Newly-elected legislators will benefit from a helping hand

Jim Baumgart  Sheboygan County Supervisor

As mentioned in a past column, the loss of experienced legislators representing Sheboygan County will likely provide long-term negative effects.

As you may remember, three area state Assembly legislators announced they were leaving the state Assembly at the end of the year, one state Senator announced he would run for Congress and won, another state Senator announced he would give up his state Senate seat to run for Congress and lost.

So, experience wise, at years end, legislative experienced support will fall off the cliff.

Here is the first small example of one negative effect that is about to take place.

On a regular basis, Sheboygan County Supervisors and Sheboygan County agency heads meet and discuss issues that might or likely effect units of government in Sheboygan County.

Those monthly legislative meetings over the last 40 years or more have saved countless tax dollars and improved many developing laws and rules before they went into effect. It not only helped Sheboygan County and its agencies but helped other counties facing the same issues.

Because all the legislators will be new and unable to provide any real input or answers, the monthly meetings were cancelled until January; the following months will be a learning period for all.

Things have changed. The old guys are packing up to leave the Capitol to enjoy retirement, start another job or look for one.

New legislators will be busy selecting office space, hiring staff, looking for a parking space, picking a room/motel, finding the restrooms and meeting rooms, setting up training (learning) sessions, gaining the understanding of the many state agencies—to mention but a few things that need to be done.

The learning process and the ability to have a major state impact that helps locally will not be quick.

As a reminder to the readers, county government was developed when we became a state to be an arm of state government.

While county government is allowed to do local ordinance’s, the rules followed by the county clerk, courts, treasure, clerk of courts, district attorney, sheriff, different county departments (some state flexibility is provided ) are directed by the state legislature— as are the rules that flow from laws they pass.

So it is important to have a team of experienced legislators, preferably at least one from the opposite party, to work with their county supervisors and department staff before a bill becomes a law or before a rule can fully be enforced, thus minimizing possible problems before they become a costly issue.

Of the five state legislators representing all or part of Sheboygan County, three developed a strong working relationship with the Sheboygan County supervisors and department heads through the monthly Legislative Breakfasts; that carried over into a state/county working relationship when needed and appropriate. Two of those legislators ended up on the powerful Joint Finance Committee and the other chaired the important Assembly Education Committee. That strong county/state relationship is now gone as is the knowledge and easy access to answers that this experienced group provided.

For a year and likely much longer, we will be caught in a void of inexperience or in sort of an Ice Age where local input on new laws or the rule making process will be difficult, limited and maybe even frozen.

But, it is what it is. Knowing major limits now face the Sheboygan County does provide an opportunity.

The County could put together a short outline folder of the responsibilities of the different county departments, local contact people and related state agencies as well as other important information for the new legislators.

Then, as issues are brought up at the Legislative Breakfast or by a direct call, the informational folders could be helpful to the newly elected.

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