The Assembly Democrats, joined by a handful of Republicans, failed to garner the 66 votes needed to override the Governor’s veto of Assembly Bill 138, which would have removed the Governor’s authority to appoint the Department of Natural Resources secretary and handed the authority to the unelected Natural Resources Board members.
The bill passed both the Senate and Assembly last year, but was subsequently vetoed by Gov. Jim Doyle. A veto override requires a two-thirds vote in both the Assembly (66) and the Senate (22). The Assembly was only able to garner 58 votes in favor of an override of the Governor’s veto.
Proponents of AB 138, which includes environmental and sportsmen groups, argued that by allowing the Natural Resources Board the authority to appoint the DNR secretary (instead of the Governor) removes the political nature of decision making within the agency.
Opponents of the bill, including Gov. Jim Doyle, current DNR Secretary Matt Frank, and business groups opposed the measure. They argued that removing the DNR secretary from a cabinet level position would leave the DNR unaccountable and would allow unelected bureaucrats to essentially run the massive state agency. Gov. Doyle in his veto message noted that the DNR Secretary is “an integral part of a Governor’s Cabinet, playing a regular and key role in interagency projects,” and that a secretary appointed by the Governor “ensures a direct line of accountability for citizens concerned about the natural resources policy” of this state.