Category Archives: Politics

Gundrum Wins in the 58th

As expected, Republican Rick Gundrum won in the 58th. Congratulations!

The results of the election were interesting. As I suspected might happen, the Democrats had a much stronger showing than they normally do in the 58th. Turnout was a mere 12.49% and Gundrum won the race 56.56% to 43.37%. Bear in mind that this is a district that is about 70% Republican. In a low turnout race, the Democrats are clearly more motivated.

Also interesting is that the Democrat actually won West Bend. Dennis Denigenhardt pulled in 1,279 votes to Gundrum’s 1,270 in the City of West Bend.

Also, the Democrats won a Wisconsin Senate seat in a pink district. Does this signal the coming of a Blue Wave in November? Should Walker be more worried about reelection? Will the Conservative Revolution in Wisconsin be coming to an end?

It’s going to be an interesting year.

Go Vote!

There’s a special election in the 58th Assembly District today.


Americans see immediate impact from tax reform

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:

Even the most optimistic of supporters of the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” President Trump signed into law just before Christmas did not anticipate the immediate and substantial impact it would have in the lives of so many low income and middle class Americans. American businesses are racing to announce their plans for their tax savings and over two million Americans are already going to receive a substantial bonus thanks to tax reform.

There were two major thrusts of the Republican tax reform plan, but they rested on the same principle. That principle is that the quickest path to economic growth and prosperity for individual Americans is to allow them to keep more of their own money and spend it where they choose. This principle runs contrary to the totalitarian notion that has been popular in the past several years that a group of central planners should collect Americans’ wealth through forced taxation and redistribute it back into the economy as they see fit.

The first thrust of the tax reform plan was a reform of individual taxes to allow Americans to send less money to Washington. Individual tax rates were lowered, the standard deduction was raised, the Obamacare individual mandate was repealed, the child tax credit was increased and other changes were made to the tax laws with the goal of lowering the overall tax burden for most taxpayers.

The effect of these changes has yet to be seen. Americans are likely to see more take home pay beginning in February as the IRS adjusts withholding schedules to take less money out for the federal government. Some of the benefits of this part of the tax reform law will not be seen until 2019 when Americans file their federal taxes. As 2018 progresses, millions and millions of Americans will have a little more money in their pockets to spend on their priorities — not the priorities of politicians in Washington.

The second major thrust of the Republican tax reform plan was to lower taxes on American businesses. Corporate taxes have been lowered from the confiscatory maximum of 35 percent to a more average 21 percent. The new law also lowered taxes for other business entities like sole proprietorships and partnerships. The new law made modifications to how businesses depreciate capital investments and changed the United States to a territorial tax system to make it easier for businesses to move their foreign earnings back to our shores.

While many of the tax savings for businesses will also not be realized for a while, businesses are already announcing their plans to invest the savings in their employees, infrastructure and elsewhere. Americans for Tax Reform has been keeping a tally of the announcements. Here are a few examples:

 Aflac is increasing its 401(k) match from 50 percent to 100 percent and kicking $500 into every employee’s 401(k);

 U.S. Bancorp is giving a $1,000 bonus to 60,000 employees, raising their base wage to $15 an hour and is giving $150 million to charities;

 Southwest Airlines is giving a $1,000 bonus to all of its 55,000 employees and $5 million additional charitable donations;

 PNC is giving $1,000 bonuses to 47,500 employees, kicking in $1,500 to each employee’s pension accounts, raising their base wage to $15 an hour and giving $200 million to charities

 Nationwide Insurance is giving a $1,000 bonus to 29,000 employees and increasing 401(k) matching contributions for 33,000 employees;

 Fiat Chrysler is giving a $2,000 bonus to 60,000 employees and investing $1 billion in a factory in Michigan — creating 2,500 new jobs;

 Waste Management Inc. is giving $2,000 bonuses to 34,000 employees The list goes on and on. The reasons are quite simple. Businesses operate in a competitive environment and need to invest their profits into their employees and infrastructure in order to remain competitive. And contrary to the demonizing rhetoric of Democrats, most businesses are run by decent people who do want to improve the world around them.

