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“REINS Act” - New Power for Leaders to Stop Public Protections

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 09 May 2017
in Wisconsin

flint-water-crisisThe REINS Act (SB 15) allows the Senate Majority Leader, Assembly Speaker, or Chairs of the administrative rules committee to stop development of administrative rules if the cost to implement the rule is over $10 million, regardless of the benefit to the public.


MADISON - “This is the broadest, most dangerous bill you’ve never heard of.” I told my colleagues during a recent Senate debate. “It’s an obscure way to shut down government from doing something that the Legislature intended to do.”

Senate Bill 15, known by the initials REINS, would allow leaders of the Legislature to shut down the implementation of new laws if the leader found the new law too costly to implement. A version of the bill is moving toward passage at both the state and federal levels of government. I expect the state Assembly will soon take up the bill.

A little background; after a bill becomes law, agencies work on writing the details of how to implement the law. These details, known as Administrative Rules, are vetted by the Legislature through a committee and vetted by the public through hearings.

“Administrative Rules are the fine details of laws written by policy experts at state agencies.” said long-time Capitol reporter Shawn Johnson in an NPR story on the Senate passage of the REINS Act.

In 2011, majority members voted to change the rulemaking process to give the governor exceptional authority. Under what became known as “Act 21” the rulemaking process now begins and ends in the governor’s office.

Chief sponsor of the REINS Act argued the bill “shifts the power back to us, the elected officials.” Curiously, the bill did not change the portion of the process that begins and ends with the governor.

What the bill did do is allow leaders – the Senate Majority Leader, Assembly Speaker, or Chairs of the administrative rules committee – to stop the implementation of a law if their own commissioned study shows the total cost of implementing the new law is over $10 million.

However, the study would only evaluate the costs of the new law, not the benefits. Therefore, the bill only considers one side of the equation – the costs to business not the benefits to the public.

Consider this hypothetical example: a manufacturing process caused the death of thirty people. Implementation of a rule to change the manufacturing process statewide would cost over $10 million. The value of the business costs would be weighed but not the value of human lives saved because of protections put in place by the rule.

The cynical observer of the political process might say the REINS Act allows a legislator to vote for a new law that has broad public support, but after action by a few legislative leaders, satisfy a select group by never implementing the new law.

The REINS Act would affect every portion of state government, but there are five agencies that write the majority of Administrative Rules: Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; Natural Resources; Transportation; Economic Development Authority (formerly Commerce) and Workforce Development (Labor).

Given what these agencies do, the effect of the REINS law could be wide reaching. New laws that could be stopped might be related to consumer protections; human, animal and plant health; workers compensation, unemployment and discrimination protections; road and bridge construction; food, water and air pollution. Even clawing back state money from companies that refused to deliver promised jobs.

The groups supporting the REINS Act reads like a “Who’s Who” among factions trying to influence the Republican Party: Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, various utility companies, American Petroleum Institute, the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity, to name but a few.

According to the Center for Media and Democracy, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) a corporate lobbying-sponsored group supports the bill. Some Wisconsin legislators are among ALEC leadership and members.

In Washington, a similar REINS Act is moving through Congress. The Act was passed by the House of Representatives and is under consideration in the U.S Senate.

In a letter to Congress, the nonpartisan League of Women Voters wrote, “If you think you might ever protect your constituents from dirty air or water, drinking water contamination, disease spread by food, lead in toys, predatory banking practices or any known or yet unforeseen threat, you need to vote against the REINS Act. The Act would simply be the most fundamental step away from protecting the public in U.S. history.”

The REINS Act is promoted as a cleverly devised pun to rein-in run-away government. However, in reality, it is a way for large corporate interests to manipulate our political process to their own ends, sacrificing our people’s health and safety.

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Wisconsinites Draft Mike McCabe for Governor

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is a Founding Partner and Publisher of the N.E. Wisconsin - Green Ba
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 04 May 2017
in Wisconsin

mike-mccabePeople from all walks of life call on Blue Jean Nation's Mike McCabe, a non-partisan author and true independent, to step into the political arena and run for Governor in 2018.


