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Politics (88)

On Monday, Wisconsin State Representative Brett Hulsey announced his intention to run for Wisconsin Governor, effectively leading to yet another challenge of fellow Democrat Mary Burke in a primary, who already has two other opponents. 


According to his official announcement, Hulsey claims that Governor Scott Walker's "Reign of Error" made Wisconsin "second in the nation in job loss and 35th in job creation" and as such, he is planning on running for governor. His plan is reportedly to include the "reinvestment of $2.1 billion to create clean energy jobs, increase job training, public school, UW system, and technical college investment, reverses the Walker tax increases on working families and senior citizens, saves babies, protects Wisconsinites from strip mining, and creates a Penokee Hills State Park instead of the world’s largest strip mine."


Top priority for the would-be governor? 


"As a former union vice president, I will make restoring worker safety, rights and bargained a top priority," Hulsey said. "We should restore worker rights and unnecessary pay cuts immediately to help jump start our economy and create safer workplaces."


While Hulsey is looking toward a bright political future, his political past has not always been free of controversy. The Madison Democrat used campaign finances to pay for an old convertible and to register for a triathlon. In 2012, he pleaded no contest to a disorderly conduct charge, and an aide claim to be 'terrified around him because of his behavior'.

Wisconsin State Senate President Mike Ellis (R-19) found himself the most recent target of Project Veritas, a non-partisan investigative organization dedicated to exposing waste, fraud, dishonesty and self-dealing.


In the video, the senator was caught not only expressing opposition to Governor Scott Walker, calling the John Doe probe "a blessing in disguise" and saying that his fellow Republican "only works for himself", but he was also caught planning some potentially illegal activity: funding and creating his own SuperPAC to challenge his Democratic opponent Assemblywoman Penny Schaber. Such actions could potentially be a felony, according to Wisconsin state election law. 




We all know how much you love those political ads during campaign season. There may be even more this election cycle to love following the Wisconsin State Legislature's proposed $2.2 million tax break for broadcasters. Majorities in both houses of the Legislature easily passed the measure. 


Governor Walker is expected to sign the bill, which grants radio and TV station owners a sales tax exemption on purchases of machinery, supplies, equipment, fuel and electricty. 


Michelle Vetterkind, lobbyist and president of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, is happy with the decision, testifying before lawmakers that the newspapers, which are their primary competitors for advertising revenue, already have such an exemption.


"It is about creating a level playing field for the economic engine that is broadcasting," she said


Timing is key. And what with campaign season underway yet again, the ever-faithful stream of political ads have extra incentive to kick it into high gear this time around. 



The constituents have spoken-and for Wisconsin Republican lawmakers, it has not been pretty. Legislators who express their support for the national Common Core academic standards have returned to their respective districts to face stiff, mounting opposition. 



According to the Wisconsin Reporter, members of the GOP’s 2nd, 4th and 6th Congressional District caucuses passed resolutions declaring “no confidence” and “no support” of Sen. Luther Olsen of Ripon and Rep. Steve Kestell of Elkhart Lake, chairmen of the Senate and Assembly committees on education, respectively. Olsen and Kestell represent portions of the 6th Congressional District.


Olsen and Kestell both blocked the proposed GOP reform of the controversial Common Core, voting against an issue that has all but become a litmus test for Republican legislators as both the state and national party platforms reject the educational standards. The proposed reform would adopt new standards over time while periodically reviewing them, as well as removing sole power and authority to adopt state standards from the state superintendent of public instruction.


Representative Steve Kestell, the chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, has since indicated he will not run for re-election.


The Republican Party's state resolution committee is to meet Saturday to determine which resolutions will be on the table in the coming state convention in early May. 


Thirteen incumbents in the Wisconsin State Assembly, including the former Republican Majority Leader, will reportedly not be seeking relelection this coming November. 


Representative Kramer submitted paperwork Monday stating his intentions to not run again, joined on Friday by collegues Representative Mike Endsley of Sheboygan and Representative Dan LeMahieu (R-Cascade). Republicans currently hold a 60-39 majority.


All together, 8 Republicans and 5 Democrats have declared their intent to not seek re-election. Of that total, however, four Democrats and two Republicans are leaving to instead run for a different office. 



Tuesday, 11 March 2014 19:24

Bipartisan Bill Passes Wisconsin Senate

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Milwaukee County's massive Mental Health Complex will undergo massive reform according to current legislation making its way through the state capitol.


