Well, Republicans are at it again in
Wisconsin FitzWalkerStan where, thanks to the redistricting gerrymander they performed in secret, without any input from non-Republicans, and, sadly, with judicial approval except for 1 district line where they tried to divide Hispanic voters between districts to dilute their voting power. They now have complete control over the Wisconsin State Legislature once again by cramming Democrats into as few districts as they could so the vast majority of districts will be blood red and they'll continue in power throughout eternity (they hope).
We won't have Jeff Fitzgerald to kick around anymore. The former Republican Assembly leader and brother to the State Senate Republican leader Scott Fitzgerald has registered to become a lobbyist. His (miserable failure) attempt to become a Wisconsin US Senator resulted in him coming in dead last in the Republican primary. The winner, Tommy Thompson, lost big time to our new US Senator, Tammy Baldwin.
The brand new shiny Assembly Republican Leader is Robin Vos (of course, another rabid Republican).
Our Legislature is filled to the rafters with Republicans even though Democrats received a much larger number of votes in the 2012 election because the GOP made that possible and the courts let them keep their sleazy power grabbing gains.
They've been pretty quiet since the June, 2012 recall elections, but only because Democrats gained the majority in the State Senate. Now that they've got a couple of "extra" votes, the even influence of moderate Republican Dale Schultz doesn't matter anymore.
And, they're off and running:
Wooohooo! Tax Cuts!
Yeah, those millionaires and billionaires must have their tax cuts. And not just right now, but over the next several years, too.
Remember when Scott Walker told us "we're broke"? Well, except for giving $140 million in corporate tax breaks as the very first thing they did which created the deficit which required a Budget Repair Bill which allowed them to do non-fiscal stuff (like busting unions) under the guise of "budget repair" which tored down the house that Jack built (isn't that how the rhyme goes?). Well, not anymore because ... Scott Walker and freedumz and stuff.
"For us, one of the biggest bangs for our buck is dropping the individual income tax rate, putting more money back in the hands of consumers and small business owners out there so that they in turn can invest that money, they can take out loans, they can move forward and put people to work. We're committed to doing that," the Republican governor told the Wisconsin Bankers Association at the group's annual Economic Forecast Luncheon in Madison.Yeah, he pretty much prevented counties and municipalities from increasing property taxes in his Budget Repair Bill in 2011. He didn't want anyone to mess around with making up for the loss of state revenue by raising property tax rates. In fact, his budget left counties and municipalities with only 2 choices - massively cut public services or take severe cuts from the wages and benefits of public employees. Knowing that elected officials fear the wrath of voters over anything else, he basically left them with one option - screw your public employees until they bleed out.
Walker has said in recent weeks he wanted to cut income taxes, cut property taxes or do some of both, depending on what would be most effective. In his Thursday speech and in a news conference afterward, he said he saw an income-tax cut as the best way to boost the economy.
In other words, good times for Scott Walker who hates public employees with a frenzied passion.
Walker didn't discuss how much of an income-tax cut he was talking about, other than to say it would be "significant" and would be put in place over a number of years. That means some of the tax cuts wouldn't take effect until 2016 or later - after the next budget ends in mid-2015.That's right! Walkers tax cuts will continue on year after year after year even if he's booted out of office in 2014 and replaced with a Democrat! After all, they won't be able to get any change in this out of the Republican dominated Legislature because of - you guessed it - gerrymandered districts that guarentee that no matter what voters think, Republicans will be kept in the majority. Forever! These guys plan BIG.
Democrats aren't taking this sitting down, though:
"I think the governor should feel some obligation when he's having tax cuts phase in over time, I think he has some responsibility to say how he's going to fund it," (Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Peter) Barca said.(information in italics and bold are mine)
Barca said any income-tax cut should be weighted to help the working poor and senior citizens because Walker in 2011 raised taxes on the working poor and blocked the scheduled expansion of a property tax credit that largely helps seniors. Next to get any tax cut should be the middle class, Barca said.
That's right, he screwed public employees, the working poor, and seniors.
Legislative Rules Changes
They are changing the rules:
State Assembly leaders from both parties struck a deal Thursday to cut down on their body's frequent and contentious overnight sessions, with time clocks installed to track the length of future floor speeches.Don't get your hopes up. It's not quite as "bipartisany" as it might look.
If the agreement between parties doesn't work out, Republicans are prepared to impose harsher rules later in the session on ending debate, (Republican Assembly Majority Leader Robin) Vos said .
(information in italics is my addition)
So much of what the GOP did in 2011 was accomplished in the middle of the night with votes in the wee hours. It led to more than a few ugly stories about what they were up to and, because they have HUGE majorities in both houses as well as a plethora of rules that prevent the public from having any meaningful input or public oversight (guns OK, signs and cameras will get you arrested), they don't need to resort to those tactics anymore. It's going to be good times for the GOP so why not try to gain a couple of points by pretending to be bipartisan.
Limiting debate will only affect Democrats anyway since Republicans will just vote away any Democratic proposals or amendments. Republicans in Wisconsin now vote as a block, do as they're told, and independent actions or thought are not welcome.
Naturally, there is extra added silliness (we're talking about Republicans, folks):
In addition to the bipartisan agreement, the Republican majority adopted a resolution to require lawmakers to wear a tie and sport coat on session days - a requirement in the Senate that has not been followed in the less formal Assembly. That resolution will also impose stricter rules on members of the public in the Assembly's overhead galleries, including outlawing all recording devices, signs and hats.(bolding is mine)
"Unfortunately, during the last session far too many observers (in the galleries) became participants," Vos said.
The rules in the gallery will also prohibit bags and briefcases, which will require the installation of lockers at an undisclosed cost. But Republicans left in place their rule from last session allowing concealed guns and other weapons for people with a valid permit.
