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People Make a Difference Despite Haste at Capitol PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District   
Monday, 22 February 2016 16:58

capitol-takekidsGood people can make a difference to bills moving swiftly through the legislature, like AB 554 where overwhelming constituent contact in legislative offices stopped action on a GOP proposal to allow an out-of-state corporation to buy and operate public water utilities. Sen. Kathleen Vinehout writes about the speed with which bills are moving through the Legislature and how people’s action has made a difference.

Last Updated on Monday, 22 February 2016 17:33
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Scalia and John Doe/Vos and Vouchers PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Wednesday, 17 February 2016 16:59

antonin-scaliaMADISON - When I heard the news about Justice Scalia, one of my first thoughts was how was this going to affect the appeal of the John Doe decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. So I scratched my head on that one, and this is what I came up with:

Scalia’s death ups the odds of John Doe appeal

This week, with every variety of nasty bills being pushed through the legislature at warp speed, we focused on one that Speaker Vos is peddling, and that’s his voucher expansion amendment (Assembly Amendment 3 to Assembly Bill 751), which is up for a floor vote tomorrow. Our research director, Mike Buelow, dug up the info on the voucher school lobby:

Who is behind more $$ for voucher schools?

Ironically, as yesterday was Election Day, the Republican leadership in the legislature thought it was an appropriate time to bring to a vote two bills that interfere with our franchise: one to do away with Special Registration Deputies (you know, those great folks from the League of Women Voters who sign people up); the other to deny towns and counties the authority to issue local ID cards. We wrote about them here:

Assembly poised to pass measures to make it harder to vote

Unfortunately, both of those bills passed, as have some bad environmental bills.

But don’t despair. The Walker Wrecking Crew won’t be in power forever. No one ever is.

And as Howard Zinn reminds us, “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.”

Please enjoy that bit of wisdom, along with the warming weather.

 
Wall Resignation Doesn't Erase Walker Cover Up PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Jennifer Shilling, State Senator 32nd District   
Monday, 15 February 2016 11:40

jennifer-shillingMADISON – On Friday, Gov. Scott Walker’s Department of Corrections Secretary Ed Wall resigned as the investigation of potential abuse of youth at the Copper Lake and Lincoln Hills schools moves on to the FBI.

I am appalled by the latest revelations of child abuse and sexual assault that occurred in Gov. Walker’s Department of Corrections. Sec. Wall’s resignation doesn’t change the fact that Gov. Walker and his top aides ignored critical safety warnings for more than four years.

Rather than covering up Gov. Walker’s failure to act, the Legislature should immediately assert its oversight authority and hold hearings on the safety and treatment of children at Lincoln Hills. Democrats have introduced a series of Correction Reform measures that remain stalled in Republican legislative committees.

In addition to holding officials accountable, we need to address the serious safety and security concerns at Gov. Walker's correctional facilities and immediately pass these reform measures.

 
Republican Civil Service Law Puts Political Interests over Public PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Assembly Democrats, Laura Smith   
Saturday, 13 February 2016 15:53

walker-manpowr-signingGovernor Walker Further Opens Door for Cronyism, Corruption in Wisconsin.


MADISON – Governor Scott Walker signed into law a GOP backed bill that guts Wisconsin’s civil service system.By dismantling our state’s civil service system, Walker and legislative Republicans are kicking down the door for cronyism and corruption in Wisconsin.

The civil service system was founded on the idea that state employees should serve the public interest, not partisan political interests. Republicans have made it clear they will stop at nothing to consolidate their own power while rewarding their cronies with taxpayer-funded jobs.

peter_barca"Early in his administration Governor Walker was caught in a couple prominent situations where he placed allies in key positions with thin to no qualifications," says Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha). "This law will make it easier to more broadly do this unencumbered by the rules."

Additionally, Walker used this approach at WEDC, where he eliminated civil service for hiring staff and we saw continuous problems with turnover and ethically questionable conduct with potential pay to play and taxpayer funds at risk, yet Republicans want to make that the model for our entire state.

This is truly a dark day for Wisconsin’s proud heritage of clean, open and transparent government.

