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Blue Jean Nation "First things first"

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 Monday, 27 February 2017
in Wisconsin

spicer-fbOur freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment have never been more threatened than they are today. We have to stand up for a free press, and a first step is seeing through false choices.


ALTOONA, WI - Forty-five words. That’s all it took for our nation’s founders to grant us five bedrock freedoms. In just 45 words, they gave us freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, and the right to petition our government.

These five freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment have never been more threatened than they are today. Press freedom is under assault as the president brands the news media an “enemy of the American people.” Both of the First Amendment’s religious freedom clauses are being ignored as non-Christians are subjected to increasing discrimination and even targeted for deportation. The first of the two, namely the establishment clause, is disregarded as more and more American taxpayers are being forced to fund religious schools.

Free speech has become anything but free as the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that money is speech and corporations are citizens with speech rights, thereby blessing unlimited corporate election spending. Lawmakers in states all across the country are now trying to criminalize freedom of assembly and peaceful protest.

These are dangerous and threatening times for the First Amendment. The rise of fake news is a serious threat, but not the only one or even the biggest one. It’s not just that lies are being widely and quickly spread, it’s that a highly organized effort is being made to persuade the public that no news can be trusted, that no one is telling the truth. Journalism is being delegitimized.

Ongoing and escalating attacks on the separation of church and state gravely threaten religious freedom. State-endorsed religion is a small step from state-sponsored religion, which is another small step away from state-imposed religion. Heaven help us if we continue down this road toward the establishment of a state church.

The equating of money and speech is transforming a central First Amendment right into a commodity that must be purchased at great expense. Calls to limit the capacity of the rich and powerful to buy politicians and own our government are savaged as assaults on free speech. We are essentially being told we can try to deal with corruption in government, or we can have free speech, but not both. This is a false choice, and must be seen as such. We can have freedom and democracy. We can guarantee all people the right to speak freely without at the same time granting them a license to buy off our elected representatives and corrupt our government.

Rescuing the First Amendment begins with seeing through such false choices — and ultimately refusing to make them. But for the rescue operation to ultimately succeed, we the people are going to have to prove that the land of the free is truly still the home of the brave. We’re going to have to demonstrate genuine courage in defending dissent and condemning attacks on peaceful protest. We’re going to have to stand up for a free press and make it clear we do not see journalists as our enemies but rather as indispensable defenders of democracy.

If we don’t, those 45 words describing five precious freedoms won’t be worth the parchment they were written on.

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Legislators Unveil Equal Pay Proposals

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
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on Wednesday, 22 February 2017
in Wisconsin

women-workersEqual Pay Transparency Act tackles discriminatory practices that help create the pay gap in the first place by creating new protections for employees, wage transparency in the workplace, and a ban on employers asking job applicants for their salary histories.


MADISON – Senators Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville) and Representatives Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) and Tod Ohnstad (D-Kenosha) unveiled the Equal Pay Enforcement and Transparency Acts Monday, two proposals that aim to narrow the wage gap in Wisconsin.

The Equal Pay Enforcement Act first became law in 2009, only to be repealed by the Republican Legislature two years later. It strengthened enforcement of our job discrimination laws with stronger penalties on employers guilty of discrimination. Under the Act, employers may be held liable for compensatory and punitive damages, rather than merely providing back pay or reinstatement to victims.

dave_hansen“Paying women less because they’re not men is a version of wage theft and without the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, our Fair Employment Law is like setting a speed limit without giving police the tools or officers to enforce it. It just doesn’t work,” said Hansen. “We need to strengthen enforcement and the penalties for people and businesses that break the law. And our Equal Pay Enforcement Act does just that.”

“The Equal Pay Enforcement Act made a difference for Wisconsin’s working families,” said Rep. Ohnstad. Wisconsin’s wage gap for women narrowed from the 37th widest in the nation to only 25th under our 2009 law. Companies work harder to avoid discriminating if they face stiff consequences for breaking the law. Gov. Walker should never have repealed the law, but he and the Legislature now have the opportunity to correct that mistake by supporting this common-sense proposal.”