As tens of millions of Americans see their wages increase, receive bonuses, and spend less on taxes thanks to the Republican’s tax reform law, they will invest that money into their own lives in a billion different ways. Some will spend a little more on their kids. Some will think about starting a business. Some will give a bit more to charity. Some will buy ammo. Some will blow it on lottery tickets and booze. The point is, however, that individual Americans will be making their own choices to benefit their own lives.

And come November, I suspect that many Americans will remember that not a single Democrat voted to allow Americans to keep more of their own money.


Kennedy Storms Out of Candidate Forum

Despite Kennedy’s emotional outburst, Ives is largely correct.

Democratic governor contender Chris Kennedy abruptly left a candidate forum Monday, criticizing Republican candidate Jeanne Ives for what he called “ignorance and stupidity” after she said Chicago’s gun violence could be solved if more fathers stayed in the home.

The controversy came when Ives, a three-term conservative lawmaker from Wheaton who is challenging Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, responded to a question on curbing gun crimes.

“The problem is the gun violence in this city of Chicago, predominantly. And you know how you’re going to solve it? Fathers in the home,” she said. As the audience booed and shouted, she repeated, “Fathers in the home.”

Kennedy later got his turn to respond.

“Well, I wish I could agree with you. I didn’t have a father in my life. Somebody shot him,” Kennedy, the son of the assassinated former U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, said to Ives before he left the forum amid applause and a standing ovation from hundreds of attendees.


As expected, Ives was frequently at odds with the Democratic candidates, and she occasionally drew the scorn of the audience as she repeatedly suggested city and county residents share in the blame for such issues as crime, high taxes and a lack of quality public education because they re-elect Democrats.

“That is your problem. Your taxes are too high and opportunity’s not here,” she said. “We need jobs and opportunity, and we’re not going to get that if you keep electing these same people as before.”


“You know, some stuff hits a raw nerve and, um, I think that should be a debate about great ideas, a clash, and not one of emotions,” Kennedy said as he exited about an hour into the 90-minute forum.

Oh, the irony that Kennedy decries a clash of emotions as he makes a direct emotional appeal without offering a single idea of his own. Meanwhile, Ives is correctly identifying some of the societal causes of violence. And the folks of Chicago wonder why so much of the city has become a s***hole.


Wisconsin Considers Direct Primary Care Reform

Better care? Lower cost? Sign me up.

The Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations on Thursday heard testimony on a bill authorizing the Department of Health Services (DHS) to launch a direct primary care pilot program in BadgerCare, the state’s Medicaid program.

Direct primary care is a method of delivering health care in which patients pay their primary care doctors directly via a monthly fee, bypassing traditional health insurance that can obscure the actual costs of procedures. Since patients are paying cash, there’s significant downward pressure on prices.

“Price transparency means patients see a significant savings with the DPC model. Some DPC providers are successfully delivering care resulting in savings of 15-30 percent,” the bill’s author, Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), told the committee.

That kind of cost reduction means that implementing direct primary care into the state’s behemoth Medicaid program would be a taxpayer windfall.

“Medicaid spending has continued to balloon, accounting for almost 20 percent of our entire state budget, so it’s obviously an issue that we have,” Kapenga said. Total Medical Assistance payments in Wisconsin have soared from $4.7 billion in 2004 to nearly $9.2 billion in the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.


“The first several months I was practicing in this model of healthcare, I was surprised by the number of people who came to see me who had not seen a physician in ten to 20 years,” Dr. Suzanne Gehl, a direct primary care physician in Delafield, told the committee. “We were diagnosing high blood pressure, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and cancer at unbelievable rates,” she said.

Once patients familiarize themselves with the direct primary care system, with its more personalized approach eschewing large hospitals and cumbersome health insurance paperwork, they quickly realize the benefits.