Last Updated on Saturday, 13 February 2016 16:56
 
Wisconsin's Capitol a Disaster Area! PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Thursday, 11 February 2016 17:08

capitol-night-wiscAB 723 limiting the ability of towns and counties to issue local IDs, AB 868 the "Mark Harris bill" prohibiting legislators from simultaneously holding the office of county executive, bills to siphon more of our taxpayer dollars away from our public schools, maneuverings in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and more attacks on local control lead the list.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 February 2016 17:31
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Seinfeld vs. Duck Dynasty PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Monday, 08 February 2016 19:25

duck-dynastyALTOONA, WI - It’s been said art imitates life. But when it comes to politics these days, it’s the other way around.

For the past several decades, the Democratic Party has been the political embodiment of Seinfeld. Urbane, smart-alecky, talking a lot but seemingly never working – just like Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer. Seinfeld was a show about nothing. For many a year now the Democrats have stood for next to nothing.

Today’s Republican Party is Duck Dynasty. Republicans are working for the Carringtons but are politically shrewd enough to know that looking and acting upper crust won’t sell to the masses. So the GOP markets itself as the Robertsons.

Long beards, camo from head to foot, stars-and-stripes bandanas, fundamentalist religion, redneck attitudes and a business fabricating duck calls and decoys that grew from a mom-and-pop operation to a multi-million dollar sporting empire have the Robertsons living large. Got ’em their own TV show too. And, like the Republican Party, the Robertsons are increasingly split politically.

Seinfeld had a big audience. Duck Dynasty has one now. Again, sort of the like the Democrats and Republicans.

Both Seinfeld and Duck Dynasty are entertaining in their own right. Both are good for a laugh. Both have memorable if not lovable characters. Both are seriously lacking in substance. Neither has much redeeming social value. More ways the major parties currently reflect the boob tube.

If the promise of the American Revolution is to be carried forward, if our republic is to endure much longer, at some point we are going to have to do a whole lot better than sitting around in a coffee shop or duck blind, if you catch my drift.

 
VOTE: Walker's worst ideas? PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Tammy Baldwin, Senator from Wisconsin   
Sunday, 07 February 2016 12:23

scott-walkerMADISON - Wisconsinites have a celebrated history of progressivism. We value civic engagement and activism. We believe in the power of regular people and government’s role in improving and protecting the lives of citizens.

But after six years under Governor Walker’s failed leadership, many of the values Wisconsinites hold dear are being eroded and undermined.

Today we want you to tell us which of Governor Walker’s policies you think are the most harmful to Wisconsinites.

Was it his attempts to...

  1. Rollback worker protections
  2. Make it more difficult to vote
  3. Infringe on a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions
  4. Cut funding from our public schools and universities
  5. Weaken government accountability measures
  6. Other
  7. All of the above

It’s no secret that Governor Walker’s drastic departure from Wisconsin’s progressive traditions has negatively impacted people across our state. But if we’re going to return to our roots and fight back against his extreme right-wing agenda, we need you to speak out.

Make sure you answer our quick survey and let us know which of Governor Walker’s policies affected you the most.

Thank you for taking the time to fill out our survey.

Last Updated on Sunday, 07 February 2016 12:34
 
Watch Those “Issue” ads! PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Sunday, 07 February 2016 11:42

rebecca-bradleyRebecca Bradley is running to keep the seat Scott Walker gave her last fall on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and she's using video from the Bradley Foundation backed Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, run by former Republican operatives, in her campaign. This coordination, which Bradley previously said she wouldn’t engage in, is now legal in Wisconsin.


MADISON - You can tell election season is open in Wisconsin now because your TV screens and your mailboxes are starting to fill up with bogus “issue” ads.

The first group out of the gate is the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, run by former Republican operatives. They’ve put together an ad that praises Rebecca Bradley, who is running to keep the seat Scott Walker gave her last fall on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. And they’ve even used video from Bradley’s campaign itself. This coordination, which Bradley previously said she wouldn’t engage in, is now legal in Wisconsin, by the way.

Group’s “issue ad” cribs from Supreme Court candidate’s campaign

And we just got a call today from one of our members who got a mailing from this same group that cast aspersions on Iowa County DA Larry Nelson, who is running for circuit court judge.

If you see an “issue” ad from any group, please contact us.

The best way to do so is to go to our Hijack Hotline on our website.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding the online reporting form or would rather discuss the details directly: (608) 255-4260.