The Equal Pay Transparency Act tackles discriminatory practices that help create the pay gap in the first place by creating new protections for employees regarding information about their wages.

christine-sinickiThe bill creates wage transparency in the workplace, by first of all requiring employers to allow voluntary discussions of salaries among their employees. “Employers often forbid their workers from discussing wages or salaries with each other, and some enact penalties for doing so,” said Rep. Sinicki. “The Equal Pay Transparency Act helps employees find out if and when their pay is lower than that of co-workers doing equal work.”

The Equal Pay Transparency Act also includes an important ban on employers asking job applicants for their salary histories. “Many employers set salaries for new hires using past pay as a baseline,” said Sen. Ringhand. “If this happens to women in their early jobs, then their initially lower wages can follow them through their entire careers, cementing in for a lifetime and lowering their Social Security accounts and pensions.”

The Equal Pay Enforcement and Transparency Acts would protect Wisconsin workers of either gender and also cover veterans, people with disabilities, minorities and other groups that may also be subject to pay or other types of employment discrimination.

###

Legislative writer Jay Wadd contributed this story.

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Ed Garvey Is Gone But Not Forgotten

Posted by Buzz Davis, Stoughton
Buzz Davis, Stoughton
Buzz Davis, now of Tucson, AZ, a member of Better With Bernie Gone Green and Tre
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on Wednesday, 22 February 2017
in Wisconsin

ed-garvey-goneEd Garvey, Wisconsin Progressive, labor attorney, Director of the NFL Players Association, and Democratic leader died this morning at a Verona nursing home. He was 76. He had been battling Parkinson's disease, which led to his retirement in 2013.


TUCSON, AZ - Ed Garvey, the friend of many, the leader of "what could have been" and a good man has died and I am saddened.

When he and Barbara Lawton ran for governor and lt. governor in 1998, they were a fantastic team that offered hope and moxie to the people of WI. But big money talks. Gov. Thommy Thompson was running for his fourth term and as the ALEC (Am. Legislative Exchange Council) representative in the race, Thompson had most of the money.

Schools and local governments were already being financially strangled and local control had disappeared with the 1993 cost controls to rein in unions and stop local spending.

Here we are decades later and local control has been killed along with public unions. Barbara and Ed were right. We could have and still can create a WI good for families and the environment but not under Gov. Walker, a dour ALEC replay in some respects of Thompson.

I will not forget Ed in the drizzle.

US Rep Dennis Kucinich was running for president in the WI primary and Ed and I invited him to speak in Madison. The rally is set up at the small private airport in Madison early in the evening. A good crowd waited. Kucinich's plane is late. We had a speaker's platform set up, it's getting dark, looks like rain. I ask Ed to talk to take up time. Plane lands, drizzle starts, ends up Kucinich is exhausted, needs to eat, and we find some one to go get a vegan dinner while he rests!

I go back outside and get Ed's attention. I ask, "Can you speak some more while they get Dennis rested and fed?" Ed says "I already talked for 20 minutes," goes back to the mic and explains what is going on, laughs and says something like Buzz wants to know if I can speak some more. Crowd laughs, we held the media there, Kucinich gave a great speech and made the news.

Oh, Ed, you could talk, think, had no fear and you gave hope! Thank you! Your were and are an inspiration to many! You fought for progressive ideals for decades as we have to do now.

*****

Peace! Buzz Davis, fellow member of Veterans for Peace, formerly of Stoughton now of Tucson

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Searching for the 'Reform Dividend', Is the 'new' money real?

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, 20 February 2017
in Wisconsin

walker-signs-budget-2015Sen. Kathleen Vinehout writes about the “Reform Dividend” Gov. Walker first highlighted in his budget address and whether it is real. She adds the findings of her research, including a comparison of Wisconsin and Minnesota.


MADISON - “Overall, our common-sense reforms brought us here – to the point we have a significantly better budget outlook.” Governor Walker said in his recent Budget Address. “We call this the Reform Dividend. And wow, as the fiscal bureau pointed out, that’s a whole lot of money.”

What is the “Reform Dividend” the Governor spoke about in his budget address? Where is it? How much is it? An inquiring mind wanted to know.

