Category Archives: Politics – Wisconsin

Bill Proposed to Protect Kids with Guns at School

This seems utterly reasonable, and in a sane world, unnecessary.

MADISON (WKOW) — Some high school students would no longer have to fear being expelled for having a gun at school, under a limited exemption being considered by state lawmakers.

Under current law, if a student leaves an unloaded gun in their locked car, in the the school parking lot, they would face a mandatory expulsion hearing if anyone reports it to the administration.

But the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) asked Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) to craft legislation that would exempt schools from starting that expulsion process, if law enforcement investigates the incident and doesn’t press charges..

WASB President Steve McCloskey told the Assembly Committee on Education Thursday it is not uncommon for students in rural Wisconsin to hunt before and after school.

And since many of those students live a far distance away from school, McCloskey said it is reasonable for them to keep an unloaded rifle in their locked vehicle.

Rick Gundrum Announces Run for the 58th

The field is getting more crowded. From the Washington County Insider.

Nov. 15, 2017 – Washington Co., WI – Watch for a sixth candidate to jump in the mix tomorrow and announce his candidacy for the 58th Assembly District.

Rick Gundrum, who is currently the chairman of the Washington County Board, said he will have a prepared statement in a press release that will be issued by noon Thursday.

Gundrum has quite a bit of political experience; he’s been on the Washington County Board representing District 16 in Slinger since April 2006. He’s served as

County Board Chairman
Executive Committee.
Chairman – Board of Health.
Chairman – A.D.R.C.
Chairman – Eastern Wisconsin Counties Railroad Consortium.

For the past eight years Gundrum has served as a trustee on the Slinger Village Board; he was first elected in April 2009.

Senator Johnson Opposes Tax Plan

I’ve had about enough with Senator Johnson.

(CNN)Sen. Ron Johnson announced he is opposed to the tax bill Wednesday, making him the first member of the GOP to formally come out against the party’s plan, though the Wisconsin Republican said he was hopeful about being able to support a final version once changes are made.

Johnson issued a statement saying the current proposal in both chambers is imbalanced in favor of large corporations but he left open the door to supporting the bills if they are altered.
“Unfortunately, neither the House nor Senate bill provide fair treatment, so I do not support either in their current versions,” he said. “I do, however, look forward to working with my colleagues to address the disparity so I can support the final version.”
Here’s the thing… I supported Johnson for election – twice. He originally ran on repealing Obamacare. When it came to getting that done, he and his colleagues failed. Now when it is coming to tax reform, he’s about to be a part of it failing. He’s become a Senator that’s all hat and no cattle. It doesn’t do anyone any good for Johnson to tour Wisconsin and tell us how bad Obamacare is or how much our tax code needs reform if he is unable to bring himself to actually support DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
As to his specific objection, it’s horse shit. The entire purpose of tax reform, I thought, was to spur economic growth and simplify the tax code. Both the House bill and the Senate bill (I like the House’s better) will accomplish those goals to some degree. Yes, in an ideal world, I would like the bill to cut taxes for more people and businesses and be much more simple, but it also has to be something that can get a majority of votes. Johnson is making the enemy of the good. But given the fact that Johnson is smart enough to know that getting something is better than getting nothing, I can only assume that he is just using this as an excuse because he doesn’t actually want to reform our tax system.
Less talk, Ron. More action.

State should standardize access to police body cam videos

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Actually, it was online yesterday, but I was busy. Here you go:

Technology has always pushed the boundaries of culture and it often takes time for the law to catch up. As body cameras become more common for police, the management of that footage has largely been left to individual law enforcement agencies. The Wisconsin State Assembly has passed a good bill to govern the public’s access to law enforcement body cam footage that the state Senate and governor should quickly enact into law.

The use of body cams by law enforcement has been expanding mainly due to the public’s pressure to do so. Americans grant a lot of power in our police and extend a lot of trust that they will use that power appropriately on our behalf. But that trust is not absolute and in the wake of a series of high profile incidents where a law enforcement officer killed a citizen under questionable circumstances, many members of the general public pushed for police to wear body cams to help discern the truth in such incidents.

On the other side of the coin, many law enforcement officers asked to use body cams under the belief that while a body cam video might indict a cop doing something illegally, it might also exonerate a cop who is wrongly being accused of committing a crime. Now that many law enforcement agencies are using body cams, the results are predictably varied. What we are finding is that the body cam footage of controversial incidents rarely conclusively show the “truth,” and a jolting video rarely quells the controversy.