“The thing that amazed me is once you removed the barrier of cost and access, how quickly we were able to get these conditions under good control and help them navigate the healthcare system in a very efficient and cost saving manner,” Gehl said.

Where are the Liberal Companies?

I was scrolling through the list of American businesses that have announced employee bonueses, wage increases, etc. after the Republican tax reform was signed into law. Something stands out… where are all of the liberal companies? Where is Google? Facebook? Twitter? Uber? Penzeys? Berkshire Hathaway? Microsoft? Progressive? GEICO? Apple? Etc.

Are the owners of these companies just going to stuff their tax savings in their pockets? Why aren’t they announcing plans to give that money to their employees? Or investing in their American facilities? Or giving some to charities?

Their absence is rather conspicuous.

Will a Democrat Win in the 58th?

I think there’s a decent chance of it. As I stated in my column last week, this is the perfect environment for lightning to strike.

Wisconsin’s 58th Assembly District is overwhelming Republican. It is considered one of the safest Republican seats in the nation. With the perception of safety comes the false hubris of certainty. While the district is overwhelmingly Republican, there is a passionate, organized liberal pocket in the district too. They have been successful in getting board members elected to local boards in the district and have even turned those boards liberal from time to time.

The special election for the 58th has some unique conditions that make a Democrat win more likely than it has perhaps ever been. First, the Democrat candidate, Dennis Degenhardt, is a credible, decent, reasonable man with strong private sector credentials. While I may disagree with him politically, he is not a loon or fruitcake like the Democrats usually run in a throwaway race.

Second, Degenhardt has also been working hard to win. At this level of politics, it is often the hardest worker who wins. It’s the candidate who is knocking on doors, shaking hands, attending Rotary meetings, and everything else that goes into retail politics who carries the day. It is work that takes place below the radar, but has a huge impact in a low turnout race.

Third, the Democrats in Washington County are motivated to express their anger about Trump, Walker, and the like. I expect there to be a large turnout among Democrats. Imagine how gratifying it would be for them to win a seat in the heart of Republican country.

Fourth, with motivated Democrats and complacent Republicans, the math favors the Democrats. This special election is the only thing on the ballot and it is off cycle. It’s the middle of a cold January, we are expecting a snow storm on Monday, and everyone just assumes that the Republican will win. Turnout will be low – likely less than 15%. Only the hyper-motivated and habitual voters are likely to turnout.

So let’s do some simple math… There are about 37,000 voters in the 58th. Let’s assume that 75% of them are Republicans and 25% of them are Democrats. That makes 9,250 Democrats and 27,750 Republicans. 15% overall turnout would be 5,550 votes cast in the race. If the Republican turnout is 10%, that’s 2,775 votes cast. If the Democrats turn out a mere 30% of their voters, that is also 2,775 votes cast. One more vote and the Democrats win. And given the tempo I’m feeling from the Democrats in the district, I think that 30% turnout for them is low.

If I were an odds maker, I’d give the Democrats a 40% chance of winning in the 58th next week. And if they do, it will be interpreted as signaling an anti-Trump Democratic wave in this election cycle and it will be national news.


Federal Government to Allow States to Require Work for Medicaid


The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released a guidance Thursday outlining what states need to do to mandate that certain Medicaid enrollees work to qualify for benefits. The agency is expected to start approving state waivers promoting “community engagement activities” in coming weeks.

The historic move would be a significant change in how the government health insurance program operates and would fulfill a longtime Republican goal. States, for instance, could require non-disabled, working age recipients to work, volunteer, go to school or enter a job training program. The guidance also includes caregiving as one of the activities.

Wisconsin is already pioneering in this arena. I like that the federal government is allowing it, but not requiring it. If the liberals in California don’t want to require some work for taxpayer-funded benefits, then that’s up to them.

DC Renames Street in Front of Russian Embassy

That’s some good trolling there.

Washington DC has renamed the street the Russian embassy sits on after a murdered Russian opposition politician.

The city council voted to rename the street outside Russia’s embassy complex after Boris Nemtsov, who was shot outside the Kremlin in 2015.

A statement from the council said the decision to honour the “slain democracy activist” passed unanimously.

Ethics Commission Launches Secret Investigation

After weaponizing the GAB as a partisan hit squad against Republicans, it looks like some of the same people have simply moved over to the Ethics Commission and weaponized it.

The offices of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Sen. Steve Nass told they have been contacted by an attorney hired by the Ethics Commission to probe charges of “partisan influence” toward agency Administrator Brian Bell.

The Ethics Commission declined comment Tuesday, citing confidentiality laws regarding agency investigations. But the contacts come a little more than two weeks after Bell asked the commission to launch an investigation into his conduct to clear his name following Republican calls for his resignation.

They also come amid an escalation in the standoff between Fitzgerald and Mark Thomsen. The Elections Commission chair Tuesday called the Senate GOP leader a “bully” for refusing to hold a confirmation hearing for agency Administrator Mike Haas, who also has been called upon to resign.

Fitzgerald has instead indicated he plans to have the Senate vote later this month on the nominations of Bell and Haas, having previously predicted they would “never” win enough support in the GOP-controlled Senate to win confirmation.

Mike Mikalsen, an aide to Nass, R-Whitewater, charged Tuesday the probe launched by the Ethics Commission was an “abusive process.”

“It’s an attempt to try to intimidate the Senate from taking action on a confirmation vote,” Mikalsen said.

City of West Bend Puts Transportation Advisory Referendum on April Ballot

We knew this was coming, but last night the West Bend Common Council voted to ask the voters through referendum how we want to address our transportation funding moving forward. Here are the four options upon which they settled:

According to the notice of advisory referendum, West Bend officials have planned four questions for the public to consider during the spring election. The first question is:

 “Currently, the city of West Bend invests over $1 million (increasing 4 percent annually) on road and sidewalk maintenance,” the first question reads. “In addition to this annual investment, would you support the Common Council increasing property taxes by approximately $640,000, approximately by 23 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, to apply to borrowing that can be used for roads?”

The second question is a variant of the first but doubles the amount of the tax that officials will impose on residents.

 “Currently, the city of West Bend invests over $1 million (increasing 4 percent annually) on road and sidewalk maintenance. In addition to this annual investment, would you support the Common Council increasing property taxes by approximately $1.2 million, approximately by 46 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, to apply to borrowing that can be used for road.

The third question also asks if residents are willing to pay more, but alters the manner in which it is imposed.

 “Currently, the city of West Bend invests over $1 million (increasing 4 percent annually) on road and sidewalk maintenance,” the third question reads. “In addition to this annual investment, would you support the Common Council implementing a $20 vehicle registration fee (wheel tax) to apply exclusively to road designated borrowing?”


The final question is meant to address a collaborative initiative with the county.

 “Washington County currently imposes a 0.5 percent sales tax throughout the county and none of these dollars are shared with the local municipalities (e.g. the city of West Bend). Municipalities have recently put forth a proposal to the County for sharing sales tax revenues,” the fourth question states. “Would you support an agreement where the County would distribute up to 25 percent of the revenues with the municipalities (approximately $600,000 for West Bend) to apply to road designated borrowing?”

Based on my conversations with some of the folks involved, I do believe that this is an honest, straight-forward question for the voters and the council intends to follow the public’s lead. There has been increasing frustration and tension on the council regarding transportation. Projects never get done as quickly as anyone would like. There are some who think the time has come to raise taxes and spend more on the roads. There are some who want to stay the course. There are some who are looking for an alternative way – like collaborating with the county for funding. There is an honest impasse and they are using the referendum process to get guidance on how to proceed from the public.

I do wish that they had an option for “stay the course.” I think they figured that no such option was necessary because it is the obvious option for people who vote, but don’t select any of the four options. But it would have been nice to have an affirmative option for “stay the course.” Or an option for “spend less,” but I suppose that was too much to consider.

What do you think?

Gundrum for the 58th

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Incidentally, I voted absentee yesterday and there were a surprising number of people there. There were 6 other voters in the 5 to 8 minutes I was there. Obviously, one can’t extrapolate turnout based on such an anecdotal experience, but it does make me wonder if there is an unexpected surge of interest in this race. In any case, here’s the column:

The voters of the 58th Assembly District will decide on who will represent them in Madison after the unexpected death of Representative Bob Gannon. After a spirited, if abbreviated, primary election, Republican Rick Gundrum and Democrat Dennis Degenhardt will square off on January 16th in a special election. I had the opportunity to speak with both candidates, and fortunately for the voters, we are able to choose between two fundamentally decent men with starkly different perspectives.

Dennis Degenhardt recently retired from being the CEO of Glacier Hills Credit Union after a career spent in financial services. He and his wife have been married for 22 years, have four children, six grandchildren, and have been residents of the 58th for many years. Degenhardt has been active in the community as the Vice Chair of the Washington County Democratic Party, President of the Washington County Campus Foundation, involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and several other community organizations. This is Degenhardt’s first run for political office.

Rick Gundrum owns his own audio and video production business after spending years as in the radio industry. He and his wife have been married for 25 years, have two children, four grandchildren, and is a 5th generation resident of Washington County. Gundrum has been active in the community as a Trustee on the Slinger Village Board, Chairman of the Washington County Board, and various county committees.

When people idealize about self-governance, this is the kind of election they envision: two good people with decades of experience and service to their community stepping forward to represent their neighbors in the legislature. The voters of the 58th do not have to hold their noses and choose the lesser of two evils or stomach a scoundrel for political goals. Instead, the voters of the 58th get to truly choose their next representative based on the candidate’s views on the issues and the role of government in their lives.

Dennis Degenhardt wants a larger, more robust, more comprehensive government to manage our economy, healthcare, education, and other aspects of life. He thinks that Governor Walker erred in rejecting the Medicaid expansion that was part of Obamacare and believes that Wisconsin could lead on healthcare with its own healthcare exchange. Degenhardt supports vigorous regulations on business to fight against potential abuse.

Degenhardt would like to see more taxpayer money send on education, but believes that School Choice siphons off too much money from the public school system. On transportation, he would like to see the bidding process be more competitive, but is then open to additional taxes and toll roads to fund Wisconsin’s transportation infrastructure. Degenhardt thinks that the Foxconn deal is a great mistake and would have joined the majority of Democrats in voting against it had he been in the legislature at the time.

On civil rights, Degenhardt would have voted against the bill that allowed concealed carry in Wisconsin, but is resigned to it being the law of the land. He opposes any liberalization of the concealed carry law. Degenhardt is Pro-Choice believing that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.

Rick Gundrum believes in a smaller, less expensive, and less intrusive government. He supports a lighter regulatory burden on businesses and people with more decisions being made by local governments. Gundrum touts his experience on the Washington County Board in reducing costs though finding efficiencies and collaborating on services with other counties.

Gundrum wants to see lower taxes so that people can keep more of their own money. He supports Governor Walker’s agenda on taxes, spending, regulatory reform, government reform, education, and other items. Gundrum wants to see the state government work with local governments to aggressively address the opioid crisis through treatment options and rigorous law enforcement. Gundrum is pro-2nd Amendment, supports school choice, and is staunchly Pro-Life.

I will be gladly casting my vote for Rick Gundrum because he is a good man who promises to fight for the kind of government I want to have.

Whatever your choice, citizens of the 58th need to get out and vote. In-person absentee voting is open until January 12th and the election is on January 16th. Although the 58th Assembly District is overwhelmingly Republican, if there was ever to be an election where a Democrat might win, this is it. The Democrats are energized and Degenhardt is a quality candidate.

As a special election in the middle of a cold January, turnout will likely be less than 15%. Only 10.56% of the voters turned out last month for the special primary election. That means that perhaps less than 5,000 people will vote in this election and will decide who will represent the citizens of the 58th in Madison. Get out and vote, folks.

Newest Dem Candidate Stumbles Into Race

Well, that escalated quickly.

At 38, Kelda Roys is one of the youngest Democratic candidates. But in an interview on Sunday political talk show “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” she didn’t highlight her age to set herself apart. Instead, she pointed to family issues like paid paternity leave and abortion rights.

Roys served as a state representative for four years and is the CEO and founder of OpenHomes, a real estate tech company. She ran for Congress in 2012, but lost to Rep. Mark Pocan in the Democratic primary.


“I happen to be the only pro-choice woman in the race … our (Democratic) electorate does tend towards women and we’re a party of reproductive rights,” she said.

Emphasis mine. The story goes on to point out:

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout is also running for governor and has said she is pro-choice, although she has a tricky history with abortion rights.


There are two other women in the Democratic primary: Ramona Whiteaker, a photographer from Stoughton and Michelle Doolan, a hair salon owner and PTO president from Cross Plains. Whiteaker could not be reached immediately for comment about her stance on abortion. Doolan responded, saying she is “absolutely pro-choice.”

Despite that, she is a far more compelling candidate than most of the rest of the field. She is young, has a business background, and an energetic message. She brightens the rest of the dreary gray Dem field.

Democrats Go on Offense on Healthcare

This smart by the Democrats.

Democrats are shifting to offense on health care, emboldened by successes in defending the Affordable Care Act. They say their ultimate goal is a government guarantee of affordable coverage for all.

With Republicans unable to agree on a vision for health care, Democrats are debating ideas that range from single-payer, government-run care for all, to new insurance options anchored in popular programs like Medicare or Medicaid. There’s also widespread support for authorizing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, an idea once advocated by candidate Donald Trump, which has languished since he was elected president.

Democrats are hoping to winnow down the options during the 2018 campaign season, providing clarity for their 2020 presidential candidate. In polls, health care remains a top priority for the public, particularly for Democrats and independents.

True, a thinking person might say, “you gave us the utter failure of Obamacare when you were in charge,” but Americans tend to have a short memory. With the Republicans failing to repeal Obamacare and failing to offer a clear message, the Democrats may win the “JUST DO SOMETHING!” crowd by just offering a coherent alternative. Of course, the Democrats are more than willing to build their dream of socialized medicine upon the ashes of Obamacare.

The Republicans better get off their arses and advocate a free market approach to healthcare. The American people are not done with the issue – even if the Republicans are tired of it.

High Tax States Reacting to Federal Tax Reform


CHERRY HILL, N.J. (AP) — In New Jersey and California, top Democratic officials want to let people make charitable contributions to the state instead of paying certain taxes. In Connecticut and New York, officials are exploring a switch from income taxes to new ones on payroll. A few governors have even called for tax cuts.


In high-tax states, officials have been focused on protecting taxpayers from the impact of a new $10,000 cap on deductions for paying state and local taxes. In California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, more than one-third of tax filers claim the state and local tax deduction on federal taxes; the average deduction in each state is over $15,000.

California state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate, introduced legislation this week that would allow people to make charitable donations to the state instead of paying income taxes. That would allow them to claim a charitable deduction on federal taxes.


Another Democrat, New Jersey Gov.-elect Phil Murphy, announced a similar plan on Friday but said local governments also could implement it and apply it to property taxes.

If they drop income and property taxes and go to a voluntary donation system, then I’m all for it. It will be a great experiment to see how much money the people in those states really believe that they should be handing over to their state and local governments. If it is a “donation” that is required by law, then it’s just a tax by another name. Somehow, I don’t think these state elected leaders really want to make taxes voluntary. They know what would happen as well as I do.

Walker Open to Accelerating Youth Prison Plan

It looks like a good plan. It still needs form debate and deliberation, but there’s no reason that can’t be moved along at something faster than government speed.

Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to move youthful offenders from prisons in northern Wisconsin to new regional facilities wouldn’t kick in until at least 2019.

But with some Dems complaining the transition of offenders wouldn’t be fast enough, Walker’s office signaled late this afternoon he was ready to work with lawmakers to speed up the process.

“Governor Walker’s plan significantly reforms our juvenile corrections system and we want to work with all parties to implement it in a thoughtful and purposeful way,” said Walker spokesman Tom Evenson. “If the Legislature wants to advance the plan sooner we would be supportive of those efforts.”

In announcing the plan, Walker’s office highlighted support from some Dems, including Rep. Evan Goyke, of Milwaukee, and Milwaukee County Exec Chris Abele.

FBI Investigating Clinton

Why keep investigating? The Clintons are old news? Right?

The FBI has been quietly investigating the Clinton Foundation for months, according to people familiar with the inquiry, US media report.

The investigation is reportedly being led by FBI agents from Little Rock, Arkansas, where the foundation was founded.

They have interviewed at least one witness in the last month, reports the Hill, a Washington DC political news outlet.

Agents are said to be looking into whether policy favours were traded for unspecified donations to the foundation while Mrs Clinton was secretary of state.

Why? Because it is possible that a person at the highest reaches of our federal government with access to almost every national secret was selling influence for cash. We should find out for sure, no?

First Week in Review of 2018

I’ll be on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Week in Review program from 0800 to 0900 today. I’ll be discussing the issues of the week with Lon Newman.

Tune in!

Fox Cities Exhibition Center in Trouble

It looks like the municipalities involved can’t all agree on a funding plan.

So far, only Appleton, Menasha and Sherwood have signed the agreement. Kimberly approved the agreement on Nov. 6 but later rescinded it unanimously on Nov. 20.

Should the agreement not be signed by each of the 10 communities, Appleton has two options: It uses its full amount of room taxes toward the $31 million exhibition center and not other projects, or the city could sue other municipalities for breach of contract, Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna said.

“At what point does a legal agreement mean a legal agreement?” Hanna told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin after the meeting. “We don’t want to go down that path, we don’t want to go down that path at all (of the two options if the agreements aren’t signed), and they know we don’t want to go down that path so they think they can just leverage that.

“These agreements are built on trust, and obviously, there’s no trust.”

In 2015, 10 communities agreed to set aside a portion of their room taxes collected from hotel and motel guests to pay back loans taken out for the exhibition center. However, Appleton officials are still working to negotiate a financing plan with local banks, while other stakeholders say they prefer to use traditional revenue bonds for the financing plan.

Until a financing plan is established, Appleton has been dipping into its cash reserves to pay for the exhibition center.

In addition to his concerns about the financing plan, Kaufert said that the nine other communities that are putting in room tax dollars should have more say in the project.

DOJ To Enforce Pot Laws

Put another way, Trump’s DOJ returns to policies of Obama’s first term.

(CNN)In a seismic shift, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will announce Thursday that he is rescinding a trio of memos from the Obama administration that adopted a policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws, according to a source with knowledge of the decision.

While many states have decriminalized or legalized marijuana use, the drug is still illegal under federal law, creating a conflict between federal and state law.
The main Justice Department memo addressing the issue, known as the “Cole memo” for then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole in 2013, set forth new priorities for federal prosecutors operating in states where the drug had been legalized for medical or other adult use. It represented a major shift from strict enforcement to a more hands-off approach, so long as they didn’t threaten other federal priorities, such as preventing the distribution of the drug to minors and cartels.
The memo will be rescinded but it’s not immediately clear whether Sessions will issue new guidance in its place or simply revert back to older policies that left states with legal uncertainty about enforcement of federal law.
On the action itself, it is completely correct and appropriate. Whether the DOJ likes it or not, marijuana is illegal and they are tasked with enforcing the law whether they like it or not. They should be enforcing the law.
If the Congress wants to change the law, however, that is certainly something worth considering. I would start with asking whether this should even be a federal issue or not? While we can certainly debate the merits and demerits of decriminalization, I think it is more appropriately a discussion to have at the state level. Except for the case of border enforcement, this is an issue that is better handled in the states.