Tag: Wisconsin Legislature

Wisconsin GOP state legislator Isthmuswashes Democratic state legislator

It’s another odd-numbered year, so there’s another state budget debate in Wisconsin. However, this time, the Republicans aren’t just pulling out the “Madison liberal!!!” card to attack Democratic legislators who are from the Madison area; they’re using Wisconsin’s second-largest city to attack Democrats who live far from Madison:

Wisconsin State Sen. Tom Tiffany, a Republican, accused Wisconsin State Rep. Katrina Shankland, a Democrat, of using “Madison math” in regards to her opposition to a University of Wisconsin budget measure. There’s two problems with that.

First, Shankland’s opposition to the measure is based on the fact that the GOP is trying to enact a budget measure that would leave Wisconsin’s public university system in a budget mess:

I might be a lifelong Illinoisan, but I know that Stevens Point is pretty far away from Madison. As a matter of fact, I’m going to coin a new word to describe what Tiffany did to Shankland: Isthmuswashing. Isthmuswashing is the act of claiming or implying that someone is from Madison, Wisconsin, when he or she is actually not from Madison, Wisconsin.

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How Wisconsin GOP state legislators encouraged Mylan to increase EpiPen prices for the entire country

Thanks to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC), a group that maintains a database of political contributions to state candidates in Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin progressive group Citizen Action of Wisconsin, we now know that a political action committee (PAC) for Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that, among other things, makes the EpiPen that is used to treat severe allergic reactions, has publicly lobbied Republican members of the Wisconsin State Legislature to pass legislation designed to financially benefit the company. According to records from WDC, a total of ten members of the Wisconsin Legislature received campaign contributions from Mypac WI, the Wisconsin state-level PAC for Mylan’s political operations, seven of whom are still in the Legislature, and one of whom is now a member of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission:

Legislator Name Date Contribution Received House of Legis. At Time of Donation Amount
Last First Year Month Day
Edming James 2016 July 1 Wisconsin State Assembly $500
Craig David 2016 June 27 Wisconsin State Assembly $500
LeMahieu Devin 2015 November 17 Wisconsin State Senate $500
Vukmir Leah 2015 August 22 Wisconsin State Senate $500
Nygren John 2014 February 10 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
August Tyler 2014 January 18 Wisconsin State Assembly $500
Kramer Bill 2014 January 13 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Severson Erik 2014 January 7 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Steineke Jim 2014 January 7 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Strachota Pat 2014 January 2 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Name in italics indicates that individual is no longer a state legislator as of the writing of this blog post, but was a state legislator at the time donation was received; of the three who are no longer state legislators, Pat Strachota is now a member of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. Table was created using the HTML table generator available here.

Mylan has also spent a total of $66,500 since 2013 lobbying Wisconsin legislators on issues “…affecting the manufacture, distribution, or sale of prescription drugs and medical devices”, as well as on issues “relating to generic pharmaceuticals”. According to Wisconsin lobbying records, Mylan spent $42,000 and a total of 151 hours on lobbying efforts in Wisconsin during the 2013-2014 state legislative session, and Mylan spent $24,500 and a total of 103 hours on lobbying efforts in Wisconsin during the 2015-2016 state legislative session. In both legislative sessions, Mylan’s sole authorized lobbyist was listed as Robert Welch.

Two pieces of legislation, both of which are now Wisconsin state law, were heavily supported by, and were designed to financially benefit, Mylan: 2013 Wisconsin Act 239, and 2015 Wisconsin Act 35. 2013 Wisconsin Act 239 allows for the availability of, and, in appropriate emergency situations, the use of “epinephrine auto-injectors” in Wisconsin public, private, and tribal schools. 2015 Wisconsin Act 35 allows for the availability of, and, in appropriate emergency situations, the use of “epinephrine auto-injectors” “by certain authorized entities”, which include recreational camps, educational camps, colleges, universities, day care facilities, youth sports leagues, amusement parks, restaurants, businesses, and sports arenas. Neither of the two laws require Mylan to justify price increases to government officials in Wisconsin, even though the laws authorize state and local government entities in Wisconsin to purchase and maintain EpiPens at the expense of Wisconsin taxpayers. While the two pieces of legislation serve a public purpose, given that timely dispensation of epinephrine can save the life of a person having a severe allergic reaction, given that Mylan’s EpiPen dominates the marketplace for epinephrine auto-injectors, and that EpiPen prices have risen dramatically as recently as earlier this month, it’s clear to me that Mylan’s political lobbying efforts in Wisconsin are designed to financially benefit the company, as well as financially benefit the political campaigns of Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin.

