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Assembly panel votes today on ousting governor out of DNR

The state Assembly's Natural Resources Committee will vote today on a bill aimed at getting politics out of the DNR.

A Senate panel is scheduled to vote Thursday on a similar measure - which would take away the governor's authority to appoint a secretary for the hunting, fishing and environmental agency.

That power would return to the Natural Resources Board, which used to appoint the secretary before Tommy Thompson took over that duty in 1995.

Since then, a host of conservation groups say decisions have been made on politics and influence-peddling, instead of what's best for nature.

Gov. Jim Doyle and the state's largest business group deny it.

Both say the DNR has become more accountable.

Tuesday, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said special interests who oppose the bill have given Doyle's campaign more than $4 million since 2003.

Assembly committee chairman Spencer Black says the numbers prove that those with deep pockets always try to weaken environmental laws.

But Doyle spokesman Lee Sensenbrenner says it's ridiculous to say the money has had any such influence and he points to a series of environmental measures to prove it.

Doyle agreed for years that the DNR board should name its own secretary, but he changed his mind earlier this year.