Monday, February 18, 2008

Assembly GOP Leaders Ignore The Record: This Is Leadership?

The Assembly GOP leaders who threw a monkey-wrench last week into what was supposed to be a bi-partisan approach to Wisconsin's approval of the pending Great Lakes Compact - - risking the very preservation of this crucial regional resource - - are ignoring basic documents and information about the Compact already made available to the legislature.

Makes you wonder whether Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, (R-West Salem), or Rep. Scott Gunderson, (R-Village of Waterford), read the record and tossed it, or were unaware that their key arguments against the Compact have already been explained and settled.

Take, for example, the suggestion that the Compact - - a cooperative water management agreement among the eight Great Lakes states - - would somehow harm personal property rights.

That is one of the claims made by an Ohio State legislator, Sen. Tim Grendell, the leader of Compact opposition in that state.

Yet more than a year ago, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources official Chuck Ledin informed a state legislative study committee studying Compact issues that Grendell's claims had no relevance under Wisconsin law.

Yet both Huebsch and Gunderson have told Ohio legislators that they find merit in the Ohio arguments.

Their letter to the Ohio legislature is here.

The analysis by the DNR's Ledin, here, is either being ignored by the Assembly Republican Compact opponents, or their staffers haven't bothered to look at the record, absorb it and tell their bosses that they are out on a very thin limb.

Then there is the long over-looked, December 2006 advisory opinion written by then-Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager about Compact issues and water law - - also forwarded to the study committee.

It's an important document because it lays out the applicable federal law that Wisconsin must follow until the Compact is approved.

That statute, the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, (WRDA), says that all diversions of water away from the Great Lakes boundaries must be approved by all eight Great Lakes Governors.


No exceptions.

Huebsch and Gunderson say that gives the other Great Lakes' governors too much power over water use by Wisconsin (forgetting or overlooking that it also gives Wisconsin a voice in other states' water usages, too).

The Compact, however, at the insistence of Wisconsin's negotiators during the four years it took to write it, contained an exemption from that eight-state approval process for communities that straddle the basin boundary - - such as New Berlin.

And the Compact also creates, for the first time, a set of standards and rules that the Governors would have to follow when they were reviewing out-of-basin diversion applications for communities like Waukesha.

In other words, the Compact makes it more likely that Waukesha and New Berlin can apply for and obtain water if they follow the rules, while, as Lautenschlager explains in detail, WRDA is a much tougher law.

WRDA doesn't have any rules or standards or procedures for the states to use in reviewing eachother's diversion applications.

Makes you think legislators like Gunderson would be taking the lead on Compact approval because it is good for their districts.

But when you are an ideologue and under the sway of a special-interest powerhouse like the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, you are likely to put yourself in a politically-contorted and self-defeating position.

Gunderson, especially.

A good chunk of Waukesha County is in his district, and like State Sen. Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin), a senior legislative colleague whose self-sabotaging proclivities Gunderson is channeling, these Waukesha legislators are making it more likely that their communities will not get the water they covet.

And are likely to find themselves locked in protracted and costly litigation for years.

Huebsch and Gunderson are making a mockery of the legislative process in Wisconsin, holding the state up to ridicule around the Great Lakes region, and are jeopardizing the world's largest supply of fresh surface water.

All in a day's work carrying water for the WMC, but I wonder: Will they put those achivements on their next piece of campaign literature?

And how will they explain it to constituents that a silly little daillance with an Ohio legislator and some self-parodying partisanship ended up costing their very own Waukesha County communities a rationalized shot at Great Lakes water?

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