I do not have any food allergies that require the use of epinephrine, but many Americans in all 50 states do. I find it disgusting that A) Mylan is drastically raising the price of a very important drug/device without any real justification and B) that, because of Mylan’s actions, taxpayers are being forced to spend more money than necessary on their medicine, which many people need. Furthermore, by not including any kind of accountability measure on Mylan that would have required Mylan to legally justify any kind of price increase to Wisconsin officials, Wisconsin Republicans have effectively encouraged Mylan to raise the price of EpiPens for the entire country.

When it comes to fighting against Wisconsin Republicans’ push to dismantle good government, Dianne Hesselbein leads

Wisconsin Republicans are spending virtually all of their time trying to dismantle what little remains of Wisconsin’s once-proud tradition of good government and enact a ton of blatantly partisan legislation. One of those blatantly partisan pieces of legislation is legislation that would dismantle Wisconsin’s civil service system and allow Republicans like Governor Scott Walker to install political cronies in every kind of Wisconsin state government job that you can think of. In a recent op-ed in the Madison, Wisconsin-based newspaper The Cap Times, State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton), described the Republican plan for dismantling Wisconsin’s civil service system:

The new Republican law will introduce an element of fear in the workplace. New employees will face a full year of probation instead of the current 60 days. (It was to be two years, but the bill’s authors started to feel a chill and backed off.) During probation, new hires will be in a free-fire zone and can be fired at will. If there are layoffs, seniority will not count. Raises will become individual bonuses awarded to the favored few.

Hiring and firing will be controlled by the governor’s political arm — the Department of Administration — not the home agency. Employees will no longer have the assurance that, so long as they show up and do their job well, their job will be secure. Now, for the first time since the Progressives created it in 1905, they will have to worry about political factors.

There’s plenty of other odious pieces of legislation that Republicans want to enact in Wisconsin when it comes to dismantling good government. These include replacing Wisconsin’s non-partisan government watchdog with two separate partisan state commissions, as well as rewriting Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws to allow more money to flow into the political system and allow campaign donors to not disclose who employs them.

I’m glad that someone like Dianne Hesselbein is strongly opposing the Republicans’ efforts to make Wisconsin more like Illinois, a state rife with political corruption and cronyism.

Republican proposal to gut Wisconsin GAB appears to allow for Republican majorities on seperate elections and ethics commissions

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The author of this blog post is not an attorney and does not claim to be one.


Having read the relevant part of this Republican-backed legislative proposal that, if enacted, would create two new partisan commissions to replace the non-partisan Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), I can state definitively, that, based on my interpretation of the language of the proposed statute, that Republicans would be effectively guaranteed a 4-2 majority on each of the two replacement commissions with Republican Scott Walker currently in the Wisconsin governor’s office.

In Wisconsin, the GAB is the state-level body that administers elections and handles ethics complaints, among other things. Republicans that control Wisconsin’s state government are moving to replace the officially non-partisan GAB with two separate and officially-partisan state election and ethics commissions.

How the Wisconsin Elections Commission would be selected

Under the Republicans’ proposal, Wisconsin’s state-level elections commission, which would be responsible for state-level administration of Wisconsin’s elections, would consist of six members. Four of the members would be selected by Democratic and Republican state legislative leaders (Assembly Speaker, Assembly Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Minority Leader getting one appointment each), with no other statutory qualifications that I can find. The other two members would be former county and/or municipal clerks appointed by the governor (currently Scott Walker, a Republican) from a list of six recommendations, with Democratic legislative leaders getting three recommendations and Republican legislative leaders getting three recommendations. There is no explicit statutory requirement that Walker pick one recommendation from each party. Should a political party that does not have a majority or official minority in either house of the state legislature (i.e., a third-party) field a candidate who receives at least 10% of the vote in a Wisconsin gubernatorial election, that party’s chief officer (i.e., state party chairperson) would get to recommend three people to the governor, and the governor would appoint an additional member to the commission from that list.