GREEN BAY - Looking for a new type of candidate to challenge Scott Walker for governor? That's what a grassroots group of 190 concerned citizens from all parts of Wisconsin and many different walks of life all say we need.

On Wednesday, the group delivered a letter to Blue Jean Nation founder and president Mike McCabe, of rural Altoona, who they believe would be the ideal Candidate for Governor in the 2018 election.

McCabe, 56, is the author of Blue Jeans in High Places: The Coming Makeover of American Politics and for 15 years was the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan watchdog group that specializes in tracking the money in state elections and works for reforms aimed at making people matter more than money in politics. He has been a frequent contributor and blogger on these pages.

These citizens are tired of the procession of traditional Republican and Democratic politicians who they say have seized the levers of government in Wisconsin and are now being manipulated by those interested primarily in self-enrichment and personal power.

"We need you to run because of who you are and where you are from," they say to McCabe in their letter. "Rural Wisconsin is in crisis, and the rural-urban divide is growing disturbingly wide. You are farm raised and have deep rural roots, so you have what so few of today’s politicians have, namely an understanding of rural life and the challenges small-town residents face and an ability to speak their language."

The citizens believe Mike is "a public servant in the truest sense" and are asking him to run because "Wisconsin politics has grown corrupt and there is no one in our state who has worked harder for a longer time and done more to fight political corruption than you."

Before joining the Democracy Campaign’s staff in 1999 and becoming its director in 2000, Mike worked for six years as communications director and legislative liaison for the Madison Metropolitan School District. He has run a statewide civic education program for the nonprofit Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. He also formerly worked as a newspaper reporter and as a legislative aide for three Republican members of the Wisconsin State Assembly.

In his early years, Mike served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the West African country of Mali. While at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Mike co-authored Democratic Renewal: A Call to Action from America’s Heartland for the Midwest Democracy Network and while at the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance co-wrote The Framework of Your Wisconsin Government as well as a curriculum guide on state and local government for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

McCabe is a true independent and has shined light on the misdeeds of Republicans and Democrats alike. He has been speaking truth to power for decades as a nonpartisan government watchdog.

When contacted for comment by the Green Bay Progressive on Wednesday, Mike told us that he "is interested" in a possible run for Governor and may try to put together a "campaign after Labor Day" should interest continue to grow. As of now, no money has been raised for the campaign, but Mike hopes to follow the "small individual donor" model used by Bernie Sanders when and if the campaign begins.

****

A copy of the letter including a complete list of the signers is presented here.

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Youth in Government Day Engages Teens

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Monday, 01 May 2017
in Wisconsin

students-ecTrempealeau County Youth in Government Day brings students into the courthouse to visit with officials and staff about their work. It gave Kathleen Vinehout a chance to spent time with them discussing her role as Senator and engage in a conversation about what they would change if they had the opportunity.


WHITEHALL, WI - “Imagine you could make the laws. What would you change about how things are run?” My question to the students spurred a long discussion about change in our world.

Almost 100 high school students recently participated in Trempealeau County Youth in Government Day. The daylong session was designed to encourage youth to become engaged in government. Students visited with county officials and staff about their work running county services.

During lunch, I spoke with the students about being a Senator and lawmaking. I encouraged them to think about laws as something they could someday change.

trempealeau-coTeens told me they often think of the law as permanent. The day at the courthouse taught them things can change. They can be a part of change. The teens offered ideas that reflected their interests and experiences. Some focused on immediate concerns, “Get rid of the school dress code,” said Isabelle. Some had a larger vision.

“I want to save the horses sent across the Mexican border for meat,” said Raquel. We talked about the work of horse rescue groups who give time and money to help abandoned horses.

“We need to protect the environment. If we protect our environment, we protect human health and animal habitat,” one young woman explained.

“Fewer people are going into agriculture. Let’s offer free tuition to encourage more agriculture students and farmers.” Several students voiced agreement. “Everyone needs to eat – we need more farmers.” “Look at the average age of farmers in Wisconsin,” said another.

