Tag: public hearing

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.

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Wisconsin Democrats and progressives, I’m proud of you all

Sadly, the Wisconsin wage theft (i.e., right-to-work) bill has passed both chambers of the Wisconsin State Legislature and is expected to be signed into law by Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

However, I’m proud of how Wisconsin Democrats and progressives spoke out and fought against the wage theft legislation.

I’m proud of Scott Wittkopf, Julie Wells, and the rest of the team at the Forward Institute, Wisconsin’s progressive think tank, for encouraging progressives to use better messaging against horrible wage theft legislation. You have been wonderful advisers of the Wisconsin progressive movement, and I hope that more progressives take your group’s advice.

I’m proud of Lori Compas of the Wisconsin Business Alliance, Wisconsin’s progressive business group, for exposing the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the main right-wing business group in Wisconsin that supported the wage theft legislation, as an organization that represents very few of its own members. You are truly the heart, soul, and brains of the progressive movement in Wisconsin, I wish there were more people on the face of this Earth that are as cool as you are.

I’m proud of Rebecca Kemble of The Progressive magazine for filming testimony and state legislative speeches in opposition to the wage theft legislation. You have truly been the eyes and ears of the progressive movement in Wisconsin, and I hope you win your election to the Madison Common Council next month.

I’m proud of those who protested, testified, blogged, posted on social media, and/or otherwise spoke out against the wage theft legislation in Wisconsin. Those who spoke out against wage theft include Heather DuBois Bourenane, Lisa Mux, Cheri Goetz, Jeff Smith, Randy Bryce, Jennifer Epps-Addison, Phil Neuenfeldt, John “Sly” Sylvester, John Nichols, Jenni Dye, Zach Wisniewski, Chris “Capper” Liebenthal, Meg Gorski, and countless others. Thank you all!

Last, but certainly not least, I’m proud of Wisconsin State Legislative Democrats for strongly opposing wage theft legislation from the moment Republicans signaled their intent to enact the legislation until the final vote was cast in the state assembly. Your opposition to the wage theft bill in Wisconsin is some of the strongest opposition to anything I’ve seen from Democrats in a long time.

I’ve never been prouder of a group of people than I am of Wisconsin Democrats and progressives who strongly opposed the wage theft legislation. To use a phrase that the odious Joe McCarthy turned into an epithet many decades ago, I’ve been a fellow traveler of the Wisconsin progressive movement despite being a lifelong Illinoisan who has never been to Wisconsin. I would love nothing more than to be able to visit Wisconsin someday in order to meet those wonderful Wisconsinites who stand for progressive values.

Only 6.4% of members of a pro-wage theft business group in Wisconsin support wage theft legislation

Scott Manley, an official with the right-wing, pro-wage theft business group Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, claimed in a public hearing held by a Wisconsin State Senate committee that 300 of the WMC’s 3,800 members responded to some sort of inquiry by the group as to whether or not they support right-to-work-for-less legislation, also known as wage theft legislation, and that 81% of them support the legislation.

81% of 300 members in a group that has 3,800 total members is, rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent, only 6.4% of the total membership of the group. Yes, you’re reading that correctly…only 6.4% of the total membership of the main right-wing business organization in Wisconsin support the Wisconsin Republicans’ wage theft bill.

In case you’re wondering how I came up with that figure, I didn’t pull it out of my rear end. Instead, I made two calculations with Windows Calculator:

  • 0.81*300 = 243, meaning that 81% of 300 is 243.
  • 243/3800 = 0.0639473684210526, meaning that 243 of 3,800 is 6.4%, when converted to a percentage and rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent.

To put that another way, one of the largest organizations that is pushing the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Legislature to allow non-union workers to effectively steal wages and other benefits negotiated by a labor union without paying for those benefits in the form of union dues or fair-share fees with support from only 6.4% of its members. This is not lost on many Wisconsinites, in fact, Lori Compas, the executive director of the Wisconsin Business Alliance (WBA), the main progressive business organization in Wisconsin, called local chambers of commerce in seven Wisconsin State Senate districts that are represented by Republican state senators, the 1st (Frank Lasee), 2nd (Robert Cowles), 10th (Sheila Harsdorf), 11th (Stephen Nass, who ended the public hearing early over rumors that an Hispanic group in Wisconsin was going to exercise the group’s First Amendment right to free speech in a public place), 13th (Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald), 23rd (Terry Moulton), and 29th (Jerry Petrowski, currently the only Republican state senator who intends to vote against the wage theft bill), and Compas could not find a single local chamber of commerce in those seven Wisconsin State Senate districts that was publicly willing to support the Wisconsin wage theft bill. Compas’s piece on her findings, which she published to the WBA’s website, is a fine example of investigative journalism. In fact, Compas’s piece has been republished in full by Steve Hanson of the progressive blog Uppity Wisconsin and featured in an online article published by the Milwaukee-area alternative newspaper Shepherd Express.

Let me make this point 100% clear: Very few people and groups in the Wisconsin business community are advocating for wages to be driven down and unions to be busted, in fact, it appears to me that the only individuals and groups in the Wisconsin business community that are advocating for wages to be driven down and unions to be busted are those individuals and groups who have a considerable amount of political influence over the Republicans that control Wisconsin’s state government.

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.