Back from the Campaign Trail, Legislation Takes Priority

Governor Walker is back from the campaign trail after spending just 70 days running for president, and while some thought he might take a break and catch his breath after his whirlwind candidacy, he has done quite the opposite.

Governor Walker immediately started reconnecting with Wisconsinites with visits across the state and wasted no time jumping back into policy debates by calling for civil service reforms. The proposed legislation reforms how state employees are hired and fired, replaces the civil service test, changes probationary periods, and changes how layoffs are administered. The governor is pushing his legislative agenda fast – the civil service legislation was only introduced this week and hearings are already scheduled for October 6.

As to his future electoral ambitions, Governor Walker will almost certainly be leading Wisconsin until 2018. When asked about taking a cabinet position if the next president is a Republican, the governor said, “I’m not aiming for some Cabinet position. I’m really just focused on being governor.” And when questioned about joining a campaign down the line as a running mate, Walker called the chance of that happening a “one in a million shot”.

As to his plans for reelection, it’s too soon to tell. Former Governor Tommy Thompson, who was elected to four terms as Wisconsin’s governor, doesn’t think Walker will seek a third term. And if Governor Walker did want to seek a third term, he’s got some work to do. The Marquette University Law School Poll announced this week the governor’s approval rating has dropped drastically – just 37% of those polled approved, while 59% disapproved. However, Governor Walker has three years before election day (the longest campaign break he’s had in five years), and as he told reporters this past week, “I’ve got three more years left and plenty of things to do.”

The long battle over the 2015-2017 state budget burned many legislators out, but after a summer break it seems the legislating juices are flowing again as a slew of bills have started to make their way through the process. Civil service legislation is just one reform being moved quickly as the legislature and the Governor seem to be on the same page in regard to aggressive changes to the Government Accountability Board, John Doe investigations and campaign finance regulations. Pursuance of those headline grabbing reforms along with a focus on abortion related bills has some skeptics wondering if they’ve mistakenly marginalized policy related to jobs and the economy as they head into what could be a competitive election year.

The current session has available floor periods through April, but legislative leadership is hoping to wrap up sooner, as early as February, in order to get legislators back into their districts sooner so they can start preparing for November of 2016.