Which Friend, Relative or Contributor Will Gov Walker Appoint to Head the State Patrol?

Stephen Fitzgerald, father of WI State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and former Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, announced his retirement from his post as Superintendent of the Wisconsin State Patrol. Although a distinguished law enforcement officer there were some serious concerns about nepotism and favors when Governor Scott Walker appointed him to head the state patrol. So the open question now, can Gov Walker top this appointment in terms of favoritism for Mr. Fitzgerald’s replacement?

Sanctuary Cities In Wisconsin.

Ok, if you have been paying attention to some of the shenanigans in the state assembly this past week or so, you saw that they passed a sanctuary city ordinance. What exactly does that mean? Well here check this out:

Wisconsin cities would face state financial sanctions if they block cops from asking people about their immigration status, under a GOP bill considered by lawmakers Wednesday.

The public packed a hearing room at the Capitol to testify on the bill by Rep. John Spiros (R-Marshfield) before the Assembly Committee on Urban and Local Affairs.

The bill comes amid a furious national debate over illegal immigration, spurred by both billionaire Donald Trump’s White House campaign and President Barack Obama’s attempt to overhaul federal policies without congressional action.

Is this really a burning issue in Marshfield? Or much of anywhere in Wisconsin? Who is really driving this and why?

Even the Walker administration cheerleading JSOnline has an issue with the distraction:

We’re not particular fans of local IDs or of the sanctuary city movement, by which communities adopt policies barring police from asking about the immigration status of those charged with crimes (although requiring police to check could drive undocumented workers further underground).

But these are ultimately local issues that should be hashed out in individual communities. Local authorities don’t need state legislators imposing their will on communities on non-state issues. The importance of local control been a mantra of Republicans for years. Someone like Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), who came out of local government should certainly understand that.

Well it will be a moot point (or maybe not since the state GOP likes to change direction on a moments notice) as the state senate is unlikely to have time to take it up in the http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/state-senate-unlike-to-take-up-sanctuary-cities-bill-b99673340z1-369431031.html:

A state bill to fine sanctuary cities for immigrants drew roars of protest Thursday, but it now appears set to die with a whimper.

An estimated 20,000 Latino and pro-immigrant demonstrators converged on the Capitol to protest the controversial legislation, which would impose financial penalties on local governments that block police from asking criminal defendants about their immigration status.

But a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau said GOP senators are unlikely to take up the proposal passed by their Republican colleagues in the Assembly.

“It’s not a high priority for any of our members,” Myranda Tanck said of AB 450.

The legislation was introduced in October but hasn’t even been discussed yet in meetings of the Senate Republican caucus — a bad sign for any bill at this point in the waning legislative session.

But back to how big a problem this really is. Here’s the list of sanctuary cities in Wisconsin…plus a county:

Wisconsin

•Madison, WI (Congressional Research Service) Update: In June, 2010, the city council passed a resolution reaffirming its policy.

•Milwaukee, WI (Added 10-13-15, Source: 10-8-14 DHS DDO Report citing Resolution 12-135)

•Milwaukee Co., WI (Added 6-10-12 Source article: County Board Resolution on Immigration on target, Opinion, Journal Sentinel News., 6-9-12)

Just the usual suspects…keep moving…nothing to see here!

GOP Candidates Continue To Sell Out Their Constituents!

As Zach mentioned yesterday there is a special election coming up to select a new state representative in the 99th district to replace Chris Kapenga who was recently elected to the state senate. There are four candidates in the GOP primary and nary a Democrat to be found (so much for Mike Tate’s 72 county strategy or contesting every election) so the winner of the GOP contest will be the nominal representative.

But it is interesting that three are kneeling at the altar of conservative dogma…particularly tax cuts…while important constituencies within their district are suffering…and complaining to Madison about it. Well first let’s start with the candidates”

Cindi Duchow is a Town of Delafield supervisor:

Duchow, 56, says she wants to reduce income and property taxes. “I’m ready to fight to save you every dime I can in Madison so that more money stays in your pocket here at home,” she says in a campaign statement.

Scott Owens of the Town of Genesee:

Owens pledged to eliminate corporate income taxes as part of a strategy to stimulate job creation and grow Wisconsin’s economy.

“I am running as a conservative who wants to go to Madison and continue the big bold reforms that were started by Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Chris Kapenga,” he said in a statement.

Dave Westlake of Hartland:

His central campaign theme is that “less government leads to more favorable results.”

Among his priorities if elected to the office Westlake lists increasing penalties for fraud, reducing taxes and spending and stimulating job growth.