Current state legislative leaders in Wisconsin that would be responsible for four of the six appointments to the elections commission are as follows:

  • State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (Republican)
  • State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (Republican)
  • State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (Democratic)
  • State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (Democratic)

Here’s what is horrible about the proposed state elections commission:

  • Under this proposal, there is nothing prohibiting state legislative leaders from appointing themselves, other elected officials (up to and including Scott Walker himself), active candidates for public office, lobbyists, and/or campaign donors to the state elections board, with elected officials serving as both an elections board member and an elected official, candidate, lobbyist, and/or campaign donor simultaneously.
  • There doesn’t appear to be a statutory requirement that the  elections commission members be Wisconsinites. In fact, one could even interpret the clause requiring Walker to appoint two former county and/or municipal clerks as allowing Walker to appoint people who formerly served county and/or municipal clerks in other states.
  • The clause authorizing Walker to appoint two former county and/or municipal clerks to the election commission appears to be worded in a manner that would allow Walker to appoint two of the Republican recommendations, instead of one recommendation from each party, as the requirement that “no members of the same political party select, collectively, more than 3 individuals” appears to apply to the list of recommendations for the gubernatorial appointments, not all appointees to the elections commission.

How the Wisconsin Ethics Commission would be selected

Under the Republicans’ proposal, Wisconsin’s state-level ethics commission, which would be responsible for hearing ethics complaints filed against state elected officials (governor, other elected state executives, state legislators, etc.), would, like the elections commission, consist of six members, four selected by state legislative leaders in both major parties and two appointed by the governor from a list of recommendations from state legislative leaders in both major parties. Additionally, should a third-party field a gubernatorial candidate who receives at least 10% of the vote, that party’s Wisconsin state chairperson would get to recommend three people to the governor, and the governor would select one of those to serve as an additional member of the commission. However, there are two main differences in regards to the qualifications of ethics commission members compared to elections commission members. First, for the gubernatorial appointments, there’s no requirement that the appointees be former county and/or municipal clerks. Second, all members of the ethics commission cannot be a lobbyist, an elected official other than a federal elected official, state circuit judge, or state appellate judge, and/or an active candidate for state or local office in Wisconsin.

Here’s what’s horrible about the proposed state ethics commission:

  • Under this proposal, not only are state circuit judges or state appellate judges explicitly allowed to serve on the ethics commission and on the judicial bench simultaneously, there’s no explicit prohibition on federal elected officials, candidates for federal office, or campaign donors from being on the ethics commission, provided that they aren’t lobbyists, active candidates for state or local office in Wisconsin, and/or holders of elected offices other than a federal office, state circuit judgeship, or state appellate judgeship.
  • Like with the elections commission, there’s no statutory requirement that I could find requiring ethics commission members to be Wisconsinites.
  • Like with the elections commission, the clause authorizing Walker to appoint two individuals to the ethics commission appears to be worded in a manner that would allow Walker to appoint two of the Republican recommendations, instead of one recommendation from each party, as the requirement that “no members of the same political party select, collectively, more than 3 individuals” appears to apply to the list of recommendations for the gubernatorial appointments, not all appointees to the elections commission.

Relevant text of legislative proposal (pages 66-69 of proposal)

