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Rock County supervisors discuss validity, value of collective bargaining referendum

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Catherine W. Idzerda
December 14, 2011
— Next year, Wisconsin voters might have the chance to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

A group of Rock County supervisors was hoping to send a message to the governor a little bit sooner.


On Tuesday, the staff committee of the Rock County Board of Supervisors voted down a resolution that would allow a countywide referendum to be placed on the April ballot reading: “Should all Wisconsin workers have the right to seek safe working conditions and fair pay through collective bargaining?”


The vote was six to two against, with Supervisor Betty Jo Bussie absent.


However, the resolution still has to go to the full county board, and could be approved or rejected at the January meeting.


The cost of the referendum was an issue, but it wasn’t the first one that came up.


Supervisors talked first about the nature of the referendum itself.


“As much as it hurts me, I’m going to vote against this,” said Supervisor Eva Arnold.


As a nonpartisan supervisor, she didn’t want the board to be involved in what she thought was clearly a partisan issue.


Supervisor Hank Brill said he didn’t like it “when the state sticks its nose in our businesses,” and thought the county should keep “its nose out of the state’s business.”


In response, Ivan Collins, one of the sponsors of the resolution, said he didn’t think the state should stick its nose in the county’s business either—but it already had.


“This effects our workers, our employees,” Collins said.


Committee Chairman Russ Podzilni didn’t care for the wording of the referendum.


In an interview before the meeting, Podzilni said the wording was the equivalent of asking, “Should a citizen have the right to walk down the street?”


Workers currently have the right to collective bargain, but its been greatly reduced. Workers can now only bargain for wages.


“Right now we’re in the middle of collective bargaining with several of the county units,” Podzilni pointed out.


And how much would it cost to run and additional question?


County Clerk Lori Stottler said it was too early to tell.


The April election includes a presidential primary, and the Government Accountably Board might require the partisan elections to be on a separate side of the ballot from the nonpartisan city, county and school board races, she explained.


If that was the case, the referendum question might end up on an additional ballot card. An additional ballot card would cost approximately $10,000, plus the $400 fee to post the legal notice in the newspaper.


If an extra ballot card was not needed, the $400 fee would remain.


Vice-chairwoman Sandra Kraft then asked Stottler, “Even if it received every single vote, what would it do?”


That’s a good question.


According to the resolution, if the referendum did pass, it would be sent to the Rock County legislative delegation, Gov. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Counties Association.


Supervisor Robert Fizzell who helped draft the resolution, said that if the referendum did pass, it was his hope that it would make a difference.


“That’s the way government is supposed to work,” Fizzell said. “When the people speak, the government is supposed to respond.”


As for the relations between county and the state, Fizzell pointed out, “County government is a agent of the state government.”


Similar resolutions are being considered in Dane and Sauk counties.



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