Spencer Zimmerman of the City of Delafield:

This space intentionally left blank…because he didn’t respond to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Of course lower taxes has been Governor Walker’s mantra and he has done exactly that via all his biennial budgets. But it is seriously hurting Wisconsin constituents and particularly Wisconsin education. I am ashamed that I haven’t written about this before…but recently 35 Wisconsin principals wrote a letter to the governor and the state legislature, calling them to task for cutting state support for public schools. Which schools? Are they from the progressive hotbed in Madison? From the long suffering Milwaukee Public Schools? NO, they are from small towns and villages spread across the red counties of Wisconsin…including Arrowhead HS, one of the largest and most successful schools in the state, and right smack dab in the middle of the 99th!

So I would hope the principals come out against further cuts and shame the candidates that would be willing to cause further damage to their schools by continuing to cut state revenues…and let the parents know what’s going on!!

Here are a few choice excerpts from the coverage linked above:

“Since the onset of revenue limits in 1992, our school districts have been reducing and eliminating programs and resources,” the letter states. “We are burdened by the cumulative effects of budget cuts resulting in increased class sizes, cut programs and deferred maintenance plans.”

Jefferson High School principal Mark Rollefson, who spearheaded the letter-writing effort, said one reason for the principals to collaborate on a message was that most people in local communities know their principals and likely trust them.

“High school principals attend a lot of musicals, FFA events, community functions, athletic events, concerts, PT conferences, graduation and much more,” Rollefson said. “As such, the community can relate to us. A letter to the Wisconsin governor and copied to legislators signed by 35 area principals may catch Madison’s attention.”

Letter-signer Gregg Wieczorek, principal at Arrowhead High School, hopes so. He said principals are the ones who have their finger on the pulse of local education.

“They have cross integration of parents, teachers, students — they kind of get the whole thing,” Wieczorek said. “Yet they’re not consulted. They’re not involved in the decision making or even the advising stage.”

Rollefson said the same goes for local school boards whose hands are “hogtied” because of so many mandates preventing local officials from making decisions.

“The federal and state governments control curriculum, testing, funding, calendar, certification and more,” Rollefson said. “Is it not time to trust the people to make decisions rather than Big Government? Is this not why we have a school board?”

From a similar article from Madison.com:

“We do not support recent budgets and the underfunding of public education,” read the letter signed by Machell Schwarz, principal of DeForest Area High School; Brian Sniff, principal of Marshall High School; James Hickey, retiring principal of McFarland High School, and Jim Pliner, principal of Oregon High School, along with 31 others.

Budget cuts have meant smaller school staffs and less autonomy for local school boards, the principals said.

“Citizens trust these locally elected officials to set policy and support education in our communities. These respected school board members have far less control over local decisions than they did in the past,” they wrote.

The “business model” schools are forced to adopt results in “haves and have-nots” among school districts, the principals said.

If the principals were really smart they would now take their complaints to the voters and parents in their respective school districts and explain the lack of support coming from Madison…they probably can’t directly challenge the candidates or involve themselves in the campaign in their official roles…but they certainly can make the facts known. And maybe the voters can shame the candidates in supporting education instead of knee jerk reactions to ‘tax cuts’.

Next Assault On Clean Government: Disable The Government Accountability Board

Having learned nothing about Wisconsin’s concern with clean and open government from their open records debacle this past week, the Republicans in Madison decide to renew their efforts to disable the GAB:

“Now that the state budget is complete, it’s time to double down on finalizing the necessary reforms for the (Government Accountability Board) so the bill can be ready for consideration this fall. Those reforms will include a means to change the way the GAB operates. The agency leadership needs to be accountable to the GAB board and the board needs to be accountable to the Legislature and the citizens of Wisconsin.”

Let’s parse out that last quote:

agency leadership needs to be accountable to the GAB board : check

board needs to be accountable to…the citizens of Wisconsin : check

board needs to be accountable to the Legislature… : bzzzt – wrong answer. The GAB needs to continue to be a non-partisan independent board in order to insure accurate and fair elections in the State of Wisconsin!

This Should Be The First Bill After The Budget.

Immediately after the state budget is passed…and even before the governor completes his vetoes…the next bill to get fasted tracked through the legislature…should ban all non-budgetary items from the biennial budget…flat out period…and every Republican legislator who sits on the Joint Finance Committee should be a co-sponsor. If they really mean what they said yesterday about an open and transparent government…this is the next step!!

First Open Records Request That Wisconsin Media Needs To File On Monday.

After another blatant attempt to hide their intentions and activities by trashing the Wisconsin Open Records laws, the GOP legislators are walking it back…originally it wasn’t totally apparent whether they were ‘changing’ it or totally removing it. Reports had quoted a variety of electeds following either path, but now according to the Wisconsin State Journal, it looks as though that provision will be removed from the budget bill entirely!

So what should the Wisconsin media do first thing Monday morning? File an open record request for all information and work product relating to the insertion of this despicable amendment to the state budget.