“We need cheaper college tuition,” said one young man. Others agreed. “Look what they did in New York – they made college free.” Another student noted, “Even in Kurdistan they have free college tuition.” I’m not sure about Kurdistan, but there are countries do not charge students tuition.

“We need to give everyone equal opportunity,” said Kayla, whose broad vision spurred others to think of ways to provide opportunity to all of our neighbors.

Shelly talked of helping homeless children. “Give them a home, lower the cost of adoption,” she said. We talked about the county’s role in helping children whose parents could not take care of them. Several students mentioned their visit with county social workers who spoke about children in need.

“I’d like to help people without health care,” said Monica who wants to become a Certified Nursing Assistant. She also saw the larger problems that happen when people cannot get needed health care.

kathleen vinehoutI prodded the students for more ideas of how we could provide opportunity for all. One teen with beautiful blue and black hair framing her face, said people “should not be discriminated against for the color of their hair.” Her comment led to a discussion of discrimination in many forms. We talked about race, religion, national origin and immigration status.

The student’s vision of changing how things are run was not limited to the county, or even the state. “I think we need to explore space,” said Riley. “Let’s explore Mars.”

“Kids in other countries are dying of diseases and do not have a home,” said one young woman.

“Stop corrupt governments,” said Manny. He added corrupt people who are not committed to serving the public can run other countries and, even our own country.

His comment prompted a discussion about laws to assure good government. We talked about transparency in state and local government. Posting public notices in the newspaper for example helps people see actions local officials plan to take. Transparency gives everyone a chance to participate in what happens in our communities and state.

“Showing up is the first step to changing the world,” I told the youth. The decision makers in this world first show up at a school board, county board or town board meeting.

“Next, let your voice be heard,” I urged. Write, email, speak out, and call your representatives. I asked the youth to think about how to make their voice louder. They talked about joining groups, gathering petitions and working for change together.

Spending the day with the Trempealeau County teens reassured me youth of today are engaged and considering world problems they will soon inherit. I’m grateful to County Clerk Paul Severson, the American Legion, teachers and county officials who worked hard to give students a glimpse into how they could participate in government and someday even change the world.

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SB 76 brings Grassroots groups together in defense of the waters of Wisconsin

Posted by Criste Greening
Criste Greening
Small business owner, public school teacher, and now citizens water activist. A
User is currently offline
on Sunday, 30 April 2017
in Wisconsin

Section 22 of the Wisconsin constitution states, “The blessings of a free government can only be maintained by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles” yet elected officials in Madison will ignore this cornerstone of the Wisconsin constitution on May 2nd and likely pass SB 76, or the ‘Death by 1,000 Straws,’ high capacity well bill. Citizens and grassroots groups from around the state are calling for their elected officials to vote ‘no’ on SB 76 because permanently granting high capacity well permits without state oversight is in violation of their oath of office to uphold the state’s constitution.

For over a century citizens of Wisconsin have relied on the State Constitution for its protections and safeguards from overzealous and overreaching governmental policies and political parties.  Enshrined in the constitution is the Public Trust Doctrine, which states that our elected officials must act as trustees of Wisconsin’s waters for its citizens. As trustees, they have a duty to care for, manage, improve, and protect the water for the benefit of the citizens. It is this time-honored and foundational component of our state’s constitution that is in the cross-hairs of SB 76.  Any elected official who votes ‘yes’ on May 2nd will be acting in direct conflict with their role as trustee of Wisconsin’s waters.

The lack of reasonable moderation in SB 76’s fast-tracking through the Legislature is alarming. Undue industry influence (to the tune of nearly a quarter million dollars in just the last legislative session) has likely driven the fast-tracking and passage of SB 76.  This bill has been assigned to inapproriate committees, had a joint hearing in front of Senate and Assembly committees, was voted out of the Senate Committee by secret paper ballot (which did not allow for the introduction of commonsense amendments), and the purposeful misleading of citizens and other elected officials with false facts and biased information has been disheartening.


