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UW Prof: What Happened to Local Control in WI?

March 10. 2011

MILWAUKEE - More local control and less centralized power have been traditional planks of the Republican Party's platform, but now that the GOP is in control in Wisconsin, some are questioning the Republican commitment to fewer restrictions on local governments.

November's election gave the GOP control of the state Senate, Assembly and governor's office. A number of Republican proposals being fast-tracked are aimed at limiting the power of local governments. The measures range from dictating collective-bargaining rules to how local communities deal with employee sick days.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee political science professor Kathleen Dolan says this top-down approach is inconsistent with traditional GOP thought.

"Republicans in states particularly tend to chafe under Obamacare, one-size-fits-all sorts of things."

The Senate last week passed SB 23, which would nullify the Milwaukee Paid Sick Days Ordinance and make it impossible for any local electorate in Wisconsin to pass such a measure through direct legislation. Dolan says the bill is inconsistent with Wisconsin's tradition of local municipalities having discretion, whether through direct legislation or their own power, to shape such matters.

Dolan says the traditional GOP position was anti-top-down control, but that seems to have been forgotten in the current climate.

"So here what we are seeing is them now being in power and liking that ability to make everybody bend to your will."

Republican leaders say the legislation they are proposing gives local governments the tools they need to control costs with the state in a budget crisis.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - WI