15.61  (title)  Elections commission; creation.
SECTION 172.  15.61 (1) (a) 1. to 6. of the statutes are created to read:
15.61 (1) (a) 1.  One member appointed by the senate majority leader.
2.  One member appointed by the senate minority leader.
3.  One member appointed by the speaker of the assembly.
4.  One member appointed by the assembly minority leader.
5.  Two members who formerly served as county or municipal clerks and who
are nominated by the governor, with the advice and consent of a majority of the members of the senate confirmed. The governor shall choose the nominees from a list of 6 individuals selected by the senate majority leader, the senate minority leader, the speaker of the assembly, and the assembly minority leader and in such manner that no members of the same political party select, collectively, more than 3 individuals.
6.  For each political party qualifying for a separate ballot under s. 5.62 (1) (b) or (2) whose candidate for governor received at least 10 percent of the vote in the most recent gubernatorial election, one member, nominated by the governor from a list of 3 individuals selected by the chief officer of that political party and with the advice and consent of a majority of the members of the senate confirmed.
SECTION 173.  15.61 (5) of the statutes is created to read:
15.61 (5) (a)  If a vacancy occurs for a member appointed under sub. (1) (a) 1.
to 4., the individual responsible for making the appointment shall appoint a new member no later than 45 days after the date of the vacancy.
(b)  If a vacancy occurs for a member appointed under sub. (1) (a) 5. or 6., a new member shall be selected, nominated, and submitted to the senate for confirmation no later than 45 days after the date of the vacancy.
SECTION 174.  15.62 of the statutes is created to read:
15.62  Ethics commission; creation.  (1) (a)  There is created an ethics
commission consisting of the following members who shall serve for 5−year terms:
1.  One member appointed by the senate majority leader.
2.  One member appointed by the senate minority leader.
3.  One member appointed by the speaker of the assembly.
4.  One member appointed by the assembly minority leader.
5.  Two members, nominated by the governor and with the advice and consent of a majority of the members of the senate confirmed.  The governor shall choose the nominees from a list of 6 individuals, one each selected by the senate majority leader, the senate minority leader, the speaker of the assembly, and the assembly minority leader and in such manner that no members of the same political party select, collectively, more than 3 individuals.
6.  For each political party qualifying for a separate ballot under s. 5.62 (1) (b) or (2) whose candidate for governor received at least 10 percent of the vote in the most recent gubernatorial election, one member, nominated by the governor from a list of 3 individuals selected by the chief officer of that political party and with the advice and consent of a majority of the members of the senate confirmed.
(2)  No member of the commission may hold another office or position that is a state public office or a local public office, as defined in s. 19.42, except the office of circuit judge or court of appeals judge under s. 753.075.
(3)  No member, while serving on the commission, may become a candidate, as defined in s. 11.01 (1), for state office or local office, as defined in s. 5.02.
(4)  No member may be a lobbyist, as defined in s. 13.62 (11), or an employee of a principal, as defined in s. 13.62 (12), except that a member may serve as a circuit judge or court of appeals judge under s. 753.075.
(5) (a)  If a vacancy occurs for a member appointed under sub. (1) (a) 1. to 4., the individual responsible for making the appointment shall appoint a new member no later than 45 days after the date of the vacancy.
(b)  If a vacancy occurs for a member appointed under sub. (1) (a) 5. or 6., a new member shall be selected, nominated, and submitted to the senate for confirmation no later than 45 days after the date of the vacancy.

Conclusion

Not only is the idea of replacing one non-partisan board responsible for administering elections and handling ethics complaints in Wisconsin with two partisan commissions, one for administering elections and another for handling ethics complaints, an inherently awful idea, the two partisan commissions would be guaranteed to be controlled by the Republican Party, based on my interpretation of the wording of proposed legislation. The thought of a single political party having majority control of an state elections commission and a state ethics commission in any state, let alone the state that will probably decide the 2016 presidential election, is absolutely frightening. Republicans could easily use the Wisconsin Elections Commission to change election administration procedures to benefit Republicans, and they could also use the Wisconsin Ethics Commission to wage baseless, Joe McCarthy-style witchhunts against Democrats for purely political reasons.

Wisconsin Republicans want to take the opportunity for cures away from people across America

In response to the recent release of heavily-edited videos by a right-wing smear group as part of a political witchhunt against Planned Parenthood, Wisconsin Republicans are pushing to enact an outright ban on the use of tissue from aborted fetuses in medical research.

Make no mistake about it, banning fetal tissue from being used in medical research would be disastrous, not just for Wisconsin, but the entire country. Not only would Wisconsin lose jobs if this legislation were to be enacted, the entire country would lose out on research, conducted by the University of Wisconsin System, that seeks to find cures for serious ailments like Parkinson’s disease, heart defects, various forms of cancer, and multiple sclerosis, just to name a few. This would make it far more difficult for researchers to find cures for serious ailments that affect millions of people in this country. I don’t think that there are any colleges or universities outside of Wisconsin that do medical research with fetal tissue, but I could be wrong about that.