Senator Scott Fitzgerald and other supporters of SB 76 claim this bill is a necessary response to industry's need for “regulatory certainty” for high capacity wells (HCW) that may need to be replaced, maintained, repaired, or transferred illustrates a clear disregard for the facts.  Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) records simply do not support these claims as outlined in prior press statements shared by numerous groups.


Wisconsin Legislators have been misleading both constituents and coworkers stating the WDNR will still have authority to review and condition HCW under statute 281.34 (7).  Which states:
Modifying and rescinding approvals for high capacity wells. The approval of a high capacity well issued under this section or under s. 281.17 (1), 2001 stats., remains in effect unless the department modifies or rescinds the approval because the high capacity well or the use of the high capacity well is not in conformance with standards or conditions applicable to the approval of the high capacity well. This statute grants authority to review or rescind only when a HCW is being used outside the guidelines of its current permit.


There are HCWs in operation today that are pumping within the confines of their permit and, in spite of those permitting conditions,  are significantly impacting area lakes and streams.  This standard does not grant the WDNR the authority to condition or restrict pumping from a current HCW due to its impacts on local water resources.  Mischaracterizing this provision as a remedy for citizens who are impacted by overpumping is a false claim meant to mislead the public. WDNR has been questioned about this scenario repeatedly and has verified that Statute 281.34(7) does not grant them the authority to impose pumping conditions if the HCW is functioning within the confines of its permit.


Finally, supporters of this bill note State Statute 30.03 relating to the enforcement of forfeitures; abatement of nuisances; infringement of public rights as an additional avenue for those affected by HCW overpumping. WDNR representatives indicate abatement through statute 30.03 is an unrealistic avenue for their department due to time factors, personnel limitations, and court costs associated with processing such a suit. Once again the burden and expense is passed on to citizens to battle through the courts, which is often an unattainable and burdensome option.


In effect, SB 76 would turn high capacity well permits into eternal unreviewed and unalterable permits, regardless of their impacts on local watersheds or surrounding wells.  These essentially permanent permits are especially alarming when we consider that the WDNR is permitting HCWs without accounting for their cumulative impacts.


Passage of SB 76 will exacerbate this situation and means once again citizens will have to go to court to affirm and regain their constitutional right to their reasonable use of the waters of the state. They have had to do this before and the courts have upheld that right every time.  Despite this clear mandate, our WDNR relies on a non-binding opinion by Attorney General Schimel rather than following the constitution, the courts, and the broad statutory authority granted to the department by the state legislature.


There are common sense solutions for protecting our precious groundwater that provide sufficient water for all users and respect property rights.  This, however, would require a much more holistic and comprehensive groundwater management law.  In its current state, far from solving the issues, this bill would simply lock in the current problems homeowners, citizens, and wildlife face from increased high-capacity pumping.


Wisconsin residents from nearly every county in the state are represented by the organizations united in this message.  We deserve fair representation and legislation that ensures surface and groundwater will be here for generations to come. Elected officials are sworn to uphold the Wisconsin state constitution and any legislation, like SB 76, that endangers the Public Trust Doctrine is in direct violation of their oath of office. Wisconsin citizens from across the state have signed on to this statement and expect our representatives in Madison to protect the citizen interests over big industry donors who are buying preferential legislation.

On behalf of the groups listed below and the thousands of citizens we represent statewide, we ask that you vote “no” to SB 76.