Rita Brunkow from Mondovi asked me. “Do you know what this “Reform Dividend” is? Who’s reforming what and where is the dividend coming from?”

Rita did her homework, and before she emailed me, she wrote to the Governor.

“I asked what reform it came from and where the money (dividend) came from…I got back what appeared to be a short press release statement similar to what I had already read in the newspaper.”

Ms. Brunkow wrote a second time, “making it clear I was not seeking a vague general statement but looking for specific answers as to where this money was coming from. I did not get a reply a second time.”

So, I went looking for the elusive “Reform Dividend.”

I examined the details of ten “economic forecast” and “general fund tax revenue estimate” reports prepared by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB). I studied over fifty revenue collection reports from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

I read the Governor’s Budget in Brief, the administration’s November “Agency Requests and Revenue Estimates” for the new budget and the administration’s 632-page summary of the Executive Budget.

To keep the numbers straight I created a spreadsheet.

I learned a few disturbing details. In Fiscal Year 2014, tax revenue actually dropped below the prior year. This almost never happens except in a recession. For the budget ending this year, the LFB revised expected revenue downward several times. If there was a dividend, numbers should be going up, not down.

By Saturday morning, I still had not found any evidence of a “Reform Dividend.” At breakfast, my husband suggested maybe I should look across the river.

I went looking at Minnesota’s budget numbers and revenue estimates, their jobs numbers and economic activity numbers. If Wisconsin has a “Reform Dividend” Wisconsin numbers should be better than Minnesota, where there was no “reform”.

Here is what I found. Since 2011, when Governor Walker first took office and passed his “reforms,” general fund tax revenue grew 18%.

In Minnesota, over those same years, general fund tax revenue grew 31%.

No evidence of a “Reform Dividend” there.

I looked at jobs numbers. Since the Great Recession (2008-09) Wisconsin did not gain back all of the lost jobs until 2015 – an entire year after the nation recovered and two years after Minnesota recovered.

No “Reform Dividend” there.

I then looked at state economic activity from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Most recent annual numbers (from 2015) showed that since 2012 the Minnesota economy grew faster than the national average and Wisconsin’s economy grew slower than the national average. No “Reform Dividend” there.

Where else to look?

I remembered a conversation from last week with a county official, who attended a County Association meeting, at which the state budget director talked about the extra money in the budget and how it would be spent. During the follow-up questions, someone in the back of the room pointed out the recently announced increase in expected revenue was only an increase over the governor’s own November estimates. Isn’t this new estimate actually lower than the estimates made in 2016 and 2015, the questioner asked, and is this really new money?

The state budget director smiled and congratulated the man for doing his homework.

The “Reform Dividend” disappeared. Replaced by a smile.

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February 19 Update From The DPW Chair

Posted by Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Martha Laning
Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Martha Laning
Martha Laning is the Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
User is currently offline
on Monday, 20 February 2017
in Wisconsin

martha-laningVote Tony Evers for Superintendent on Tuesday, Feb. 21st, how Trump puts National Security at risk, Democratic National Committee Chair Elections, Day Without Immigrants, Ron Kind’s Education Plan, and Things You May Have Missed.


MADISON - Welcome to the latest installment of my chair update.

Remember to Vote Tony Evers for Superintendent on Tuesday, Feb. 21st

If you haven't already, make a plan to vote for Tony Evers for Superintendent during Tuesday's spring primary elections. There are a host of important races on the ballot, including Evers' re-election bid for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Tony Evers is the only candidate in the race to oversee our state's schools who is a champion for fairly funding our public schools, increasing graduation rates, and creating pathways to family-sustaining jobs for young adults. People from all over Wisconsin are showing the enthusiasm Tony needs to win re-election.

Learn more about Tony on his website tonyforwisconsin.com
Learn more about what you need vote on Tuesday at https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/ .

President Trump and General Flynn Put National Security at Risk

American leadership is essential to keeping us safe and keeping our economy growing in the years ahead. But this week, our security was threatened, when it was revealed that President Trump's National Security Advisory, Michael Flynn, discussed previously administered sanctions against the Russian government with a Russian ambassador. Despite awareness of these potentially illegal conversations, Trump continued to give Flynn access to highly sensitive and classified information for weeks. 

