Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Legislature Passes Ethics Reform

Both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature yesterday overwhelmingly passed the ethics reform bill that was the subject of a special legislative session. To read the statement the Democracy Campaign issued after final approval of the bill, go here.

The 97-2 vote in the Assembly late in the day yesterday culminated a whirlwind of activity on the ethics bill. The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee unanimously approved the bill in the morning, setting the stage for floor debate. The Senate unanimously approved the legislation without amendment early in the afternoon, and the Assembly vote followed a few hours later. Governor Doyle will sign the bill later this week. (Check out some of the newspaper and television coverage of what unfolded at the Capitol yesterday.)

We hope this will be the first of many legislative victories that serve to restore Wisconsin's good name. When the Democracy Campaign put forward our five-step Power to the Voter agenda a few years ago, one of the things we called for was "independent ethics and campaign finance law enforcement by restructuring the state Elections Board and Ethics Board into a single agency with expanded enforcement powers and more resources, under the direction of a politically independent board." We got that yesterday.

This victory is cause for celebration, but it is only one of many steps that need to be taken to win back Wisconsin's reputation for clean, open and accountable government. Now it's on to much bigger and more difficult fights. Campaign finance reform. Lobbying reform. Fair and impartial justice. Election integrity. There's a lot of work still left to do. Here's hoping the win on ethics reform will create momentum that will carry over to these other battles.

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