AG J.B. Van Hollen Discusses His Work This Year

Home » Here and Now » All Episodes » AG J.B. Van Hollen Discusses His Work This Year

AG J.B. Van Hollen Discusses His Work This Year

Premiere Date: 
December 20, 2013

Van Hollen also talks about his future plans since he's not running for reelection.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

Wisconsin's Republican attorney general announced last October that he would not seek a third term. That surprised many political insiders and creates a wide open field for his job next year. I asked JB Van Hollen this week why he's not running for reelection.

JB Van Hollen:

It was a tough decision. I've been in public service for almost my entire career. It'll be 16 years in elected office by the time I'm done. I think I've been able to, along with my colleagues and the people who work with me, do an awful lot of good for the citizenry. But at a time, there comes a time, I think, where it's important to move on and give somebody else an opportunity. We've really accomplished far more than I ever anticipated I would when I ran for attorney general during the course of the last seven years. And when you really don't necessarily have all the new ideas you used to have, as long as the things you've implemented can continue to be implemented, it's time to let somebody else come in with new ideas and keep pushing that stone up the hill. And it's an all-consuming job. It takes your time. It takes your energy. There's hardly a moment of the day or night when I'm not thinking actively about some aspects of the job, or one of our cases or decisions. That takes away from family time. It takes away from relaxation. And my kids are at an age right now where I think they deserve, and perhaps even need to have their father around more.

Frederica Freyberg:

So are you saying that you will not be doing public service anymore?

JB Van Hollen:

I'm not saying that. I love public service, and you can do it in a lot of ways. You can do it through charitable work. You can do it through donations. You can do it through running for some other political office that is perhaps less demanding than this. So there are a number of different avenues that are still out there. I may or may not participate in any of them. In all honesty, Fred, at this juncture, I do not know what I will be doing post-career as attorney general.

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, let's just talk about it a little bit. What's a different kind of job that you could run for election in that's less taxing than what you do now?

JB Van Hollen:

Well, you know, and this issue has come up lately, the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, of course, is a ten-year term. You spend more time behind closed doors. You're addressing cases that are before you. You're not addressing the press constantly or having issues come through the door, having a new homicide come through the door every couple days, and other things that come along. You don't have the budget crises to deal with. You have perhaps a staffer versus a staff of 600 people. Yet, it still is a very significant and consequential job. So there are other jobs like that exist out there. Does that mean that I'm looking necessarily that direction? No. I'm looking to see what opportunities I have out there. And once kind of they've all come through the door, I can figure out which one I think is in the best interest of myself, my family, and the public at large, if I think there's still a way I can contribute.

Frederica Freyberg:

Going back to your justice department right now, it just lodged a $200,000 judgment against Trempealeau County Frac Sand Mining company for storm water violations. Does this mean that sand mine operators are on notice that your Environmental Protection Unit is watching?

JB Van Hollen:

It shouldn't. What it means is that when the DNR refers cases to us for environmental violations, we will take them. We will do our best to resolve them in the best interest of the environment, and the state, and the people as well. And if we can't resolve them, we'll end up litigating. The interesting thing about this sand mine case, is we get a lot of referrals from DNR. We resolve most of them. We send out press releases on all of them. This just happens to be the first one that has been related to sand mining that has resolved, and therefore been published, and so I think people are putting undue weight on the fact that it's a sand mining company versus an environmental case that we resolved.

Frederica Freyberg:

This time last year when we interviewed you, we asked you about two cases that are still in the courts this time this year; namely, Act 10 and Voter ID, and cases on both those issues have now landed in the Supreme Court. Now, cynics would say that the outcome is assured, you know, because of the conservative majority there. What do you think about that?

JB Van Hollen:

The outcome is never assured. I've long since given up on predicting what I think a court will do, or when they'll come out with a decision. I can tell you from my knowledge of the legal arguments in those two cases, or there's multiple cases, but those two subject matters, I would be surprised and incredibly disappointed if we don't win the Act 10 case. In the Act 10 case, on almost every issue that was in that case, there is either a United States Supreme Court case or a state Supreme Court case almost exactly on point in the favor of the state. The fact that we had to get to the Supreme Court to ultimately, I think that we will ultimately win, is unfortunate, because I think this case should have been resolved sooner based upon how clear the law is. Voter ID is more of a case of first impression. There are some real issues that I think, even though I do believe the legislature and the governor have acted lawfully and constitutionally, I think intelligent legal minds can differ on that, not whether voter ID is good or bad, or should or shouldn't be, but whether the way it was implemented is consistent with our constitution. I strongly believe that it is. But I also know that the argument on the other side, unlike Act 10, isn't frivolous, and so it could go either way. You look at the makeup of the state Supreme Court. The decisions aren't always coming down 4-3. They come down all over the place, and sometimes the majorities are mixed. I think we have quite a number of independent thinkers who are going to make rulings based upon their interpretation of the law, and it's not always going to line up with what the people of their same political ideology might think it would.

Frederica Freyberg:

Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel says he'll likely run for the republican nomination for attorney general. On the democratic side, State Representative John Richards of Milwaukee and Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne have both filed papers to run. 


We’d love to hear from you. Please send us your comment or story suggestion.

Get to know the Here and Now crew.

Find information on elections and candidates and connect to coverage from Wisconsin Public Television and Radio.