Here is a great graphic showing the timeline which is really disturbing. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/02/14/us/politics/flynn-call-russia-timeline.html

Just because Flynn has resigned doesn’t mean this scandal is going away. Trump aides had repeated contact with Russia throughout his campaign, and Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin has the potential to undermine our democracy. This issue deserves to be fully investigated, and thankfully Wisconsin Democrats like Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Mark Pocan are calling for such an investigation.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin Republicans are more concerned with protecting themselves than examining Trump’s dangerous contact with Russia. Paul Ryan has defended Flynn, and Senator Ron Johnson is more focused on where the leaked information is coming from than the incriminating evidence itself. The people deserve to know just how beholden Trump is to Russia, but Wisconsin Republicans have turned this national security crisis into a partisan issue.

This week, I went on Wisconsin Public Radio to talk about this issue and urge Wisconsin Republicans to do the right thing. Take a listen and share it with your networks: http://www.wpr.org/listen/1062636

Democratic National Committee Chair Elections

Next weekend, the Democratic National Committee will select its next Party Chair during the DNC Winter Meetings in Atlanta, February 23–26. I’m proud to be casting my vote for Congressman Keith Ellison, a truly progressive Democratic leader. Keith will unleash the resources we need to build a stronger party message and a grow our grassroots field program that outpaces our counterparts not only in Wisconsin but across the nation.  

Congressman Ellison believes grassroots efforts are key to winning elections.  That's why he raised over $1 million dollars to support the Minnesota Democratic Farm Labor Party's initiatives and is credited with increasing turnout in his own safe district by a margin that helped the state wide races, like Governor, prevail in a very difficult year.  I know he has the vision and track record to implement a grassroots plan that will invigorate our diverse Democratic coalition and get people out to vote. Grassroots leadership is more important than ever, and Congressman Ellison’s grassroots experience will move our party forward.

In the lead up to the Winter Meeting, the DNC has held the most transparent officer election in party history. The DNC held four regional forums for DNC members and the public to hear from candidates for officer positions. All of these forums were open to the public and live-streamed on social media, and have since been posted in full on the DNC’s website.


Keep Up The Resistance

I am inspired each day by your activism in response to the out-of-touch lawmakers in Washington who want to pass truly un-American legislation at the expense of everyday American people and their families. Many thanks to all of you who are writing letters and postcards, calling offices, and attending town hall meetings. 

The resistance movement is growing, exploding to more than 4,500 local groups resisting the extreme right-wing Republican agenda in nearly every congressional district in the country. If you haven't already, take a look at the resources available for resistance on Indivisibleguide.com

Day Without Immigrants March a Symbol of the People’s Voice

This past Monday, thousands of demonstrators participated in a massive Day Without Immigrants march in Milwaukee - a symbol of the crucial impact immigrants have on our nation. With hundreds of local businesses closing, Monday's march helped paint a picture of what life would be like without one of our most important communities.

While voices on the right, like Milwaukee County’s Sheriff David Clarke, have tried to downplay the impressive display by the grassroots, there is no denying the power of the people’s voice. As Trump continues to attack immigrant communities with mean-spirited and unconstitutional executive orders, we must show that we will not back down. The only way to stand up to Trump and his Republican allies is to make our voices heard through peaceful and meaningful marches and protests. Republicans need to know that an attack on any community is an attack on all Americans, and we will continue to express our free speech until we are heard.  

Read more about Monday's march on JSOnline.com

Honoring the Life of Marcel Dandeneau

Marcel Dandeneau, a former state representative, died of cancer earlier this month. A committed activist for Democratic values, Dandeneau also served in the Korean War and was a teacher for nearly 30 years in Racine County. Dandeneau lived a life devoted to service and helping others, and his generosity and devotion are truly admirable. My condolences go out to his family during this tough time.

The Racine Journal Times did an excellent job of telling Marcel's story this week.

Rep. Ron Kind’s Introduces Education Plan Will Allow Wisconsin Students to Excel

Representative Ron Kind introduced his Higher Education Action Plan to an attentive audience of students and leaders from Wisconsin Technical Colleges this week. Representative Kind, who has always been an outspoken supporter for college affordability, cited higher education as a key to success for both Wisconsin and the nation as a whole.