Since when did "bags and briefcases" become a problem?
And remember the continuing "rules" from the last session:
Signs - no
Cameras - no
Guns - just peachy
And it doesn't stop there, either:
Democrats opposed this set of rules, which passed 59-37 on a largely party-line vote. Under them, visitors who disrupt the Assembly can be barred from the gallery for 24 hours on their first disruption, until the next session period on their second, and for the entire two-year session after their third.They don't need no stinkin' debate. Remember, they vote as a block, together, and don't want to hear from Democrats or the public.
This set of rules also allows the committee governing the Assembly's rules and organization to cast paper ballots, similar to the way committees in the Senate do. Democrats objected to this provision, saying it would eliminate the need for the committee members to meet face-to-face, which provides a chance for discussion between the two parties over proposals.
"We need to have debate," Barca said on the Assembly floor.
John Doe Probe
Darlene Wink, former top aide to Scott Walker, who negotiated a plea deal with John Doe prosecutors for misdemeanor rather than felony charges in exchange for her cooperation was sentenced on Thursday for performing campaign work in a taxpayer funded Milwaukee County facility (the County Executives off when Walker was in office) and on taxpayer time:
Wink, 62, was sentenced by Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Daniel Konkol to a year's probation, 50 hours of community service and $1,000 in fines. He also prohibited the longtime Republican political activist from taking part in any political activity, other than voting, for a year.
She also made a tearful apology to Scott Walker, her former boss.
An emotional Wink offered an apology to the judge, "the taxpayers, my former boss and my friends and family" for her offenses. Her lawyer, Peter Wolff, said Wink was referring to Walker, whom he noted she greatly admires.Her original sentencing was postponed twice last year "to ensure her continued cooperation" according to John Doe prosecutors who requested those delays.
Wink, of Cudahy, was convicted of two misdemeanor counts of soliciting political donations for Walker while working at her courthouse job. She was Walker's constituent services coordinator while he was Milwaukee County executive. She worked on two fundraising events for Walker while on the county clock in 2009, when Walker was a GOP candidate for governor.
Wink's cooperation in two other cases was cited by Landgraf and the judge as reasons for leniency. Wink testified against Kevin Kavanaugh, who was convicted of stealing some $51,000 in funds intended for veterans, most of it raised for Walker's annual "Operation Freedom" picnic for veterans and their families. Wink helped organize those events.Her continued cooperation in the ongoing (over 2 years now) John Doe Probe is also required.
Wink also helped prosecutors in their case against Timothy Russell, who pleaded guilty to embezzling money from Operation Freedom and from two candidates for the Milwaukee County Board.
Wink declined to comment as she left the courtroom. Wolff (her attorney) said Wink was relieved to have her case over - she was charged nearly a year ago. Wink will cooperate in any further prosecutions, Wolff said.(information in italics is mine)
"As far as everybody knows, the Doe continues," he said. "We obviously hope it ends soon so there can be peace of mind not just for Ms. Wink but obviously the public at large."
State Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski said it was time that Walker apologized to taxpayers for campaign work done by his aides at taxpayer expense.
This is now the end of all of the John Doe cases and charges that have come forward, however the John Doe Probe and its federal counterpart are continuing.
Actually, it's sad news for my state, but a great big dose of reality for our lying and nutty Governor.
Despite Scott Walker continuing to pull jobs numbers out of a place where the sun doesn't shine (he claims to have "created" 100,000 of the promised 250,000 jobs), it was big time news that Wisconsin has ranked 42 out of 50 states in job creation.
The data, which covers the 12 months from June 2011 to June 2012, shows that Wisconsin's position worsened from a rank of 37 in the previous period from March 2011 to March 2012.I have yet to see a comment, response, or reaction from the Walker administration. No surprise.
GOP Drooling over Mining (again)
You gotta keep those big time campaign donors happy donchaknow. And Republicans had a bathtub full of fail in their last sessions attempt to pass a "mine where ever you want to and don't worry about fouling our water, air, or environment while you strip out all the resources you want" bill. Well, as soon as their guarenteed gerrymandered majorities in the Legislature were voted in, Scott Walker and his Republican pals started talking about getting a Mining Bill passedpronto.
And, yes, a shiny new Mining Bill will be intoduced this week.
In addition to reducing rules for opening mines in the state, the Legislature's GOP leaders said their agenda includes measures to cut other regulations on businesses, reduce the income tax and reform schools. Republicans say that will create jobs, but Democrats say they're wary that the economic priorities will be overshadowed by divisive bills on voting rules and social issues such as abortion.Among the changes will be calling the environmental stripping, mine where ever you want to - guess what? - "mining reform". Beware any time Republicans use the word "reform". Realize that "reform" to them means "screw people and reward the monied elite".
Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), who was sworn in as Assembly speaker Monday, said a mining bill would be out by next week and pushed ahead as quickly as possible, even as Republicans acknowledged that a law would likely face a legal challenge.
Of course, our native American community, which would be impacted the most by the environmental degradation, will fight to keep a healthy environment with clean air and water along with other citizens and community groups. Stay tuned.
Yeah, a lot of news saved for this, but I posted today since there's little other news to pass along (what? you're going to watch prison on MSNBC?).
PS: Apparantly there's some news on the horizon for Sly - popular Madison radio host whose podcasts are "must listen" at my house. The podcasts are gone from his web page and have been replaced by tantalizing clues which are repeated on his Facebook page and Twitter. He's making an annoucement at 10 AM on Monday in the State Assembly Parlor.
He and the news staff at AM radio station WTDY were fired the day after Thanksgiving when the station abruptly went to all Christmas music and then to all sports (like Madison needs A THIRD all sports radio station).
We need Sly back on the air!