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Following Project Veritas' recent release of secretly recorded conversations by Republican Senate President Mike Ellis, the state senator has announced that he does not intend to run for re-election this fall.
Scott Kelly, spokesman for Ellis, confirmed that Ellis was concluding his 44-year legislative career, a decision that came just two days after Ellis was caught discussing the creation of a super PAC to attack his Democratic opponent, State Representative Penny Bernard Schaber. Such a move would be illegal under Wisconsin statute. Ellis said he did not pursue the idea after realizing it was illegal.
In a statement released by his office, Ellis had some parting comments as to the status of his departure, citing his pride in what the state had accomplished in his time of office but dismay at what he claimed was the increasing partisan nature of politics.
"Instead of being criticized from our opponents, independent thought is attacked by our own backyard. Like my dear friends, Tim Cullen, Bob Jauch, and Dale Schultz, I see that compromise is not valued in today's Capitol environment, and that means I don't fit in any more. Special interests hold too much sway instead of the voice of the people. I'm a senator from a different era, and I value my integrity too much to compromise it any more."
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.
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.
Governor Scott Walker has been a regular in the news of late. But this most recent case of newsworthiness comes not over the Governor's economic policies but over a social media status citing a popular Scripture verse.
Philippians 4:13— Governor Walker (@GovWalker) March 16, 2014
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," goes the popular verse from Philippians.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has reportedly written a letter to Walker demanding that he delete the message from his official Facebook and Twitter accounts.
"We're waiting to hear from the Governor," Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation said. If Walker does not comply, the organization has threatened to "explore all options" including possible legal action.
"A lawsuit is always a possibility," Barker said. "We can't take every lawsuit and you can't talk about lawsuits too early because there's too many factors."
What do Russian female rock singers and Wisconsin's "Solidarity Singers" have in common? Using music to change the world in the direction they want it to change. Or so goes the claim.
The singers who daily gather at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison to protest Act 10 have recently been joined in their efforts by two members of the notorious Russian female rock group Pussy Riot. Pussy Riot is an 11-member female group known for their outspoken protests against some of the policies of Russian President Vladmir Putin, particularly his anti-gay stances.
Two of the group's members, Nadya Tolokonikova and Masha Alyokhina, appear along with the Solidarity Singers in a mini-documentary, calling on the state's Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, to drop the ongoing prosecutions against the singing protestors. The video is but one aspect of a campaign called #SolidarityWisconsin launched by Voice Project, an organization which reportedly fights for freedom of expression around the world. In an analogy that might at times seem a bit far-fetched, the video draws a direct correlation between the abuse Pussy Riot has experienced for their protests--including beatings, whippings, chemical burns and more--and what Wisconsin's protestors have experienced--namely, arrests and citations.
“The stifling of dissent, freedom of expression and foundational human rights, democracy being under threat and creeping authoritarianism, these are not just problems to read about in far-off places like Russia and China,” Voice Project Executive Director Hunter Heaney said. “We’ve dedicated ourselves to this fight and we’re going in full force, rolling up our sleeves to help on these issues like we did with Pussy Riot, like we’re doing now with Wisconsin.”
“Use music to change the world in the direction you want it to change,” Tolokonikova, member of the Pussy Riot, says in the end of the video. “Because music touches people and makes them act.”
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.
On Monday, Governor Scott Walker signed into law a bill that requires all newborn babies be tested for critical congenital heart disease. Walker signed the bill at a ceremony at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
"This simple little test is about $4 and can save a life," Walker stated.
The congenital heart disease test operates by passing a powerful light through the skin to measure the infant's oxygen levels in the blood. Low oxygen levels can signal heart defects, a condition which affects 1 in 4,800 babies born in the United States.
While the new law does not mandate the test, it does allow the state's Department of Health Services to begin writing rules requiring hospitals include the test in their newborn screening program.
The bill enjoyed wide legislative support, and with its passage, Wisconsin has now joined 31 other states in requiring the tests for newborns.
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.