UPDATE (14 July 2015): The final bill, 2015 Wis Act 55, has been published, and the JFC changes to LIRC’s budget are back in: see § 146m for the provision transferring the Commission from DWD to DOA and the governor appointing the Commission’s general counsel and p.133 of the PDF of the budget act for the budgetary changes.
UPDATE (12 July 2015): The enrolled bill removed the three changes made by the JFC described below. While I had searched through all the amendments passed on the final days of the budget debate, I apparently missed the amendment that rolled back the JFC changes. So, the Commission’s original budget remains unchanged from what was originally proposed.
As reported earlier, the Joint Finance Committee made three surprising changes to the Labor and Industry Review Commission: (1) transferring the administrative location of the Commission from the Department of Workforce Development to the Department of Administration, (2) transferring $434,900 from the Commission to DWD for program integrity (i.e., claimant auditing), and (3) making the Commission’s general counsel a political appointee of the governor.
The amended budget passed by the Senate yesterday includes all of these changes. In particular, Section 146m of Senate Substitute Amendment 1 (see p.28) has this new language:
The governor shall appoint an individual to serve at the pleasure of the governor as general counsel for the commission.
And, the unemployment funds provided the Commission are now $1,953,300, see pp.187-8, down from $2,388,200 contained in the original version of the budget bill (see p.332).
The general counsel switch raises some ethical considerations that could be problematic. The Commission members, after all, are independent and appointed for set terms by the governor. This new language makes the general counsel someone who reports directly to the governor and NOT the Commissioners, however. So, for the Commissioners to retain their independence, they probably cannot turn to their general counsel who now reports to someone outside the Commission for advice. That is, whoever the new general counsel will be, that person will have nothing to do since that attorney cannot provide legal advice to Commission members when working on behalf of and reporting to someone outside the agency. And, the Commissioners cannot disclose their confidential consideration of decisions to someone who works on behalf of another.
The Commission staff attorneys losing their jobs is a more straight forward problem. Perhaps they can find positions in vacant attorney jobs elsewhere available in the state. If they do not, I doubt they will file for unemployment given recent changes being developed for the definition of concealment. At least, good luck to them on their new endeavors.