I rarely agree with Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA), but I strongly agree with his decision to veto Georgia House Bill 757 (HB757), the bill that, if the Georgia General Assembly were to override Deal’s veto, would allow businesses and individuals to discriminate against people, including LGBT people, on religious grounds.
While supporters of legislation like Georgia’s HB757 claim that the legislation that they support “religious liberty” legislation, the legislation that they actually support is religious discrimination legislation. That’s because the legislation would allow people and businesses to discriminate against people because of who they are. That is not the character of the people of Georgia, and it’s not the character of the people of this great country.
At the end of June of this year, AFSCME Local Council 31’s contract with the State of Illinois expired, leaving workers represented by the largest public employee union in Illinois without a contract. Since then, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has only made nominal efforts at negotiating with AFSCME, refusing to concede much of anything to AFSCME and not acting serious at all about collective bargaining.
However, Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly have an opportunity to end Rauner’s cavalier attitude toward the public employees in Illinois and collective bargaining, once and for all…they can override Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 1229 (SB1229), legislation that would authorize an arbitrator to decide the contract that would go to AFSCME Local Council 31-represented state employees to be voted on.
As it turns out, Democrats may have enough votes to override Rauner’s veto, especially in the state senate:
Senate President JOHN CULLERTON, D-Chicago, has already said the Senate will vote this week on an override. Presumably, the chamber could succeed. The Senate voted 38-17 to approve the bill. It would take 36 votes to override.
The House is a different story. The vote there was 67-25 in May. It takes 71 votes in the House to override.
But 17 House members, all but two of them Republicans, took a walk. They didn’t vote on the bill. That includes most of the Republicans from the Springfield area, who represent large numbers of state workers. They can always take another walk on an override, but in the meantime, they’ll probably get pressure from constituents to support an override — just as they’re likely to get pressure from Republican leadership to support their governor and vote against it.
Looks like the fight on whether or not to put an end to Rauner’s cavalier attitude toward the largest public employee union is in the state house. If you live in Illinois, this is a great opportunity to contact your state legislators and tell them to vote YES to override Rauner’s veto of SB1229. This bill does not violate the Illinois Constitution, nor does it undermine democracy. What it would do is put a mechanism in place to prevent strikes by, and lockouts of, public employees by allowing an arbitrator to decide on a contract if the governor and a public employee union can’t agree on one, in this case, due to the governor refusing to seriously negotiate with the largest public employee union in Illinois.
Milwaukee County, Wisconsin Executive Chris Abele has been making public appearances outside of Milwaukee County in recent days. Recently, and to my knowledge, he’s appeared on a talk radio program in Madison, Wisconsin, and he’s also appeared at a Democratic Party picnic in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. Both of these locations are 60-90 miles or so away from Milwaukee, if I’m not mistaken. This seems to be unusual for Abele to make appearances at events outside of Milwaukee County.
While there was some speculation that Abele may run for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin next year, Russ Feingold is already running in that race, and, for someone who is not known as a big-time fundraiser, Feingold has raised a ton of money for his campaign, so I’m guessing that Abele thinks that he doesn’t have a realistic path to victory in that race, although I could be wrong about that. I’m speculating that Abele may want to run for Governor of Wisconsin in 2018, and, outside of a few social issues, Abele would pretty much represent Scott Walker’s third term in the Wisconsin governor’s mansion if he were to run for and be elected governor.
Before being elected the county executive of Wisconsin’s largest county, Abele once threw fireworks at a neighbor’s house. Since being elected Milwaukee County Executive, Abele has:
- Enacted Scott Walker-style austerity measures in Milwaukee County, which have hurt Milwaukee County’s economy
- Has openly antagonized Democrats, progressives, and labor union members
- Tried to get the Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature to prohibit counties from passing living wage ordinances designed to boost local economies
- Actively supported corporate welfare for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks
- Actively opposed efforts to allow Milwaukee County voters to vote in a non-binding referendum on whether or not they want to get rid of Walker/Abele-style big-money politics
- Allied himself with Deanna Alexander, a far-right Milwaukee County Supervisor who has made overtly racist and sexist remarks about Democrats, women, and ethnic minorities
- Spent large amounts of Milwaukee County taxpayers’ money on items like a large SUV for himself
- Has repeatedly had his vetoes of progressive ideals overridden by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.
Chris “Capper” Liebenthal, a Milwaukee County employee and progressive patriot, has documented Chris Abele’s horrible track record as Milwaukee County Executive at his blog over the past few years.