Citizens' Water Coalition of Wisconsin

Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network

Wild Rivers Chapter Trout Unlimited

Friends of the Central Sands

Frac Sand Mining Awareness

Crawford Stewardship Project

Protect Wood County & its Neighbors

Save The Hills Alliance

Kewaunee CARES

People Empowered Protect the Land (PEPL) of Rosendale

Green County Defending Our Farmland

Central Wisconsin Nature Foundation

Citizen Action Organizing Cooperative

Facing Forward Vernon Our Wisconsin Revolution

Inland Sea Society

From the Earth

Indivisible Fond du Lac

Protect Our Water

Friends of the Kinni

Concerned Rome Citizens

Rome Saratoga Friendly

Indivisible Winnebago

Central Sands Water Action Coalition

Forward Kenosha

Rinehart Lake Association

Farms Not Factories

Spirit Creek Water Protectors

Indivisible Milwaukee ~ South Side

Bad River Watershed Association

Frac Sand Sentinels

Indivisible Solon Springs

Indivisible DeForest

Concerned Citizens of Princeton

Citizens for a Better Environment Lake Mills

Emerald Clean Water For All

Penokee Hills Education Project

Penokee Hills Light Brigade

Water Protectors of Milwaukee

Friends of the Eau Claire Lakes Area

Citizens for Environmental Stewardship

Indivisible Ashland

Heartland Land Creations

League of Women Voters of Ashland and Bayfield Counties

LCO/Sawyer County Dems

Preserve Waupaca County

League of Women Voters Upper Mississippi RIver Region

Crystal Lake Club

Friends of the Tomorrow /Waupaca River

Waupaca Commoners Caucus

Constituents Only

Defending Our Ixonia Countryside

Vernon County Democratic Party

Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger

Gaia Coalition

Concerned Citizens of Easton

League of Women Voters/Greater Chippewa Valley

Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin

Organic Consumers Association

Blue Jean Nation

Wisconsin Resources Protection Council

Echo Valley Hope

Madison Action for Mining Alternatives

Reedsburg Area Concerned Citizens



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Blue Jean Nation 'Wisconsin’s biggest problem'

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 27 April 2017
in Wisconsin

wisconsin-rustedIn recent years, Wisconsin appears to have lost its ambition to be first or best. Roads are going to hell, we rank 49th in Internet speed. We’re lagging badly in renewable energy development and jobs. Recovery starts with wanting to be a state of firsts again.


ALTOONA, WI - Wisconsin has more than its share of problems. Our state leads the nation in shrinkage of the middle class and is dead last in new business start-ups. The roads are going to hell. We rank 49th in Internet speed. We’re lagging badly in renewable energy development. We used to pride ourselves on having some of the best schools in the nation, but in recent years have watched them slip toward mediocrity. Many parts of the state now have a public health crisis on their hands when it comes to drinking water.

The biggest problem of all is that Wisconsin appears to have lost its ambition to be first or best. For the time being the state seems content to be average or even bring up the rear. Wisconsin has, temporarily at least, lost its pioneering spirit. Past generations made Wisconsin a state of firsts. First in the nation to establish kindergartens, first to set up a vocational, technical and adult education system. First to pass a law providing workplace injury compensation, first to create an unemployment compensation program. First to create primary elections to take the business of nominating candidates away from party bosses in smoke-filled rooms and put it in the hands of the people. First to base taxation on the ability to pay. Social Security was cooked up here.

Today, about the only way Wisconsin leads the nation is in the disappearance of the middle class. For Wisconsin to become what it has the potential to be, the state’s pioneering spirit has to be rediscovered. We have to aspire to be first again.

For example, it should be Wisconsin’s goal to be the first state in the nation to be fully powered by renewable energy. You know some state is going to get there. It’s only a matter of time. Why shouldn’t Wisconsin be that state? The race is on, but Wisconsin has not yet shown it is serious about competing in that race. Time for that to change.

Wisconsin needs to make education and job training as affordable for our kids and grandkids as it was for their parents and grandparents. We can settle for nothing less than debt-free college and vocational preparation.

Access to high-speed Internet and mobile phone service are 21st Century necessities that must be brought to every household. Everyone in Wisconsin should have them. Wisconsin ranks 49th in Internet speed. We should take all necessary steps to be first.

No one anywhere in Wisconsin should turn on a water faucet and be afraid to drink what comes out. Wisconsin should lead the nation in protecting water quality. No one in Wisconsin should be unable to go to the doctor when sick. Instead of turning down available federal funds for medical care, they should be used to leverage expansion of BadgerCare and ultimately make it a health coverage option for everyone in the state.

No more Wisconsin communities should be forced to go backward and turn paved roads into gravel. Wisconsin now has the fourth worst roads in the nation, with nearly three-quarters of them in mediocre or poor condition. It should be our goal to have the best ones in the country.

It all starts with wanting to be a state of firsts again.

— Mike McCabe

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