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Vote today in Assembly to override Doyle's veto of DNR Secretary bill

MADISON - The vote could be close today when the Wisconsin Assembly decides who should appoint the leader of one of the state's most powerful agencies. The Assembly will decide whether to over-ride Governor Jim Doyle's veto of the bill that takes away the governor's power to appoint the Natural Resources secretary.

Conservation groups say hunting, fishing, and environmental decisions have been based on big-money politics ever since Tommy Thompson took the appointment power away from the Natural Resources Board in 1995. And they say the secretaries are more likely to be attorneys than those with a love for nature. But those favoring the status quo say the DNR secretary would accountable to no one if the veto is overridden.

The governor appoints the Natural Resources Board. And Paul Zimmerman of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation says it could take up to two-and-a-half years for a new governor to name board members from the same party. And in the meantime, Zimmerman says there would be more partisan bickering and gridlock. But the state's other large farm group, the Farmers' Union, supports having a secretary that's separated from politics. Group president Dennis Von Ruden says it would make the DNR secretary accountable to what he called "grass-roots citizens committee members."