Republicans in the Wisconsin State Assembly have pulled a cruel April Fool’s joke on the people of Wisconsin by scheduling a closed-to-the-public committee hearing on redistricting.
Normally, closed-to-the-public legislative committee sessions are done at the federal level of this country, and done by a Congressional committee to discuss classified national security-related information. In no way should closed-door committee hearings be conducted by a federal, state, or local legislature in regards to something that doesn’t involve classified national security information, and a state or local legislature would rarely, if ever, have to deal with something like that. Redistricting of congressional and state legislative districts is something that is not of a national security interest, so the idea a closed-door committee hearing on redistricting is absolutely asinine.
State Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point), the Assistant Minority Leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly, sent out a multi-tweet response criticizing the closed-door redistricting hearing in Wisconsin:
.@Bernier_Kathy holding hearing on redistricting despite the legislature being out of session for 2016. Is this her April Fool’s prank?
I love it when politicians go on multi-tweet rants, especially if they’re standing up for progressive values while tweeting!
Anyways, Shankland repeatedly referred to State Rep. Kathy Bernier (R-Lake Hallie), who chairs the Wisconsin State Assembly’s Campaigns and Elections Committee. Bernier issued a press release implying that the hearing was open to the general public; however, the hearing was not actually open to the public. Bernier has a “don’t question me” attitude about politics, and politicians having a “don’t question me” attitude about politics is one of my biggest pet peeves.
A few days ago, Michigan State Senator Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy) made overtly racist remarks about public education in Michigan. To paraphrase Knollenberg, he basically said that he thinks that public schools are failing in Michigan because black children attend them.
You can view a video of Knollenburg’s actual remarks here:
Marty Knollenberg, by opening his racist mouth, single-handedly exposed the fact that the right-wing movement to gut public education in this country by way of charter schools, school vouchers, and other neoliberal/right-wing education policies is entirely motivated by racism against people of color.
The Wisconsin State Assembly education committee, chaired by Republican State Representative Jeremy Theisfeldt of Fond du Lac, held a public hearing today on 2015 Wisconsin Assembly Bill 1 (AB1), a proposed “school accountability” bill that isn’t actually a school accountability bill, but rather a bill to shame, takeover, and privatize public schools in Wisconsin.
The original bill that was brought to the public hearing was so atrocious, the public hearing turned into a total farce and the Republicans that control the committee have gone into full damage control mode. I’ll let the tweets from The Progressive magazine columnist and Madison Common Council candidate Rebecca Kemble and the author of the progressive blog Wisconsin Soapbox, who have been livetweeting today’s public hearing, speak for themselves:
At the hearing on Wisconsin's School Privatization bill #AB1 Over a hundred people here. Hunkering down for a long day. #publiced
…and that was just the first hour or so of the 11 1/2 hour public hearing.
To summarize all of that, Jeremy Theisfeldt and his fellow Republicans brought the bill to the public hearing and was quickly criticized by Democrats over horrible provisions in the bill and the bill not having a fiscal note despite the bill having a significant fiscal impact on local school districts in Wisconsin. That forced the Theisfeldt to remove a provision from the bill that would have authorized a state panel that would have had the power to take over public schools in Wisconsin and give them to millionaire charter school operators, as well as some of the other more atrocious provisions of the bill, without scheduling a second public hearing for the modified bill. That forced Theisfeldt to go into total damage control mode as he was attacked by both Republican (Dean Knudson of Hudson) and Democratic (Sondy Pope of Verona and Christine Sinicki of Milwaukee) state representatives, with Sinicki pointing out that the modified bill would still allow for public schools in Wisconsin to be taken over by the state and given to millionaire charter school operators. Theisfeldt comes across as a guy who is way over his head and is making a total fool of himself.
In my nearly four years as a political blogger, this public hearing on Wisconsin AB1 has been the single biggest farce I’ve read about.