The County Executive Power Grab Bill (SB777) is off the legislative table this session. Thanks to everybody’s emails and calls, Chairperson Stroebel of the Senate Committee pulled it off the agenda. The legislative session is over, so the bill is dead - for now.

This is an important victory for democratic governance and we all did it together. You can read about the issues below.

Abele’s Power Grab Assembly Bill – Not Ready for Prime Time

LPS celebrated Valentine’s Day by attending a public hearing by the Wisconsin State Assembly Committee for Government Oversight and Accountability. The bill (AB923) written by Rep. Kooyenga (who receives substantial campaign contributions from County Executive Abele) would give Milwaukee’s County Executive sole power over a range of many critical decisions that currently require County Board confirmation. In a nutshell - “To the extent that a conflict exists between county board action and county executive, the bill provides that the action of the executive or administrator shall prevail.  The bill also allows a county executive of a populous county (over 750,000 people, i.e. Milwaukee) to exercise some of the authority that would otherwise be exercised by the county board.” This aspect of the bill only applies to Milwaukee. See * below.
Testimony for the bill was limited, including Rep. Kooyenga, County Executive Abele and a lobbyist from the MMAC who said businesses prefer working with systems where there is a clear line of authority and centralized control.
Testimony against the bill was extensive including; the Wisconsin Counties Assn., The League of Women Voters, League of Progressive Seniors, County Supervisors representing the full Milwaukee Board of Supervisors, Representatives of Milwaukee Common Council, the League of Municipalities and many others. Compelling testimony came from the elected Comptroller of Milwaukee County – Scott Manske. Comptroller Manske recounted the financially disastrous decision on County pensions orchestrated by the County Executive at the time. Manske stated that he was deeply committed to ensuring that there was strong structural oversight of financial choices so no person in the future had the power to make destructive decision without checks and balances. He expressed concerns that the reduction in adequate checks and balances in the bill could impact the County’s bond rating.
Assembly Representatives on the Committee were attentive to the importance of the Bill and questioned officials carefully. After many hours, there seemed to be a consensus that the proposal was too complex to move it through the legislature in the coming two weeks. In addition, there was discussion about the need for serious efforts to reduce the clear distrust between County Executive and County Board Supervisors so they work together more cooperatively. The County Executive left the hearing before any citizen input began.
Groups have requested that if the State Senate schedules a hearing, it be held in Milwaukee at a time when many more taxpayers can attend. It is important that taxpayers voice their concerns and opinions about such a significant change in the decision-making process for Milwaukee County.

In the meantime, you can read the legislative analysis of the AB923 ( Click Here - the analysis begins on page two ) and contact your state legislators to express your opinion.   

Powers given over to County Executive
  • Sole Power over all aspects of procurement and contracts (purchase of services, purchase of supplies, sale, lease or purchase of real property) as well as contracts for construction and public works.

  • Power to purchase, sell or lease all county land except land zoned as parks (after July 2015) without approval of the County Board for any decision. 

  • Sole power over all Airport operations

  • Sole power over mental health functions, programs, and services.

  • Complete control over administrative operations, staffing and pay levels.