Wis. GOP Leader Scott Fitzgerald: ‘Are Our Recall Statutes Legit?’

March 9, 2011 5:41 a.m.

Wisconsin state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) expressed his frustration with the state’s recall laws, during a press conference on Tuesday.

Fitzgerald’s off-the-cuff comments sounded less like he was mulling any actual prospective efforts to change the law, but rather seemed more a show of irritation that a significant number of his caucus members — those last elected in 2008 — are being targeted for recalls by Democrats, in the battle over Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal and its anti-public employee union provisions.

At one point, Fitzgerald was asked whether the wave of recall signature drives could lead to Republicans losing their newly-won majority. “No, I don’t believe so,” said Fitzgerald. “I mean, what I do believe is that we’re taking those recalls seriously, and we’re making sure that we have everything available to those senators to make their case.

“The ironic thing to me is that, you know, at this point we’ve got senators under recall that haven’t even voted on anything and you know, we’ve got an assemblyman [Gordon Hintz (D)] that was arrested in Oshkosh (sic) for being at a massage parlor — and he’s not under recall. I mean, I think it really makes a case for, you know, are our recall statutes legit? And it really makes you wonder if they shouldn’t be revisited at some point.”Later in the press conference, Fitzgerald was asked what he would like to see changed about the recall process, and whether he had anything specific in mind.

“Yeah, I mean, I’ve always been a believer that recall probably would be more appropriate if a legislator was involved in some type of, you know, either criminal activity, or something that could be deemed, you know, unethical,” said Fitzgerald. “Not related to simply taking a stance on a tough vote. And you know, I think there’s other legislators that feel that way as well.”

For what it’s worth, Hintz cannot be recalled at this juncture even if a suitable number of his constituents wanted to do so. The state’s recall law requires that an elected official be at least one year into their term — thus limiting the number of recall-eligible state senators to the half of the chamber that was last elected in 2008, and also preventing any efforts to immediately recall the newly-elected Walker himself. While a member of the state Assembly theoretically could be recalled after one year, the fact that their terms are only two years, and thus a recall would take place in the year they are up for election anyway, would render such an exercise somewhat pointless.

The full audio can be found here. Fitzgerald’s first discussion of the recall statute comes at about the 3:20 mark, and the second exchange at the 8:10 mark.

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