Sadly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Chris Abele’s right-wing record as the county executive of Wisconsin’s largest county. When I say that Abele wouldn’t be significantly better as Wisconsin Governor than Scott Walker, it’s not hyperbole, it’s the truth. Hopefully, one or more actual progressives, or at least someone who believes that the government should serve the people and not big-money special interests, runs in the Democratic primary for Wisconsin Governor a little more than three years from now.
Later today, the Democratic-controlled Illinois House of Representatives is set to vote on legislation that would make it easier for Illinois parents to opt their school-age children out of state-mandated standardized testing.
However, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has publicly threatened to veto the legislation if it hits his desk, claiming that Illinois would risk losing over a billion dollars in federal education funding if such a law were to be enacted. As Jim Vail, a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teacher and the author of the progressive education blog Second City Teachers, pointed out, Rauner’s claim is absolutely false for several reasons:
- Seven states, California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin, already have laws on the books explicitly allowing for parents to opt-out their children from standardized testing, and efforts are underway in an eighth state, New Jersey, to enact a opt-out bill there.
- The federal government has never withheld a state’s Title I education funding for low participation rates in standardized testing or for any other reason.
- Illinois is currently operating under a federal waiver from portions of the federal No Child Left Behind law. The waiver exempts Illinois from the risk of facing federal penalties for low participation rates in standardized testing.
- Congress is currently working on legislation that would completely eliminate the threat of states and school districts losing federal funding for having less than 95% of students participating in standardized testing.
It’s 100% clear to me that Rauner thinks that our state’s schoolchildren are laboratory rats who should be subjected to standardized testing and other neoliberal education policies that make education less interesting for our schoolchildren, shame teachers and students, and make a total mockery of K-12 education in this country. It’s time to end the plantation mentality in our education system by eliminating mandatory standardized testing altogether, ending the overemphasis on career preparation, and crafting strong education standards where teachers teach to the standards, not to standardized tests.
With the possibility of Republicans winning control of both houses of Congress for the first time since the first two years of George W. Bush’s second term in the White House looming over the November 4 elections, I want to remind everybody how frightening Republicans winning control of the U.S. Senate and retaining control of the U.S. House is.
Should Republicans win control of the Senate and retain control of the House, Republicans will probably pass a sweeping, Wisconsin-style far-right agenda, including legislation like:
- Passing a nationwide right-to-work-for-less bill, allowing workers to benefit from collective bargaining agreements without paying union dues for collective bargaining (if not completely banning labor unions altogether)
- Passing restrictions on abortion, contraception, and other women’s health procedures, up to and including attempting to propose a federal constitutional amendment banning abortion, contraception, and many other women’s health procedures
- Repealing the federal Voting Rights Act, making it easier for states to implement voter suppression schemes
- Repealing the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, allowing many forms of racial discrimination
- Eliminating Pell grants and other programs that help people pay for college, making it harder for young people to go to college
- Completely repealing the Affordable Care Act, taking away health insurance from millions of Americans who were recently uninsured
- Eliminating regulations on banks and other financial institutions, making it easier for them to engage in risky practices that were the primary cause of the Great Recession
- Allowing mining and drilling in National Parks and other federally-protected lands, destroying the value of our country’s natural wonders and hurting the tourism industry
- Handing out tax cuts and other tax breaks to wealthy people, corporations, and other special interests, resulting in a bigger federal budget deficit and national debt (if not implementing a full-blown regressive taxation scheme by completely repealing the federal income tax and replacing it with a federal sales tax, shifting the tax burden to poor, working-class, and middle-class Americans)
- Completely repealing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other social safety net programs, leaving millions of seniors without a source of income and leaving millions of Americans without health insurance
- Eliminating all federal campaign finance restrictions, making it even easier for wealthy people, corporations, and other special interests to buy federal elections and have an even bigger undue influence over federal politicians
- Repealing the federal minimum wage, putting millions of working Americans into poverty and driving millions more into even deeper poverty
- Eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and federal environmental regulations, allowing corporations to pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink
- Repealing federal laws mandating equal pay for equal work, allowing employers to discriminate against women by paying men more than women
Sadly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the right-wing legislation that a fully Republican-controlled Congress could pass. Don’t think for one second that people like Pat Toomey, Mark Kirk, Kelly Ayotte, and Susan Collins would oppose some or most of the far-right agenda just because they represent states/constituencies that usually vote for Democratic presidential candidates. The Ted Cruz-types in the Republican Party are going to demand that they pass as much far-right legislation as possible, and the so-called “moderates” in the GOP would go along with them every time and rubber stamp everything they do.
Should Republicans win control of the Senate, they will be hell bent on turning America into a third-world country. The only thing that would stop them from doing is President Barack Obama, who would likely veto nearly everything the Republicans pass. If you don’t want Republicans passing a destructive far-right agenda, go vote against the Republican bastards on November 4.