Eric Roston (Bloomberg) reported earlier today that discussing the subject of climate change is now “out of bounds for workers at a state agency in Wisconsin.” Roston said that “any work related to climate change—even responding to e-mails about the topic” is verboten.
A vote on Tuesday by Wisconsin’s Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, a three-member panel overseeing an agency that benefits schools and communities in the state, enacted the staff ban on climate change. “It’s not a part of our sole mission, which is to make money for our beneficiaries,” said State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, a Republican who sits on the board. “That’s what I want our employees working on. That’s it. Managing our trust funds.”
Adamczyk raised his concern at a public meeting on Tuesday that the board’s executive director, Tia Nelson, had spent on-the-job time working on global warming. Nelson did indeed work on climate change a bit in 2007 and ’08—at the request of the governor. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, who stepped down in 2011, appointed Nelson as co-chair of a global warming task force (PDF). “It honestly never occurred to me that being asked by a sitting governor to serve on a citizen task force would be objectionable,” she said.
Roston said that the measure would only affect “a small number of Wisconsin state workers…” He noted, however, that it “follows an alleged effort by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to stop employees from using the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ in official communications.”
Caitlin MacNeal (TPM) said that “Adamczyk may have targeted the public land board’s discussion of climate change…due to his issues with the board’s executive secretary, Tia Nelson.” Nelson is the daughter of the late Democratic Sen. Gaylord Nelson. MacNeal noted that “Adamczyk went after Nelson in January, trying to mandate a performance review for Nelson and remove her name from the board’s letterhead.”
Wisconsin Secretary of State Douglas La Follette, a Democrat, sits on the board with Adamczyk and Attorney General Brad Schimel, a Republican. In a previous meeting, La Follette said antagonism toward Nelson came close to the “edge of an irresponsible witch hunt.”
La Follette—who voted against the ban—“lamented that it would keep staff from discussing how climate change could impact the land the agency oversees.” In a conference call on Tuesday, La Follette said, “Having been on this board for close to 30 years, I’ve never seen such nonsense. We’ve reached the point now where we’re going to try to gag employees from talking about issues. In this case, climate change. That’s as bad as the governor of Florida recently telling his staff that they could not use the words ‘climate change.'”
Wisconsin Bans Public Lands Staff From Discussing Climate Change (Talking Points Memo)