Tag: legislative committee

Wisconsin GOP pulls cruelest April Fool’s joke ever

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:

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.

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Wisconsin Republicans pass awful state budget, and how legislators should handle criticism of their legislative proposals

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Assembly passed the most awful state budget in American political history in a 52-46 vote, and the budget is currently on Republican Wisconsin Governor and presidential candidate Scott Walker’s desk.

When I say that the Wisconsin budget that the Republicans passed is the most awful state budget in American political history, it’s not hyperbole, it’s the cold hard truth. The Wisconsin budget, among many other things, demonizes the working poor in Wisconsin by replacing the words “living wage” with the words “minimum wage” in state statutes, fast-tracks an expansion of a tar sands oil pipeline in Wisconsin and Illinois that will be even bigger than the Keystone XL pipeline would be, cuts funding to public K-12 and higher education in Wisconsin, effectively prohibits Wisconsin wineries from hosting weddings, and gives Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele even more unchecked power to sell off public property in Wisconsin’s largest county to his political cronies. This budget does a lot to pander to far-right voters that Scott Walker is trying to win over in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination and does virtually nothing to benefit the people of Wisconsin in any way. You can read press releases from Democratic Wisconsin State Representatives Melissa Sargent of Madison, Dianne Hesselbein of Middleton, Amanda Stuck of Appleton, LaTonya Johnson of Milwaukee, and Andy Jorgensen of Milton, as well as from Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha, at the links in this sentence.

However, prior to the Republicans in the Assembly passing the state budget, Katrina Shankland, the Assistant Minority Leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Stevens Point, tried to amend the state budget to require that future proposals of non-fiscal policy measures in future state budgets get their own separate public hearing before a standing legislative committee (the Republicans rejected Shankland’s amendment). I criticized Shankland’s proposal, because it would not outright prohibit Walker or whoever else is Wisconsin Governor once Walker leaves office from proposing public policy in state budgets. Shankland responded to my criticism of her proposal via Twitter:

Anyone who holds political office, is running for public office, or is thinking about running for public office should take note of Shankland’s response to my criticism of her. She didn’t talk down to me, she didn’t belittle me, she didn’t attack me, and she didn’t try to change the subject. Instead, she directly addressed my criticism of her proposal by saying that she thinks that policy measures don’t belong in state budgets, and she defended her proposal by saying that the Republicans voted against allowing public hearings on policy proposals.

Katrina Shankland has been very respectful to me, even when I’ve disagreed with her, which isn’t often.

Wisconsin public education takeover public hearing turns into total farce, Republicans in full damage control mode

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:

…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.

Wisconsin State Senate Democratic leader Jennifer Shilling appoints pro-school voucher Democrat to state legislative finance committee

It’s been only a couple of weeks since Jennifer Shilling, a Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Senate from La Crosse, was unanimously selected by the Democratic state senate caucus to be the new minority leader of the state senate, yet she’s already pissing off Wisconsin progressives and rural voters in a big way.

Shilling assigned 2 state senators to the Wisconsin State Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (which consists of 16 total members; since Republicans control both chambers of the legislature, 12 are Republicans (six from each chamber) and 4 are Democrats (two from each chamber)). One of Shilling’s picks for the joint finance committee is Jon Erpenbach of Middleton, who has built up a progressive record on most issues as a longtime member of the state senate. However, Shilling’s other pick is Lena Taylor of Milwaukee, who, despite representing a district that has a large black population and votes overwhelmingly for Democrats, is a conservative Democrat who has supported, among other things, the gun lobby’s agenda, giving corrupt Milwaukee County Executive Chris “Boss” Abele more political power, and school vouchers.

For Jennifer Shilling to assign a staunch supporter of privatizing public education like Lena Taylor (the only time she voted against the charter school/school voucher lobby that I know of was when a statewide school voucher program was tied into the Wisconsin state budget) to a committee that is responsible for reviewing legislation on all bills that affect state revenue and expenditures (including education funding, proves that Shilling doesn’t give a rip about public education in Wisconsin. The Republicans that control Wisconsin’s state government are planning on enacting more legislation to privatize and destroy Wisconsin’s public school system, so for Shilling to pick Taylor for a committee that oversees, among other things, state education funding in Wisconsin is downright asinine.

Most of Shilling’s own constituents (Shilling represents a district that includes the La Crosse metro area and mostly rural areas to the south of La Crosse) are strongly opposed to taxpayer money being diverted from public schools to fund private schools, but Taylor wants to divert money from public schools all across Wisconsin into school voucher programs, which could force the closure of many rural school districts in Wisconsin, possibly including some school districts in Shilling’s own state senate district. To put this another way, Shilling is effectively aiding and abetting the Republicans’ push to destroy public education in Wisconsin.

Jennifer Shilling, the new Wisconsin State Senate Minority Leader, has done more to piss off progressives and rural voters in a little over two weeks than the previous Wisconsin State Senate Minority Leader, Chris Larson, did to piss off progressives and rural voters in nearly two years. The current Democratic leadership in Wisconsin has driven the Democratic Party of Wisconsin into political irrelevancy by giving political cover to the Republicans at every opportunity, and the new Democratic leaders in Wisconsin are even worse in this regard by actively helping Republicans implement their far-right agenda. It’s time for a large-scale push by Wisconsin progressives to divide and conquer the Democratic Party of Wisconsin by railing against the out-of-touch Democratic leadership and getting actual progressives elected to public offices and state and local party positions in Wisconsin.