Pete Wicklund / STEVE APPS, Lee Newspapers file photo
State Rep. Peter Barca, of Kenosha, left, talks to the
media during a news conference in January in Madison after he
was nominated to be secretary of the Department of Revenue by
Gov.-elect Tony Evers, right.
MADISON — Perhaps none of Gov. Tony Evers’ cabinet picks had more bipartisan support than Democrat Peter Barca for secretary of revenue.
But politics can creep into the most routine of votes.
At the time of the nomination in early January, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who was opposed to several of the cabinet nominees, said “Evers finally got one right” in choosing Barca.
Barca was serving in the Assembly when he was chosen and was a former minority leader for the Democrats.
State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, testified at Barca’s committee hearing in favor of him.
State Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem Lakes, whose district includes part of Somers, said at the time that she will miss Barca’s contributions in the Assembly but added “I am glad to note that the State of Wisconsin will continue to benefit from his leadership.
“I’ve always appreciated Rep. Barca’s experience and statesmanship and have valued our good working relationship in serving Kenosha County,” Kerkman said. “I look forward to working with Rep. Barca in his new role.”
Despite being approved 9-0 in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions in February, Barca has not not received full confirmation as secretary of revenue.
Barca’s confirmation is waiting to be scheduled on the state Senate floor for a confirmation vote. It has been there since Feb. 22.
Waiting for their vote
Barca isn’t the only one waiting. All of Evers’ Cabinet picks have been operating their departments without officially being confirmed by the state Senate.
State Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Somers, whose 22nd District includes past of southeast Racine County, said the secretary-designates have been working with “a dark cloud over their heads.”
“Republican leadership is playing games with all of Evers’ appointments,” Wirch said. “The public wants us to work together … and this doesn’t help.”
Not all the secretary-designates could go back to the jobs they had before they were nominated. On Tuesday, Democrat Tip McGuire won the election for Barca’s old seat, which Barca vacated after he was tapped by the governor.
“They’re just being good soldiers and working on their jobs,” Wirch said of the secretary-designates. “They could be worried. Republicans control the Senate and on a simple party-line vote, they’re out of a job if their appointment came up.”
On Thursday, Evers told a joint session of The Journal Times and Kenosha News editorial boards that the secretary-designates are running their offices “as they would if they’re confirmed.”
Evers said he suspects the confirmations have been held up because of the issue of 82 appointees to various state posts under Gov. Scott Walker during the lame-duck legislative session held before Evers was sworn in as governor.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday voted 4-3 to restore all 82 appointees.
The ruling affects 15 people Evers had not reappointed after a lower court said it was legal for him to, essentially, fire them. Evers argued the appointees were invalidated after a lower court ruled that the entire lame-duck session, where Republicans took powers away from Evers and the incoming Democratic attorney general, was unconstitutional. Days later, an appeals court put that ruling on hold, creating more confusion about the status of the 15 people Evers did not reappoint.
The underlying legal case over the validity of the lame-duck session continues. The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in that case for May 15.
Wanggaard said the situation with the appointees affected the confirmation timeline of Evers’ cabinet.
“When Gov. Evers took away the pay and positions from 82 validly appointed and confirmed individuals, he created a chaotic situation with all appointments, including his own Cabinet,” Wanggaard said in a statement. “When that court case gets resolved, I’m sure we’ll see confirmations for the individuals that are qualified to serve in those positions.”
Despite the issue with the appointees not being directly connected to the cabinet picks, Evers said the Senate could have voted on his nominations, but Republicans held things up.
Evers said he is confident his Cabinet picks will get their confirmation votes.
“The Senate hasn’t been in session much,” Evers said adding “It’s just a matter of time.”
Wirch said he has served under five governors “and this has not happened with any of the governors before this.”
“I think its sour grapes that carried over from the election,” Wirch said. “We should get back to doing the people’s business and stop fighting among ourselves.”
On Tuesday, Tip McGuire won the special election to represent Assembly District 64 and fill the seat that former Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, vacated to become state secretary of revenue.