The right-wing political witchhunt against Planned Parenthood and other pro-women groups is incredibly short-sighted. In Wisconsin, the right-wing witchhunt against Planned Parenthood has officially turned into a full-on attack against sick people and medical research.

Milwaukee is why Wisconsin progressives can’t have nice things

After the Wisconsin State Senate voted overwhelmingly to give a quarter of a billion dollars in corporate welfare to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks so that they can build the new arena that the NBA is forcing them to do, I’ve come to the conclusion that Milwaukee is why Wisconsin progressives can’t have nice things.

Over the past quarter of a century or so, Milwaukee has become a cesspool for Wisconsinites’ taxpayer money being wasted on state government policies, supported by both Republicans and Democrats, that have little or no actual benefit to the vast majority of Wisconsinites. First, it was school vouchers, which was first implemented in Wisconsin in 1990, but the Wisconsin school voucher program originally only covered Milwaukee (it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that vouchers were expanded statewide in Wisconsin). Next came the corporate welfare package for Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers, which gave them taxpayer money to build a new baseball park, which became Miller Park after naming rights for the park were sold and opened in 2001. Now, the National Basketball Association’s Milwaukee Bucks are about to get their own corporate welfare package for their new arena in Milwaukee. In all three of these cases, both Republicans and Democrats supported these policies, which have little or no benefit to the vast majority of Wisconsinites.

How the Bucks got such broad support for corporate welfare for a new arena in the Wisconsin State Senate looks to be, at first, shocking, since scientific polling has shown nearly 80% of Wisconsinites are opposed to corporate welfare for the Bucks. However, the Bucks had two advantages to overcome public opinion being against them: support from the political elite in Wisconsin and a well-organized campaign by a vocal minority of Wisconsinites to give the Bucks taxpayer money for a new arena. Unlike the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers, which have a very large national following, and baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers, which have a large following in Wisconsin, the Bucks have a relatively small fan base.

However, from an electoral standpoint, the Democrats who support the Bucks corporate welfare deal are in big trouble…if anti-corporate welfare progressives can organize effective political campaigns against those Democratic elected officials who sided with the Bucks owners. There is growing opposition to corporate welfare, both in Wisconsin and nationally, so there’s a golden opportunity for anti-corporate welfare progressives to get organized and replace corporate Democrats with progressive Democrats through the electoral process. In fact, in regards to the 2018 gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, if there’s a contested Democratic primary, the battle lines have pretty much been drawn. For all intents and purposes, a competitive Democratic primary for Governor of Wisconsin in 2018 is effectively going to be between a pro-corporate welfare Democrat supported by the Milwaukee-area political elite and an anti-corporate welfare Democrat supported by the activist progressive base of the party, if such candidates run. The anti-corporate welfare Democrat should ideally run against Milwaukee, but not in the same way that a Republican would. The anti-corporate welfare Democrat should talk about a bipartisan political elite giving Milwaukee taxpayer money for corporate welfare for wealthy sports team owners, religious welfare for private schools, and other policies that are of little or no benefit to the general public. At the same time, the anti-corporate welfare Democrat should advocate for progressive policies that benefit the vast majority of Wisconsinites. This message would resonate heavily in both Dane County, the progressive stronghold of Wisconsin, and the rural western and northern parts of Wisconsin, which are the areas with most of what few persuadable voters there are in a statewide general election in Wisconsin. Also, there would be extremely little political risk in running against Milwaukee for a Democratic statewide candidate. This is because quite a few people in the Milwaukee area are strongly opposed to the kind of policies that the anti-corporate welfare candidate is opposing, and roughly 99% or so of the voters in the Milwaukee area have a group grievance with one of the two major parties and vote for candidates in the other major party all the way down the ballot. This kind of campaign would be even more effective for state legislative races outside of the Milwaukee area, but anti-corporate welfare progressives would have to drop the Milwaukee-bashing for state legislative races in the Milwaukee area.

