Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday vetoed legislation that would have changed the makeup and functions of the Milwaukee and Madison fire and police boards.
Senate Bill 117 arrived on Evers’ desk on Monday after passing the Senate last year and the Assembly in January.
In part, the bill required that the Milwaukee and Madison commissions each have at least one member recommended by the firefighters’ union and one member recommended by the policemen’s union.
When appointing fire chiefs and police chiefs, the commission should hold at least two public hearings and meet with the unions representing the employees who would serve under that chief.
Other aspects of the bill would tighten term limits for commissioners and give Common Council the power to appoint commissioners when the mayor fails to do so in a timely manner.
The legislation is supported by police unions and opposed by Milwaukee officials and many Democrats who say it would give unions too much power.
Evers said on Monday “I veto this bill in its entirety because I oppose minimizing or restricting local control and undermining trust in local governance.”
Evers provided three examples where he opposes the bill:
- “Under this bill, certain membership changes do not require applicants to reside within the boundaries of the affected community,” Evers wrote. Adding that it would “erode local control”.
- The bill requires the Milwaukee commission to include a three-member panel evaluating complaints against an officer or firefighter. Evers said “this could include someone who served with the person under investigation…it could unnecessarily undermine public and community trust.”
- Evers thinks the bill would “interfere” with progress already made on the surveillance front. The City of Madison recently completed an independent review and recommended a new Board of Supervisors and Independent Comptroller’s Office. “This bill could disrupt local efforts to improve governance that are already underway,” Evers wrote.
In a statement, one of the bill’s sponsors, Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard de Racine, said Evers had vetoed a bill “that would have improved public safety in Wisconsin.”
“We have seen time and time again that Governor Evers will speak a good game when it comes to improving public safety,” Wanggaard said. “Governor Evers loves throwing his federal COVID money at issues, but when it comes to doing something to improve public safety or increase community oversight in Madison and Milwaukee, it’s a ‘hard no.'”
“Bill 117 would have increased community involvement and oversight over the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission (MFPC) and Madison Fire and Police Commissions. This bill was a bipartisan effort of reform created after years of dysfunction on the MFPC,” Wanggaard’s statement read.
A Democrat voted for the bill in the Senate – Senator Lena Taylor of Milwaukee. Taylor introduced the legislation last year along with Wanggaard and others.