In order to achieve his goal of enhancing the availability and impact of higher education, Rep. Kind has broken his plan into three distinctive parts. First, all high schools and especially those in rural areas need to be given the materials to educate students on their options for earning a degree. Secondly, Rep. Kind wants to ensure all Wisconsinites have access to affordable financial aid to whatever degree they pursue, be it a technical college or 4-year university. Finally, his plan focuses on making sure college graduates are able to compete for well-paying jobs and able to support themselves upon graduation. Ron Kind’s plan is exactly what Wisconsin needs to guarantee students can graduate high school or college with optimism for the future.

Read more about the Congressman's new education plan through his column in the Pierce County Herald.

Things You May Have Missed But Need To See Now

With Sean Duffy out, Republican field for U.S. Senate in 2018 wide open
"'The Republican establishment in Washington is scrambling to avoid a divisive, messy Republican primary in Wisconsin,' said Gillian Drummond, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. 'No matter what circus emerges, Tammy Baldwin will continue to stand up to the powerful interests in Washington and fight for a Wisconsin economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.'" 

Sen. Johnson won’t commit to town hall meeting during Congressional recess
"Truax is part of group planning a town hall meeting of its own at the Brown County Library next week. They sent a letter inviting Senator Johnson to attend the event but so far they haven’t heard back."

Wisconsin taxpayers could pay another $175,000 for redistricting maps
"Taxpayers will spend up to $175,000 so state lawmakers can try to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to keep in place maps of legislative districts that help Republicans. The bill will add to more than $2.1 million in legal fees taxpayers have already paid to establish the maps and defend them in court. States must draw new legislative boundaries every 10 years to account for population shifts. With control of all of state government in 2011, Republicans crafted maps that greatly helped them in elections."

John Humphries suggested consulting contract to rival in superintendent's race
"Evers campaign spokeswoman Amanda Brink said the takeover plan Humphries and Holtz discussed would affect 'almost 20 percent of the public school kids in Wisconsin, and would strip away parents and community members’ rights to weigh in on their local districts.' Brink called it 'a massive power grab.' 'This is a proposal for a heavy-handed, top-down approach struck through a backroom deal between a few unnamed business leaders and two politicians looking out for their own financial interests,' Brink said.

State superintendent candidate: Challenger offered 6-figure job to drop out of race
A candidate for state superintendent offered an opponent a taxpayer-funded $150,000 job if he dropped out of the race and sought the same for himself if he were the one to drop out, his challenger alleged Wednesday.

Beloit May Not Be Eligible For Higher Aid
"If the School District of Beloit has 7,000 students, for example, it stands to forfeit roughly $4 million over the two-year period covered in the biennial budget, and more millions every year thereafter. "

Vruwink proposes anti-gerrymandering bill
"State Rep. Don Vruwink, D-Milton, has co-authored a bill that would remove partisan redistricting from state legislative districts, according to a release. Vruwink's proposal would give redistricting power to the Legislative Reference Bureau every 10 years. Republicans outnumber Democrats 64-35 in the state Assembly and 20-13 in the state Senate, which is not reflective of Wisconsin's population, Vruwink said in the release."

Board: Unclear how 'enhanced oversight' results from Scott Walker plan to ax for-profit college watchdog
Board members of Wisconsin’s for-profit college watchdog said Wednesday they’re concerned by Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to eliminate the board in the next state budget. Walker, in his 2017-19 budget proposal released last week, moved to eliminate the state Educational Approval Board and transfer its duties to another agency, the Department of Safety and Professional Services. The board licenses and regulates for-profit schools, which have weathered criticism for questionable marketing practices and degree programs.

Doyle, Walker differ on state budget locally
"Doyle cautioned that Walker’s proposed numbers could change as the Legislature picked the budget apart and different groups and interests battled it out in Madison. Numbers could also change as better information is gathered on the financial impacts of proposals such as the call to switch to a self-insurance system for public employees, which Walker’s office has estimated would save the state $60 million and is tied to the increased K-12 funding. 'Don’t spend the money until you have it in your bank account,' he told the board."

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