Speaking of Larry Nelson, he’s one of the three district attorneys who recently joined the John Doe II case and is trying to appeal the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s ruling in the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Now those who were being investigated by the John Doe are trying to block any such appeal, as we wrote here:

John Doe opponents try to block path to U.S. Supreme Court

One other issue we’re following closely is the outrageous effort to loosen the restrictions on high-capacity wells that factory farms use. The latest twist is that Speaker Robin Vos has urged AG Brad Schimel to intervene and overrule the DNR on this one. Turns out Schimel has gotten money from some of the biggest factory farm owners, as we show here:

Schimel to rule on wells after getting contributions from factory farms

You never know what they’ll come up with next! But you can count on us to expose it.

 
Walker Turns Back on Pardons PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Lena Taylor, State Senator, 4th District   
Sunday, 07 February 2016 11:12

scottwalker-dreamMILWAUKEE - The Wisconsin Constitution states, “The governor shall have power to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons, after conviction…” Yet, the only person in the entire state who has the power to grant a pardon, Governor Scott Walker, has refused to do so. It is appalling that someone who has taken an oath to honor the constitution would deliberately evade their responsibilities as the leader of our state.

Republican Governor Tommy Thompson issued 148 pardons during his years in office. Democratic Governor Jim Doyle issued nearly 300 pardons. But it's not about how many people get a pardon. It's about the principle. The duty of the government is to serve its people first and foremost, and we cannot do that without first lending our ears. If we do not even listen to those who have served their sentence and repented their crimes, we deny them an opportunity for full rehabilitation and restoration of their citizenship.

I have recently introduced a bill to create an independent pardon council. This bill would create a panel of nine judges from around the state to consider each application for a pardon and make recommendations to the governor and the legislature. Although Walker has been neglectful to his people, this bill would allow hundreds to have their voice heard and allow them to get another chance.

 
Is what’s good for your 401K good for democracy? PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Monday, 01 February 2016 16:50

money-hording

Are the strategies we’ve employed for building retirement nest eggs transferable to self-government? Is a democratic republic compatible with the political industrial complex? Is it possible for the ordinary citizen to reclaim a meaningful and influential role in the political system?


ALTOONA, WI - Mutual funds exist for good reasons. When people are saving up for retirement, if they are lucky and if they are smart they have something more than what they’ve paid in to Social Security. Maybe they have a 401(k). Or maybe a 403(b). Or an IRA of some kind. Or a SEP. Whatever they have, they typically don’t have enough time on their hands to research where best to invest the funds or to execute the transactions. Nor do most of us feel qualified to manage these accounts.

mike-mccabeSo we put our money in a mutual fund, in the hands of professional money managers. This way, you can invest your money without the time or the experience needed to invest wisely. Theoretically at least, you should get a better return by giving your money to a professional than you would if you chose investments yourself. There is still risk. There’s always risk. But it beats stuffing your life’s savings in a mattress.

For roughly the same reasons, politics has largely been handed over to professionals. As populations continue to grow and life gets more complicated and communications technologies become more advanced and demanding, it is more and more challenging for someone with a life outside of politics to be an active and involved citizen. Increasingly, people who don’t practice politics for a living feel they have neither the time nor the qualifications to be actively engaged. Consequently, democracy has been outsourced to professional managers. A vast political consulting industry has  enveloped our political system, and it has become a multi-billion dollar racket.

There are survey research professionals to measure public opinion. There are messaging professionals to write scripts and put words in the mouths of candidates for office and elected officials. There are marketing professionals who sell policies and politicians the way beer and potato chips are sold. There are electioneering professionals who turn voter identification, persuasion and turnout into an intricate, algorithmic science. There are policy professionals who sit in offices on one coast and write laws for states and local communities on the other side of the country and all points in between. And, of course, there are the professional money managers who make sure all the consulting fees get paid and the obscene profits get turned.

All of this begs a number of questions:

Are the strategies we’ve employed for building retirement nest eggs transferable to self-government?

Is a democratic republic compatible with the political industrial complex?

Is it possible for the ordinary citizen – the amateur – to reclaim a meaningful and influential role in a political system presently overrun by professionals?

My answers:

No.

Absolutely not.

It has to be. The alternative is too dismal a fate.

Last Updated on Monday, 01 February 2016 17:06
 
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