Today, the Senate unanimously passed the Mental Health reform bill (SB565) 33-0, with Democrats and Republicans setting aside usual political differences. It alters the system in Milwaukee County and will establish a board of supervisors made up of health industry professionals. Currently, the Mental Health Complex is overseen by Milwaukee County and is controlled by politicians rather than experts in the field. The reform will also address drastic differences in financing and adminstration between Milwaukee and other Counties. 


Some see the move, coupled with the requirement of a state-run audit as the first step toward a takeover by the State. The County Health system came under fire in recent years as Governor Walker called it a "natural disaster," and both parties sought to reform a system seemingly aloof of growing problems. It was further exposed by a recent expose written by local paper the Journal Sentinel, called "Chronic Crisis," showing the failure of the system to address the needs of patients and their families. In one case, the JS reported an outside psychiatrist issued a statement that four out of the six deaths in 2012 were the result of a lack of basic health care.


Earlier this year, the legislature passed a series of 13 bills aimed at improving mental health services, such as creative quick response teams and establishing grants for psychiatrists and doctors to serve areas served inadequately.


One of the sponsors of SB565, Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) expressed the urgency of such reform. "Numerous studies have shown the need for change as patients continue to be neglected. We have already waited too long to address these concerns," she said. Joe Sanfilippo (R-West Allis) joined her in authoring the bill. 

"I'm pleased that both Republicans and Democrats have been able to put politics aside to address what can only be described as a crisis situation," Sanfillippo stressed. "I am confident the bill will now pass in the Assembly with the same overwhelming bipartisan support the other mental health bills received in both houses." 


The bill had to be worked out between the parties, with Democrats wanting more County control and Republicans pushing for more relevant leadership. The new compromise will limit Governor Walker's control of the newly created board. He will have the power to appoint members of the board from a list of names submitted by the County Board and the county executive.


Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele will make the appointments, made up of psychologists, psychiatrists, a nurse, family member, a financial expert, lawyer and patient advocates. Abele praised the unanimous move, saying it is an "inspiring reminder that on issues as important as this, everyone can come together. This legislation ensures that providing the best system of care will no longer come second to any other priority."


The bill is expected to come before the Assembly next week and will likely pass with the same support before it arrives on the Governor's desk for his signature.

Offering a timetable that is quickly drawing to a close, Governor Scott Walker has announced his intentions to call a special legislative session if the courts do not uphold Wisconsin's voter ID law this spring.


The law has been blocked shortly after it was enacted, as in 2012 two Dane County judges blocked the measure requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls. Both cases are before the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, with a rule expected before June. However, these rulings, as well as a separate ruling under consideration by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman on the grounds of the law's constitutionality, may not be passed until after April, when the current legislative session ends.


If that happens, thereby barring the requirement to be in place in time for the November elections, Walker has suggested his intent to call a special legislative session.


"I think in the end people overwhelmingly have told us in this state they want to have voter ID," Walker told reporters.


Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) voiced his support of the Governor's idea, calling it "appropriate".


"If something broke from either the Wisconsin Supreme Court or from Judge Adelman, then if the governor called us into a special, great," Fitzgerald said.


Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) voiced his criticisms of Walker's plan, charging the governor with being focused more on getting re-elected than his administrative duties. 



"The last thing he should be focused on right now is figuring out a way to keep people from voting," Erpenbach challenged.


The controversial law has been challenged on the basis of constitutionality, as well as the feasibility of mandating Wisconsin residents who do not have their birth certificate pay $20 to obtain one. Supporters have charged the courts with overstepping their bounds in blocking the implementation of the state's laws. As these latest developments show, the showdown between the state's three branches of government over voter ID is expected to continue in the forseeable future.




On Thursday, Governor Scott Walker was selected as the Chair of the Midwestern Governors Association (MGA). The bipartisan group of Midwestern Governors elected Walker to the term, effective immediately, with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback serving as Vice-Chair. On the immediate agenda was the issue of propane shortages.


“These past few months we learned that our propane supply can be as unpredictable as Mother Nature,” Governor Walker said.  “As Chair of the MGA I intend to create a working group comprised of government leaders, industry leaders, and those working in and with the propane industry, to improve propane operations, enhance consumer awareness and strengthen industry preparedness.  Although it is hard to even think about next winter when there is still snow on the ground in Wisconsin, many are expecting next year’s propane supply and demand issues to be equally challenging to the industry.  It’s paramount that we bring people together to focus on solutions and find ways to mitigate several of these issues, such as increasing the number of propane tanks filled in summer instead of fall, and I’m very grateful my fellow Governors are interested in engaging in this issue with me.”


