Wisconsin's State Assembly has blocked consideration of the Great Lakes Compact for the rest of the year, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Big surprise. The Assembly is so ruled by the forces of political darkness that it might outlaw opening its window shades before it adjourns this week.
This victory, of sorts, for the GOP's far-right Waukesha leaders, has several immediate consequences, and most reasonable people wouldn't want any of it on their resumes:
1. New Berlin cannot obtain the Lake Michigan diversion it wants under the Compact's relatively easy, Wisconsin-only application review.
Unless the state tries an end run around the existing, eight-state federal diversion approval process to enable the transfer (something that would provoke years of litigation across the region, more renegade runs at Great Lakes water, or both), New Berlin will now have to buy expensive radium-treatment equipment.
New Berlin taxpayers should thank State Rep. Scott Gunderson, (R-Waterford), and the Compact's self-proclaimed opposition leader, State Sen. Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin), for their increased water bills or property tax bills, to pay for the millions in needed equipment.
And the GOP claims to be the party of tax reduction and fiscal restraint?
2. Legislatures in New York, Illinois, Minnesota and Indiana approved the Compact that Wisconsin's opponents have now blocked, and fancifully believe they can get renegotiated.
Expect even stronger resistance from those other states now that the State Assembly here intentionally tabled a detailed proposal that passed the State Senate with bi-partisan cooperation.
The Wisconsin opponents said the Compact gave Michigan too much power over Wisconsin diversions.
Guess what? The existing federal law already gives Michigan and the other states that absolute power. The compact eased that authority for communities like New Berlin and clarified and restrained it for cities like Waukesha.
All the opponents have done with their irrational obstructionism is give the other states every reason to isolate Wisconsin by invoking the federal veto abilities.
If the opponents wanted a self-fulling prophecy, they will be wildly successful.
3. Don't overlook the cheap partisan leverage the GOP leadership believes it is strengthening with its opposition.
Besides handing Gov. Jim Doyle a setback - - he is also the chairman of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, which has crafted the Compact - - the opponents are using the Compact to beat up Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson, who is out on a limb supporting the agreement.
He is supporting the Compact because as a local chief executive, like New Berlin Mayor Jack Chiovatero, Nelson understands that the Compact offers a clearer route to diverted water than does the federal law.
The Compact helps resolve these Mayors' nuts-and-bolts water service issues. Mayors don't have the luxury to toss out press releases and rant on the legislature's floor doing what for many is a part-time job.
Mayors have to be problem-solvers, but they are being blocked by partisan game-players who are delighting in making their own municipalities' problems even tougher.
Gunderson and his Assembly pals, now having added chaos to an already-difficult situation, leave Nelson and Chiovatero without a Compact.
Waukesha will now move more aggressively to obtain water supplies through messy and expensive condemnation proceedings in the Town of Waukesha, transferring more of these political and environmental uncertainties to the Town.
Bottom line:The opponents' partisan, inside-baseball is now more important than protecting the Great Lakes or genuinely cooperating with neighbors to deal with the region's water issues.
The troublemakers will get a pat on the back from their corporate cheerleaders and financiers - - The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, The Wisconsin Builders Association, the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce and others - - and from those niche, state's rights allies in Ohio whom the state's largest paper there has called "the lunatic fringe."
But everyday folks throughout southeastern Wisconsin and the Great Lakes region need to remember that a clutch of negative, nay-saying ideologues are sabotaging the Great Lakes over two political hallucinations:
1. That they can re fight the Civil War and unreasonably elevate states rights;
2. That they can undo seven years of eight-state, two-country, bi-partisan negotiations and debate to get some special privileges for a few elites in one county etched into law from Minnesota to Ontario to New York.
Waukesha's GOP political leaders, and let's not forget that County Executive Dan Vrakas is also part of this cabal, are drunk with power and leaving wreckage amidst their grandiosity.
For the good of the region, state and Great Lakes' watershed, the political process needs the equivalent of a countywide intervention across Waukesha.