Republicans Afraid Of Their Own Actions

Before today’s committee hearing on the misnamed Right to Work Legislation, Senate Labor Committee Chair Senator Steve Nass stated that they had to hurry up to pass the bill to avoid a confrontation with the people:

Nass told the committee that it was essential to move quickly on right-to-work legislation to avoid the sustained protest of 2011. Then, lawmakers had to “go through tunnels like rats” to get into the Capitol and a senator was “cornered like a wounded (raccoon)” by protesters, Nass said.

If what you are doing is so onerous that you have to rush it through in ‘extraordinary session’, you might want to consider another line of work. Really!

But the fear mongering didn’t stop there. Although the committee hearings were supposed to continue until 7 PM, Senator Nass pulled the plug because of a credible threat of ?? wtf?:

… shortly before 6:30 p.m. committee chairman Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) said that he was cutting off the meeting abruptly because of what Nass called a “credible threat” in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report. That story said that union demonstrators were planning to peacefully disrupt the committee vote by raising their voices if Republicans didn’t let everyone from the public testify.

“When the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article came back, that’s credible to me or they wouldn’t be reporting that,” Nass said later of his decision to call the vote early, adding that he wanted Wednesday’s Senate session to start on time.

Well, first I am surprised that the Senator had time to read online newspapers while running a contentious committee meeting and I am even more surprised that a state senator from Whitewater would be reading the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (sorry guys).

Raised voices can certainly be threatening, but I would think that would be business as usual in the State Capitol by now. But that wasn’t his real concern…go back to his reasoning for hurrying this bill…and feel his real concern:

“I think the whole objective on the other side was delay, delay, delay,” he said after the vote.

And what did the unions have to say? They just wanted to have time for everyone to testify. Raised voices…probably…but no threats:

During the meeting, the source for the Journal Sentinel report, Bruce Colburn of the Service Employees International Union State State Council, stood up in the middle of the committee hearing and told Nass that there was no threat or need for concern. Colburn and AFSCME Council 48 executive director Boyd McCamish later told the Journal Sentinel that the newspaper’s report was accurate but that they disagreed with Nass’ contention that their plans constituted a “threat,” calling that argument a “sham.”

“There was no threat,” Colburn said. “We wanted to insure that people had a right to speak.”

“They used it as a straw man to get out of a very uncomfortable position,” McCamish added. “It’s an act of political cowardice.”

“It’s an act of political cowardice.”

Without a doubt!

btw, here’s how the evening ended:

The vote in the Senate Labor Committee was 3-1, with all three Republicans voting for the bill to prohibit requiring workers to pay union dues and one Democrat, Sen. Bob Wirch of Kenosha, voting against.

Union supporters reacted with disbelief and anger to the sudden vote, shouting,” Shame! Shame! Shame!” as police escorted Republican lawmakers from the hearing room.

Do you really think that you are doing a good job as an elected official if you have to have a police escort from your place of work?

Right To Work Isn’t About Freedom In The Work Place Says Fitzgerald!

The proponents of Right to Work (at your co-workers expense) legislation continually chant that it’s about freedom for workers…despite union representation being voted on by a majority of their co-workers…the individual should be able to opt out of that. But we all know it’s about union busting.

And so does House Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Scott Fitzgerald and it fairly drips from their words about the current ‘extraordinary session’ worthy Right to Work bill in Madison:

The proposed right to work bill moving quickly through the Legislature will affect only private-sector unions.

The proposal only affects workers in private businesses, both the language of the bill and comments from Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau show.

The measure would prohibit unions and private businesses from reaching contracts that require workers to pay labor dues or fees.

So police and firefighter unions in the state can still require workers to pay money to unions even if the workers choose not to join. Other public employee unions were previously barred from doing this by Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011 Act 10 law.

Fitzgerald acknowledged Friday that Republicans have considered taking this step with public safety unions as well but for now at least are not doing so.

If this were about worker freedoms…it would be available to everybody…but it’s not. It’s about union busting and the police and fire unions have been supportive of the governor and state GOP so their power and authority (and campaign bank book) must be maintained. Incredible.

Wisconsin State Legislature Calls Extraordinary Session To Solve Critical Emergency!

The Wisconsin State Legislature is calling an extraordinary session next week to apparently fend off a statewide crisis. Something called Right To Work (at the expense of your co-workers) legislation demands that it be passed…oh…no…wait. This is an emergency? Isn’t that what extraordinary sessions are for?

Here is a primer on the difference between a special session and an extraordinary session.

But a couple of highlights on extraordinary sessions:

What is an extraordinary session?

In short, it’s a session with a specific focus. Both its rules and purposes differ some from those of a regular session. Extraordinary sessions…are called to take up one or more specific topics or bills. An extraordinary session can be called by the Legislature and does not need the governor’s approval.