Governor Walker has been quite active this winter to help to ensure Wisconsin's 250,000 residents who use propane as their main source of heat do not go without during this record-setting winter. Governor Walker issued a public service announcement on January 23, 2014, informing Wisconsinites about the propane shortage and asking their help looking out for fellow residents being impacted.  On January 29, 2014, Walker requested of the Obama Administration the immediate release of the remaining Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2014 Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) allocations. The funds were released on January 30.

The controversy surrounding Wisconsin's voter ID law has yet to die down, though the law has been on hold since Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess issued a permanet injunction on March 12, 2012. On Tuesday, the State Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the controversial law, with several notable justices then voicing their concerns. Most interesting? The seeming hesitation by conservative-leaning justices to back the requirements. 


"I'm troubled by having to pay the state to vote," said Justice Pat Roggensack. 


Roggensack referred to the case in which those who do not have a copy of their birth certificate being required to pay $20 to obtain one, a necessary step before they can then receive their free state ID. She likened that notion to being no better than the "poll tax" of yesteryear. 


Justice David Prosser seconded the "inconvenience" of meeting the federal government's Real ID requirements process, reiterating the time investment he had to make to get a copy of his birth certificate in order to renew his license last year. 


Dane County judges invalidated the requirements in two cases related to the voter ID law.  The first case was filed by the League of Women Voters and challenged the Legislature's authority to impose the requirement through statute. The 4th District Court of Appeals found the law unconstitutional. In the second case, filed by the Milwaukee chapter of the NAACP, questioned the "burden" the requirement placed on voters. That case was before the 2nd District Court of Appeals when the Supreme Court intervened to hear both cases. 



Monday, 24 February 2014 16:23

Why Is Big Labor Targeting 5 GOP Governors?

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Five Republican governors who have supported legislation unpopular with labor unions are on a 'Big Labor political hit list'. Recently in Houston, AFL-CIO leaders announced that they intend to spend a staggering amount of money--at least $60 million per gubernatorial race for a total of $300 million--in the effort to unseat the governors.


The past decade has seen the largely private AFL-CIO diversify by partnering with more public sector unions like teacher unions and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in order to strengthen their political influence.


According to People’s World, a socialist-leaning newspaper, the governors targeted for defeat are Florida's Gov. Rick Scott, Michigan's Gov. Rick Snyder, Ohio's Gov. John Kasich, Pennsylvania's Gov. Tom Corbett and Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker.


The announcement of the list of gubernatorial battleground states was made at a press conference here this morning by Lee Saunders, chairman of the AFL- CIO's political committee and by Mike Podhorzer, the federation's political director. They made the announcement outside a meeting here of the AFL-CIO executive council which has been deliberating in Houston since Tuesday.


After the announcement, when Podhorzer was asked to discuss how much money labor would spend on the effort, he said he expected the dollar amount to exceed what unions spent in the 2010 midterm elections. The amount spent then, he said, was about $300 million.

Labor unions have a special enmity for Governor Scott Walker after his 2012 victory in a recall election that showcased some of the unions’ most aggressive tactics. In 2010, Gov. Walker curtailed the labor unions’ collective- bargaining rights, earning himself an ugly fight for reelection.


All five governors have fought to reduce the rising costs of public employee pensions while reducing tax burdens and trimming government spending in their states. Governors Walker, Kasich, and Snyder have all limited unions’ collective-bargaining, although Kasich’s bill was overturned in 2011. According to The Medina-GazetteOnline, Meredith Tucker, a spokeswoman for We Are Ohio, union groups want to remind voters of Kasich’s support for right to work legislation.


“We will be talking about how Gov. Kasich’s policies have not helped working families,” Tucker said. “Right-to-work may be coming to Ohio and that’s a very big concern.”


Governors Snyder and Scott both lead right to work states, and Governor Corbett has been a huge proponent of pension reform. Corbett has incurred the wrath of the teachers unions in his state by reducing increases in annual spending for public education. Pennsylvania’s teacher unions are affiliated with the AFL-CIO.


Given the history of these governors and the determination of the unions to foot the bill for an intense fight, there is little doubt that they will all face tough battles for reelection.

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