Set to finally confirm longtime nominees, Pfaff — in precarious position — says Wisconsin Senate hasn’t done its job
Wisconsin state Sen. Brad Pfaff has a unique position, as some of Gov. Tony Evers’ administration appointments are set to be confirmed Tuesday.
He’s Wisconsin’s former agriculture-secretary nominee turned state Senator for starters. Pfaff was essentially fired by Republicans after 11 months on the job heading the ag. department. More on that in a bit but Pfaff used that momentum to beat Dan Kapanke in taking over the Senate’s 32nd District here in the Coulee Region.
With that, Pfaff is in a unique position, set to confirm the guy who worked under him, then replaced him two years ago.
“I was very proud to announce that Randy Romanksi would serve as my deputy Agriculture Secretary in January of 2019,” Pfaff said Monday on La Crosse Talk PM. “So, I am more than excited to be able to confirm him.”
So, for two years Romanski has run the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Republicans, who control the Senate, have put off confirming him.
And he’s not the only one. That doesn’t sit well with Pfaff.
“Unfortunately, we in the Senate haven’t been doing our job over the last few years,” Pfaff said. “Rather than moving the ball forward and making sure our government works for all the people, we’ve played partisan politics. And it’s unfortunate. It’s unnecessary. It doesn’t need to be like this.”
Anyone who follows this stuff knows that Republicans rejected Pfaff as agriculture secretary, after he spoke out about them releasing mental health funding for farmers.
At the time, Pfaff wanted a vote on $100,000 for farmers’ mental health services.
“There’s no two ways about it: Republicans have chosen to leave farmers behind,” Pfaff said in July of 2019, after Republican lawmakers on the finance committee rejected Democratic members’ request to vote on releasing the funding allocated in the state budget.
“As of today, (the agriculture department) has funding to provide just five more counseling vouchers to farmers in need of mental health care,” he continued. “If the Joint Finance Committee doesn’t want to move this funding forward immediately, then they have a choice to make: Which five farmers will it be?”
Republicans finally did approve that $100,000 in September of 2019.
Tuesday, Pfaff was asked about that situation again, but made it clear he wasn’t holding grudges — though winning a Senate seat would tend to help with that.
“I heard directly from rural residents — Republican, Democrats and independents — that there were concerns out in the countryside,” Pfaff said on WIZM. “I had the audacity to share that. As a result of that, my nomination was not confirmed in the Wisconsin state Senate. But the thing is, it’s important that we move forward.
“Obviously,” he added,” I did that and some of the stuff that I said was not well received.”
Seven of the 17 members in Evers’ cabinet have yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Two others have also been running their departments since 2019, when Evers took office — the Department of Transportation Sec. Craig Thompson and Dawn Crim, who heads the Department of Safety and Professional Services.
With these precarious delays in confirming the governor’s appointees, Pfaff doesn’t like where this continues to lead.
“What we all need to recognize is this, is that eventually, the roles will reverse,” he said. “And we need to realize we’re creating some pretty big precedents right now. Is that really what we want to be able to do?”
There are 39 appointments set to be confirmed Tuesday by the Senate — five of which were made in 2019, 24 in 2020 and 10 others made in 2021.
“It’s become so politicized,” Pfaff said of the Senate refusing to schedule such hearings for a governor not in their political party. “And, again, this is politics, I understand that, but it doesn’t have to be such a zero-sum game.”
Republicans have even made the Wisconsin DNR a political battleground, as policy board chair Fred Prehn — appointed by former Gov. Scott Walker — won’t leave his position, despite his six-year term ending in May.
Evers nominated Sandra Nass right as Prehn’s term ended. Prehn claims he can retain his position until Republicans confirm Nass. Not surprisingly, Nass isn’t on Tuesday’s confirmation schedule.
Also not included in the confirmation process are some other pretty important positions, considering the state of everything given a pandemic — the head of the unemployment agency and the head of the department of health