing the rules," Schultz told the State Journal.
He said he would vote against the bill if it makes it to the floor because he believes the people who voted him into office are the ones who should decide whether he ought to be recalled.
His opposition means it's unlikely the GOP has the votes to pass the bill, which was introduced Friday by Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, and already had a public hearing Monday. The bill is scheduled for a Senate committee vote Tuesday morning.
Republicans have 17 seats in the state Senate and would need the support of all GOP senators for the proposal to pass, assuming all 16 Democrats vote against it. The GOP had a 19-14 majority in the Senate until this summer, when a wave of recall elections ousted two Republican senators from office.
Under current law, passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, the new district lines would not take effect until the 2012 general election. But state election officials say lawmakers are already representing people in districts outlined by the new boundaries, which generally favor Republican incumbents.
Lazich called the bill "necessary legislation to clear up significant issues" and confusion that have arisen since the measure was enacted.
"The recalls would be conducted in the old unconstitutional districts rather than the new districts. People would be recalling a senator who does not represent them," Lazich said. Putting the new maps in effect sooner "creates fairness for all of the people in Wisconsin."
Democrats, who have announced plans to push for recalls of more GOP senators as well as Walker, raged against the bill as a Republican power grab. Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said it and another bill introduced by Lazich — which would require people who circulate petitions to submit notarized affidavits to confirm their identities — were further "hurdles to democracy" created by Republicans to protect themselves.
"It will not stop our effort," Tate said.
Tate accused the GOP of being in the "dirty business of silencing the voice of the people" and said the notary bill was a "dangerously hasty piece of legislation."
Lazich said the notary provision will bring "a little more accountability" for signature gatherers.
Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, argued that Lazich's proposals were not rushed. He said her bill to change the date new districts go into effect was simply an idea for cleaning up the "mess" and "massive confusion" caused by Wisconsin Democrats' "never-ending election cycle."
And he accused Democrats of pushing recalls and shifting the debate away from jobs.
"The Democrats think they deserve more power than the people of Wisconsin gave them in the elections, and I get that," Fitzgerald said. "But we should all agree that getting people back to work is more important than the next round of recalls."
But during Monday's public hearing, Democratic lawmakers said it was the GOP that was abusing power.
"This to me reeks of political corruption, hackery, and power grabs," said Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee. "In the end, because the people will be confused, it's a bad bill."