Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why We Left Out Frankenstein

Some have asked why the Democracy Campaign did not include the votes in the Senate and Assembly on the constitutional amendment purporting to ban the so-called "Frankenstein veto" in the analysis of roll call votes on democracy reform issues that we issued yesterday.

There are three reasons.

1. It wasn't much of a reform. Even with the constitutional amendment, Wisconsin's governor still possesses the most extensive – and abusive – veto power in the country. And there are still ways the state's current governor or any future governor will be able to stitch together pieces of laws to create whole new laws that the Legislature never approved. It is this capability that the governor retains that inspired the nickname "Frankenstein veto" in the first place. In short, this "reform" doesn't do much. It certainly doesn't kill Frankenstein. At best, it wounds him slightly. Very slightly.

2. It was an easy vote. There is a reason why the vote was 33-0 in the Senate and 94-1 in the Assembly. The vote on the constitutional amendment was a chance for legislators to appear to favor reform without doing anything of real consequence and, most notably, without doing a thing to clean up their own act. It is telling that the lone "no" vote was cast by a member of the Assembly who is not running for re-election and thus has no need to posture as a reformer. That member, retiring 22-year legislative veteran Frank Boyle, said he voted against the constitutional amendment because it was confusing and pointless. Boyle was the only one in the Legislature willing to call it what it was, but there were plenty of voices outside the Capitol who agreed with him.

3. Including it in our analysis wouldn't have changed the rankings. Because only one member of the Legislature voted against the Frankenstein veto amendment, including the Senate and Assembly roll call votes would not have narrowed the gap in scores between legislators and thus would not have altered the rankings. The same legislators still would have been in the same categories.

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