While the use of body cam footage may not be the antidote to controversy that many had hoped, body cams have become a useful tool in the routine business of law enforcement. The question remains: now that we have thousands of law enforcement officers going about their work while recording themselves and all of the people around them, who is allowed to see those recordings?

In general, the video recorded by law enforcement’s body cams are public records. That means that upon request, the law enforcement agency must give that video to anyone who asks unless there is a compelling government interest not to do so. Our common law has always set a fairly high bar for withholding public documents, so the end result is that 95 percent of requests for police body cam video are granted.

The presents a problem in balancing the public’s right to know with the individual’s right to privacy and protection under the Fourth Amendment. While policies for when law enforcement officers activate their body cams vary, most of them are recording whenever they are engaging a member of the public for any reason. This means that even when an officer is engaging a citizen who has not committed a crime, which is the vast majority of the time, that engagement may be recorded and released on the internet for everyone to see.

For example, if an officer responds to an elderly person’s fall in his or her home, that could be recorded and released. If an officer responds to a woman who was raped, that encounter could be recorded and released. If an officer helps a person who slid into a ditch, that could be recorded and released. While some of these incidents are benign, releasing the video of the encounter could be embarrassing for the citizen, or worse, used by someone to harass or further traumatize a victim of a crime.

Rep. Jesse Kremer’s (R-Kewaskum) bill seeks to set some reasonable standards for when law enforcement body cams must be released and when they should be kept confidential. Under the bill, footage would be considered an open record and available to the public if it was taken in a public place and involved a death, assault, arrest or search. If one of those actions occurred in a place where a person had a reasonable expectation of privacy, then the footage could only be released if all of the people involved agree.

Under Kremer’s bill, police body cam footage would still be available for any legal action, civil or criminal, but only footage of actual or suspected criminal behavior could be released to the public. This strikes a reasonable balance that allows the public to continue to have general oversight of police in the most serious encounters, but protects the public from malcontents using police videos for harassment, bullying, preying, or just feeding their creepy voyeurism.

This bill was passed on a bipartisan voice vote in the Assembly and now sits in the Senate awaiting action. The Senate should pick up Kremer’s torch and carry it to Gov. Walker’s desk.

Engineering Wisconsin’s Roads for Autonomous Vehicles

Foxconn is pushing Wisconsin to the forefront of technology and innovation.

Spurred by Foxconn Technology Group and its plans for a mega-factory in Racine County, state highway planners are studying the possibility of including special lanes for driverless vehicles on I-94.

Should that come to pass — and at this point it is only something being contemplated — it would put Wisconsin in the vanguard of what many believe will be a key part of transportation in the future.

Driverless cars have been developed and are being tested, but there are no highway lanes dedicated to so-called autonomous vehicles, a spokesman with the U.S. Department of Transportation said.

[…]

One possibility, Sheehy said, would be driverless lanes between the Foxconn plant and Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport as a way to move supplies and products to and from the factory.

He said the fact that Foxconn executives brought up the use of autonomous vehicles indicated the vision the company is bringing to the project.

“We’re thinking about two years down the road; they’re thinking 20 years down the road,” Sheehy said.

Wisconsin Eliminates Minimum Hunting Age

Good.

If all goes as planned for freshman legislator Rob Stafsholt, Wisconsin’s traditional gun deer hunting season will open Saturday with a twist that’s raising concern around the country.

Under legislation that Gov. Scott Walker is expected to sign into law this week, kids of any age will be allowed to hunt deer and carry their own gun when accompanied by an adult — no training required. Previously, kids had to be at least 10 years old to hunt with a mentor and the two had to share a weapon.

[…]

Stafsholt said that of 42 states with mentored hunt programs, 34 don’t set a minumum [sic] age. In addition, Wisconsin was one of only four of the 42 states to limit the mentor and youth hunter to a single gun.

This story is a little dated. Walker signed it into law today. While there is certainly a minimum age at which kids are mature enough to hunt or handle a firearm, that age is very subjective and specific to the individual child and family. Frankly, parents have a much greater vested interest in ensuring the safety of their kids, so it makes sense to put this determination in their hands. I suspect that when we look back at this in five years, we will not see any change in the safety record of Wisconsin’s hunt.

Yet Another Democrat Gets Into Race

Another one!

The leader of the state’s firefighter union plans to launch a gubernatorial campaign Monday, joining a crowded Democratic field that is expected to grow.

