Last week, members of the Wisconsin State Senate used their constitutionally granted authority for advise and consent and rejected the appointment of Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Brad Pfaff.
Without the confirmation vote, Pfaff was effectively fired as secretary. That angered Democrats.
“One of Wisconsin’s largest and most important industries is in crisis, and we need a leader with the experience and qualifications to lead DATCP and help farmers. Brad Pfaff has the know-how and commitment to Wisconsin’s farms that we need,” state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, said in her post-vote statement. “Yet Senate Republicans have turned this into a partisan fight.”
State Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, also poured gasoline on the partisan fire. “Brad Pfaff’s great sin was speaking the uncomfortable truth to Republicans in power,” Larson said. “The message sent by Senate Republicans is chilling: dissent won’t be allowed.”
But by making their statements, it sounds like Democrats are not tolerating dissent.
Even Democrat Gov. Tony Evers wanted to make it about partisan politics. Evers lost his temper and uttered a very un-governorly expletive when he said appointees would have to watch what they say for four years, calling it “political bull--it.”
Pfaff’s fate was sealed when he not only went up against the State Senate to get $200,000 for suicide prevention among farmers, but also in changing rules for livestock operators in Wisconsin.
The rules would grant government more power to regulate farm smells and farm expansion -- two things that will do more to kill farming in Wisconsin than anything Pfaff could put in place.
It sends a message to rural Wisconsin that the farm economy need not bother with expansion, too -- which flies directly in face of the expansion of farm table dinners and buying food from local vendors and farmers.
That was not lost on State Senator Steve Nass of Whitewater.
“Mr. Pfaff has been more than willing to side with bureaucrats on the isthmus of Madison against the interests of Wisconsin’s $104 billion agriculture industry,” Nass said. “He had plenty of time to advocate for farmers, but at almost every instance he sided with the anti-farming policies being advanced by the extremists calling Wisconsin farmers polluters.”
Any DATCP secretary hoping to gain appointment should realize that if Nass notices actions and statements contrary to the interests of farmers, the appointment is certainly in jeopardy.
Whether Evers is just now realizing that his appointees are going to need to pass muster in front of a State Senate controlled by a different party, or he just thinks his appointees should be blindly approved for appointment, the governor needs to learn quickly.
There’s whispers around the halls of the State Capitol that Tourism Secretary Sara Meaney could be the next one to be “fired” when her appointment is rejected.
Remember, Republicans wanted previous secretary Stephanie Klett to remain.
Regardless of whether the governor likes it, the State Senate is doing its job if it rejects secretary appointments.
It’s up to the governor to submit applicants acceptable to the Senate if he wants them appointed.