Republican leaders in the Legislature said Monday they would consider introducing legislation this fall to make it harder to recall state officials.
Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) said the upcoming recall elections had launched the state Senate into "full campaign mode" and was slowing down the legislative process.
Also, Gov. Scott Walker - speaking with reporters in Washington - called the recalls a "distraction" for most Wisconsin residents.
Fitzgerald said he believed some Democratic legislators would support a measure changing or weakening the current law.
"I have never been a fan of recalls (of lawmakers) on either side of the aisle - especially for a vote," said Fitzgerald, referring to how single votes - such as passing legislation that strips public employees of most of their bargaining rights - can trigger recall efforts.
He spoke in Milwaukee with editors and reporters of the Journal Sentinel and was joined by Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), co-chairs of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee.
Both Vos and Darling said it's premature to take such a drastic step because of legislation that just passed.
"Let us have time to see if the tools we put in place work," Vos said.
But Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) derided any such effort to limit recalls.
"I think it's extremely unlikely that they would get support (from Democrats,)" Barca said. "I don't think they are going to get any traction on this."
"From a political standpoint, it looks like politicians trying to avoid accountability."
The lion's share of the Republican lawmakers' remarks at the Journal Sentinel were spent extolling the two-year budget for cutting the state's deficit and helping tackle sundry economic issues.
The bill now is in the hands of Walker.
But six Republican and three Democratic senators are in recall fights.
When asked whether he would support recall-changing legislation this fall, Fitzgerald said:
"I think it's definitely something that we would look at and see if there is support from both sides of the aisle."
Any legislation that would change the law governing recalls would require passage during two sessions of the Legislature. It would also require approval of voters in a statewide referendum.
Political scientist Joe Heim of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse said existing laws already make recalls difficult.
Lawmakers can't be recalled in the first year in office, and thousands of valid signatures are needed, Heim said.
Wisconsin is one of fewer than 20 states that allow legislative recalls.
"I am not sure how you make it more difficult," Heim said.
But the Republican lawmakers derided the current efforts, saying that organizers were going after lawmakers because of a vote - not misconduct in office or more serious problems.
They said the situation has already slowed down the legislative process as senators fight recalls and some members of the Assembly run for Senate seats.
Darling, herself a subject of a recall, and Fitzgerald said legislation to speed environmental reviews of a proposed iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin was never introduced, in part, because lawmakers didn't have enough time to study it before the budget passed.
"Imagine if Wisconsin now becomes a state where campaigns literally never end," Vos said.
In an interview after an appearance in Washington, Walker responded to questions about the recalls and said they represented a political challenge for his party.
But the public isn't interested, he said.
"People are ready to move on," Walker said after appearing with several other governors at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "And I don't just mean one party or another. I think just in general. The average citizen in Wisconsin I talk to, it's like they've had it . . . . They want us to be talking about jobs. They want us to be focused on that . . . . And so having another political campaign - it's going to happen, it's not like they can avoid it. But it's not something they're particularly interested in."
Barca said the recalls are happening because Republicans pushed policies that angered the public.
"It's not easy to mobilize the public," he said.Wisconsin WaveWisconsin WaveWisconsin Wave