Wisconsin Senate: Evers' Cabinet votes scheduled

Wisconsin Capitol, Madison

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate on Friday, Sept. 24 scheduled confirmation votes next week for four of Gov. Tony Evers' Cabinet secretaries.

Confirming the governor's pick for top-level administration posts had been a pro forma courtesy that morphed into a yearslong partisan battle waged by Republicans after the Democratic Evers was elected in 2018.

Scheduled for approval on Tuesday are Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson; Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Randy Romanski; Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Secretary Missy Hughes; and Department of Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dawn Crim.

All of them won unanimous, bipartisan support in committee votes.

Not on the list is Sandra Naas, Evers' pick to replace Fred Prehn on the Natural Resources Board. Prehn, who was appointed by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker, has refused to step down until Naas is confirmed, even though his term is over.

Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit trying to force Prehn off the board, but a judge dismissed it. Kaul is appealing.

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Also not scheduled for a vote are Karen Timberlake, who is leading the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic as secretary of the Department of Health Services and Anne Pechacek, secretary of the Department of Workforce Development.

All of them have been serving in their roles. But until they are confirmed, the Senate has the power to fire them by voting against confirmation. That's what Republicans did to former agriculture Secretary Brad Pfaff, who was elected to the Senate last year after he was fired in 2019.

Evers, who made a highly unusual personal appearance in the Senate the day of that vote, later called the Senate's action "political B.S." and "amoral and stupid."

Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback said the governor was grateful the Senate was taking action on the governor's Cabinet secretaries and dozens of other appointees to a variety of lower-level boards, committees and commissions. A couple of the more prominent positions up for confirmation include Wisconsin Ethics Commission administrator Daniel Carlton and Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority executive director Joaquin Altoro.

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