How is an extraordinary session called?

One of three ways: 1) the direction of a majority of the members of the committee on organization in each chamber, 2) a joint resolution passed by a majority of elected membership in each chamber, 3) a joint petition of a majority of the members elected in each house.

What can happen in an extraordinary session?

Action can only be taken on the business “specified in the call by which it was authorized.” In a special session, the governor can only designate subject areas for the Legislature to discuss, but an extraordinary session can be called for specific bills.

If the extraordinary session is held before the conclusion of the final general floor period, lawmakers can also introduce new legislation or consider bills that have already been introduced.

The purpose of an extraordinary session can also be expanded and supplemented in order to act on other business.

What are the rules for an extraordinary session?

Extraordinary sessions expedite the legislative process and limit the amount of time allowed for debate. The rules differ slightly between the Assembly and Senate.

In both houses, notices for committee hearings aren’t required beyond posting online and on legislative bulletin boards. A schedule of committee activities doesn’t have to be published.

Proposals are referred to the day’s calendar and may be taken up immediately. A calendar doesn’t have to be provided.

Motions to postpone proposals are not allowed and, in almost all cases, motions to reconsider will be taken up immediately. A vote from a majority of present members is required to advance a proposal to a third reading or to message it to the other house.

Under Senate rules, any point of order must be decided within an hour.

So given the nature of the current legislature, they can simply decide that a certain bill is the single focus and they can limit debate and notification and just run with it? Doesn’t have to be an emergency or special circumstance?

And in this case, the Republicans can call an extraordinary session with a straight face over Right To Work? Unions are such an existential threat that we have to go to extraordinary measures to wrestle them to the ground?

Meanwhile true emergencies like the $283 million dollar deficit in the 2013-2015 budget remain undiscussed? And the billions of dollars in projected shortfalls in the 2015-2017 budget and the dozens of onerous actions it contains get back logged? This is truly the best use of the legislature’s time? Really? Speaker Vos and Majority Leader Fitzgerald can say that with a straight face?

No, actually it seems that the Republicans are as confused as I am:

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, discussed whether the bill should be taken up in regular session or extraordinary session and ultimately decided extraordinary session was the way to go.

“It just seemed to make sense to … stay focused on this bill, make this what is, I would say, a very simple calendar so that there’s no confusion about anything like any other bill or any other thing that we might take up,” Fitzgerald told reporters on Friday. “It literally will be the only thing on this calendar.”

Fitzgerald said his experience as the Senate leader has taught him, “when you have the votes, you go to the floor.”

It can’t possibly have anything to do with trying to short circuit dissent, discussion or giving the bill a proper hearing in public. Can it?

He (Senator Fitzgerald) also suggested the fast-track push was an attempt to head off a union-backed campaign to persuade Republican senators to oppose the bill.

Whoops, I stand corrected, Democracy Be Damned, let’s just continue to stink the place up.

Legislative Per Diems Versus Minimum Wage

As Zach pointed out earlier, State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and the GOP Assembly members would like to raise their expense per diem from $88 to $137.50. Now I realize it’s been a while since the per diem was last changed and inflation/recession/inflation has taken some purchasing power out of their wallets…or should I say our wallets. But I really wonder how Speaker Vos thinks that this won’t cost us anything?

Lawmakers do not have to produce receipts to claim per diem, but Vos said they risk criminal false swearing charges if they lie on their expense reports.

Vos said after 14 years it was time to more accurately account for expenses and that he did not believe his plan would increase overall taxpayer costs.

“It’s actually being done in as cost-neutral a way as possible,” he said.

And it’s done on the honor system! Oh, wait, what?? Nevermind…I didn’t trust them with my money before so what’s the difference now, right?

Of course there are a few on the other side of the aisle who aren’t so sure this is a bad idea:

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said he backed the plan.

“I think it’s more equitable than what we have now,” Barca said

Now certainly I am being a little snarky here and I understand that travelling to Madison and staying overnight in the city is not only a culture shock for those from out state representatives but can hit the wallet pretty hard. Madison isn’t the cheapest place to stay in Wisconsin. And I don’t have a real problem with them being compensated in some fashion.

But here’s my real point. When it comes to the minimum wage…the purchasing power of minimum wage is likewise shrinking…so why the bluster about how it’s unaffordable…and the foot dragging about how it will harm the economy…when it’s the minimum wage earner or near minimum wage earner who is actually trying to make ends meet…instead of spiffing him/herself on an expanded perquisite? One will put my money back in the general economy in a big way…while one puts my money back in the economy in a narrow way for people I don’t think need it.

P.S. The State Senate isn’t considering changing the way they pay per diems.