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 Democrats’ bill regarding policy provisions in state budget doesn’t go far enough

Wisconsin State Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point), the assistant minority leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly, has proposed legislation that would change how policy provisions in Wisconsin state budgets are dealt with by the Wisconsin State Legislature, but the proposed legislation would not outright ban policy provisions in budgets.

Currently, all provisions in the Wisconsin budget, whether it be budget provisions or policy provisions that have little or nothing to do with the budget, are handled by the Wisconsin State Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC). If Shankland’s bill were to become law, policy provisions of the budget would be handled by standing committees of the Wisconsin State Legislature responsible for the area of policy in question.

Maybe it’s because I’m from Illinois, and I have zero tolerance for any kind of BS from politicians, but I think Shankland’s bill doesn’t go far enough. In fact, if I were a member of the Wisconsin State Legislature, I’d vote against Shankland’s bill for not going far enough to crack down on Scott Walker’s abuse of the Wisconsin state budget process.

Wisconsin Governors of recent times, most notably Jim Doyle and Scott Walker, have used the state budget to enact policy measures with little oversight. Shankland’s bill would give Walker, and any Wisconsin Governor who holds the office after Walker leaves it, explicit power to enact policy provisions that have no place in the state budget and should be considered by the Legislature as stand-alone legislation. Currently, Walker doesn’t have explicit power to propose policy in the state budget, but there’s no legal ban on the practice. The only way that the Wisconsin state budget process is going to be free of policy provisions that aren’t fiscal in nature is for the practice of the governor proposing policy provisions in the state budget to be explicitly banned. State governors shouldn’t be using the budget process to legislate from the governor’s mansion. In my home state of Illinois, the state government is currently shut down because a Republican governor is using the state budget to try to force a Democratic-controlled state legislature to support non-fiscal policy items that the governor supports. What Shankland’s bill in Wisconsin would do is effectively condone that practice in Wisconsin instead of prohibiting it there.

One can push for all of the accountability for bad ideas that one wants, but they’re still bad ideas.

Even the far-right doesn’t like the Wisconsin GOP’s attack on open records laws

Ladies and gentlemen, hell has frozen over.

For once, I’ve found myself on the same side of an issue as the MacIver Institute, a far-right political think tank with ties to the billionaire Koch Brothers, and Christian Schneider, a far-right political columnist for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the largest newspaper in Wisconsin. That’s because the Republican members of the Wisconsin State Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) passed “Motion #999”, an omnibus committee motion to attach, among other things, a provision exempting “deliberative materials” like legislative drafts and legislative briefings from Wisconsin’s open records laws, to the Wisconsin state budget on a party-line vote. A total of 16 Wisconsin state legislators, 12 Republicans and 4 Democrats, sit on the JFC.

Here’s the full Motion #999; the provision in question is provision #28, located on pages 9 and 10 of the PDF file linked to in this sentence.

This is an actual MacIver Institute video criticizing the gutting of Wisconsin’s open records laws by the JFC:

When the MacIver Institute finds itself siding with State Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) on an issue, you know that Republican legislators in Wisconsin have done something truly heinous. Remember that the MacIver Institute once filed an open records lawsuit against Erpenbach as part of a right-wing political witchhunt against him and won their case in court.

These are actual tweets by Christian Schneider sharply criticizing the Republicans’ move to gut Wisconsin’s open records laws, citing his experience as a state legislative staffer:

Schneider is certainly no liberal. He’s one of the most conservative figures in the usually very right-wing corporate media in Wisconsin, including writing a piece for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel website that repeated the lies of Kyle Wood, a Republican campaign volunteer who falsely claimed to have been physically assaulted because he’s openly gay and refused to support Mark Pocan during his successful 2012 congressional campaign. The piece in question has long since been removed from the Journal-Sentinel website.

The move by Republican state legislators to gut open records laws in Wisconsin is so asinine, even some of the most conservative people and groups in Wisconsin are opposed to it.

Corporate Democrat Chris Abele would represent Scott Walker’s third term in office if he were to run for and be elected Wisconsin Governor

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.