EDITORIAL: GAB: Keep it independent

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Idea of returning to partisan model is repugnant.

SUGGESTION FOR Gov. Scott Walker: Tying a gag around the mouth of Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald might be helpful in your battle against recall.

Thatís because every time Fitzgerald starts yapping, it seems, this key ally of the governor makes his side appear more extreme and hyper-partisan.

The latest case in point: The speaker launched into a rant against the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board, ripping into its handling of the recall petitioning process. Thatís OK ó itís no crime to question decisions made by any government entity. But then Fitzgerald crossed the line. He talked about changing the independent GAB into a partisan board ó one appointed by the party in power, presumably, in this instance by the governor, the speaker and his brother Scott Fitzgerald, majority leader of the Senate.

ARE YOU KIDDING? We certainly hope so. That idea is beyond idiotic. It would scrap what stands as one of the few bipartisan, good government initiatives enacted in the past decade.

Readers should recall the GAB was created following disclosure of a sleazy partisan scheme designed to kneecap a Republican opponent to then-Gov. Jim Doyle, at a time when Democrats held sway over the GABís predecessor, the state ethics and elections boards. The Assembly and Senate, in near-unanimous bipartisan voting, decided to abandon the partisan model and create the independent and nonpartisan GAB. This board consists of six former judges, selected not only for their experience and expertise, but also for the absence of partisan ties. The GAB has been touted as a national model.

So whatís Fitzgeraldís beef? Some rulings are not going his way. One suspects Fitzgerald doesnít want a fair referee between warring political tribes. He wants a homer.

LOOK, THEREíS NOTHING WRONG with challenging decisions of the GAB. In fact, Republicans have filed a lawsuit in Waukesha County doing just that, asking the courts to order the GAB to ramp up scrutiny of potential fake or duplicate signatures on recall petitions. Judicial review of GAB rulings provides reasonable checks and balances to the process, always positive in the pursuit of better government.

But the speakerís disappointing call to abolish independence and restore partisanship is contemptible. At all levels, these days, government needs less partisanship and more independence. Politicians who fail to get that deserve to become ex-politicians at the votersí earliest opportunity.

Fitzgeraldís loose lips create blowback that does Walker no favors. Clearly, thatís not what the governor needs now.

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