By Don Walker

The League of Wisconsin Municipalities' board of directors voted unanimously on Friday to oppose a proposal by Gov. Scott Walker to end residency rules statewide in all units of local government.

Curt Witynski, the group's assistant director, said the board decided that a uniform prohibition "made no sense." The board consists of 16 members.

The board's action is not a complete surprise. Historically, the group has resisted legislative efforts that may interfere with the right of local governments to enact their own policies, Witynski said.

Nearly 600 municipalities are members of the organization. The league is by far the most prominent organization in the state to oppose Walker's idea.

Witynski said board members gave various reasons for opposing the end of residency. Some said they should have the right to require managers to live in the municipality they serve, while others were concerned that public safety could be affected if police officers or firefighters lived too far away from their workplace.

The governor included the provision to end residency rules statewide in his proposed budget. Ending residency has been a major issue for the Milwaukee Police Association and the Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Local 215. The Wisconsin Professional Police Association, which represents law enforcement groups all over the state, also has backed Walker's proposal.

The City of Milwaukee has lobbied against the governor's proposal, arguing that it violates the legal concept of home rule and threatens vibrant neighborhoods. City lobbyists have made it a priority to keep the residency rule intact.

(c)2013 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel