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Public hearing seeks to get politics out of DNR issues

A public hearing will be held tomorrow on the latest effort to get politics out of hunting, fishing, and environmental issues.

An Assembly committee will hear testimony on a bill to let the Natural Resources Board appoint the Department of Natural Resources secretary instead of the governor.

That's the way it was until 1995, when former Gov. Tommy Thompson grabbed the appointment power.

Democrats have tried ever since to change it back.

Former DNR secretary George Meyer says the agency's top administrators are not as experienced in outdoor matters.

He says very few top DNR administrators are deer hunters and maybe that's why the controversial "Earn-a-Buck" program to reduce the deer population hung on for too long.

It was recently scaled back after years of complaints from hunters.

The last two DNR secretaries, Scott Hassett and current leader Matt Frank, are both attorneys.

Meyer says too many DNR decisions are being run through the governor's office today.

Hassett, who's considering a run for attorney general next year, now says he supports giving the secretary's appointment power back to the board.

He says it would add more insulation from political influence.

Gov. Jim Doyle had said for years he supports letting the board appoint the secretary.

But he changed his mind earlier this year, saying the current set-up keeps the DNR more accountable.

Now, supporters of the bill say they have enough votes to make the change and override a possible veto.