Silent Alarm: mid-term election results – what happened?
BY MIKE MCFADZEN
The 2018 mid-term election added a historical amount of diversity to the government at both regional and national levels. There are now more women officeholders than ever before. For the first time, we’ve elected two Native Americans to national office and a Somali woman was elected in Minnesota. The changing demographics were captured at the polls. Democrats soundly flipped the US House of Representatives, gaining approximately 37 seats but lost two Senate seats. Democrats also gained seven governorships, including a biggie in Wisconsin in which Tony Evers defeated current governor Scott Walker by just over one percent of the vote. Governorships in states that Trump won in 2016, were reversed in other states, including Michigan and Pennsylvania. A blue wave hit Minnesota, capturing most state and national offices, but a purple wave was a dominant feature throughout the county.
Most races were very close with divisiveness growing. The only landslide was marijuana, which prevailed in almost every national and state resolution, including 16 in Wisconsin alone. Recreational marijuana use will soon be legal in Michigan. It’s interesting that marijuana is something that almost everyone agrees on.
What does it all mean?
According to the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters (WLCV), the 2018 election brought broad consensus on clean water and climate change in statewide and national races.
“Wisconsin will have a divided government for the first time in four legislative sessions, which is eight years,” according to WLCV government affairs director Jennifer Giegerich via email correspondence. “That means any legislation and any state budget will have to have the support of both parties. I think we will have more moderate legislation.”
Giegerich is sounding optimistic about the future.
“We have four new senators and 11 new members of the assembly,” she said. “We’ll have the opportunity to get to know them and what they would like to see. An Evers’ administration will get to appoint new agency secretaries. Evers said he’d like to bring science back to the Department of Natural Resources. He has also talked about reauthorizing the stewardship program and prioritize funding and maintenance of state parks. Hopefully, this is a good area for both parties to find an agreement since it is a bipartisan issue.”
Evers has frequently criticized Walker for his assault on science-based decision making and lack of enforcement of environmental protections and funding of DNR resources staff. Drinking water has been a top issue in the state senate. According to the WLCV, voters are concerned about groundwater contamination from manure spills and the harmful effects it has on our families, fish and wildlife.
The nonpartisan, science-based Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is also encouraged. UCS notes that the US Congress is in a much stronger position to stop efforts to weaken laws that protect public health, safety, recreation and the environment. According to their website, progress might be made through bi-partisan legislation that can pass in the next two years.
A balanced legislature means that programs such as Pittman Robertson, which funds conservation and recreation, likely won’t be cut. This will be a boon for supporters of natural resource programs.
In Wisconsin, recreationists are tracking the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, which is set to expire in 2020. The program works to preserve natural areas, wildlife habitat, water quality and outdoor recreation. Almost 500,000 acres of land has been protected by this program. Trail and park funding has benefited tremendously from stewardship. Friends of Wisconsin State Parks (FWSP) President Bill Zager expects stewardship to be re-authorized.
“FWSP is working hard on stewardship and state park funding,” Zager explained. “These are key legislative priorities for 2019.”
There are still lots of unanswered questions on natural resources and recreational funding issues. Will general purposed revenue (GPR) for state park funding be restored by Wisconsin’s new governor? Will local DNRs bring back educators and naturalists which were cut bigtime in 2016?
Wisconsin Nordic Network (WINN) co-founder and skier activist Kine Torinus had mixed thoughts on the election.
“While I don’t think Evers (Wisconsin Governor-elect) has set forth much in the way of policy, I hope he considers the disastrous effects of legislators like Thomas Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) who is willing to throw groundwater and natural resource protections under the bus,” Torinus told Silent Sports. “Gridlock may happen, but maybe it will save us.”
A more diverse government at state and national levels should force more consensus and shepherd bi-partisanship through a working relationship. A work colleague recently told me, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” There are lots of new people around the table. Let’s hope that common sense prevails.