Mahlon Mitchell last ran for public office during the 2012 recall elections, when he was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor and lost to Rebecca Kleefisch. The nearly 1.2 million votes Mitchell received in that election gives him the highest vote tally in a single election of any of the candidates running for governor so far.

At 40, Mitchell is also the first major Democratic contender who is younger than Gov. Scott Walker, who recently turned 50. Mitchell, like Walker, grew up in Delavan and attended Delavan-Darien High School.

“I’m running for governor because after eight years of Scott Walker, it’s time for change,” Mitchell said in a statement to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Boy… that’s a compelling platform.

State Searches For Ways to Safely Incarcerate Violent Youths

Many of these “kids” are violent sociopaths. God help whoever is tasked with keeping them separated from civilized society.

The most aggressive inmates at the state’s troubled youth prison could be removed and sent elsewhere under a plan Department of Corrections officials are considering as a way to decrease the number of incidents at the facility.

The potential new program is one response from the department to reports of an increasingly chaotic environment at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls after a federal order requiring prison officials to reduce or eliminate the use of pepper spray, restraints and solitary confinement.

Three More Candidates Enter Race for the 58th

None of them look very consequential.

Spencer Zimmerman of Janesville also filed paperwork to run as a Republican. According to West Bend city clerk Stephanie Justman, a candidate only has to be a resident of the district 10 days prior to taking office.  Zimmerman has run in a number of races including the 1st Congressional District in Wisconsin in 2016.

Dennis Degenhardt of West Bend also filed papers. He is running as a Democrat and Christopher Lewis Cook from Miller Street in West Bend also filed a campaign registration statement. Cook lists himself with the Independent, Socialist Party.

Assembly Passes Body Cam Bill

This is a good bill.

The bill would not require departments to use body cameras, but sets policies they must abide by if they do.

Under the bill, most footage would be kept from the public. Footage would be available under the state’s open records law if it was taken in a public place and involved a death, physical harm, an arrest or a search.

If death, physical harm, arrests or searches occurred in a place where someone would ordinarily expect privacy, the footage could be released only if all victims and witnesses agreed to that in writing. The owner of the property where the police encounter occurred in most cases would also have to sign off on its public release.

There is a balancing point we have to find in access to police body cam footage. We have to balance the public’s right to know with citizen’s expectation of privacy. This bill strikes a reasonable balance.

Hemp in Wisconsin

Good! A rare bipartisan bill.

Wisconsin would join a majority of other states in allowing the farming of industrial hemp under a bill sent to the Gov. Scott Walker.

The Wisconsin Assembly passed the bill unanimously Thursday. It cleared the Senate unanimously Tuesday and now goes to Walker.

His spokesman Tom Evenson said Walker would review the bill but did not commit to signing it.

The proposal would establish state licenses for farmers who want to grow industrial hemp. People with drug convictions wouldn’t be eligible for the licenses. The plants couldn’t contain more than 0.3 percent THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

At least 30 states have passed legislation allowing hemp farms. Supporters of the Wisconsin bill say hemp has a wide range of uses and farmers should have the option of growing another profitable crop.

UW Regents Vote to Merge Universities and Colleges

Whoa. This seems like it went from an idea being floated by Cross to a vote at lightening speed.

Wisconsin’s two-year UW Colleges are set to become branch campuses of nearby four-year universities by the start of the 2018 school year after the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved a sweeping and controversial reorganization of the schools Thursday.

The Regents backed the proposal from System President Ray Cross over concerns from former UW Colleges officials, student and faculty groups, Democratic lawmakers and two board members that it lacks key details and was made with minimal input from those  affected by the mergers.

Cross and the plan’s supporters say it will change the unsustainable structure of the UW Colleges while ensuring the predominantly rural communities those institutions serve still have access to local higher education.

A motion to move forward with planning for the reorganization, which would also shift functions of UW Extension under UW-Madison and central System administration, was approved on a voice vote during Thursday’s Regents meeting in Madison.

I’m not a fan of this plan because it does not address the underlying problem. The problem is the demand for most the colleges is dramatically down. This is due to a variety of factors including demographics, the proliferation of online education, and cultural preferences. But instead of addressing the issue, the UW Regents are choosing to try to prop up an expensive and increasingly irrelevant campus infrastructure for the purpose of saving the campuses instead of serving the students.

WEDC Approves Foxconn Deal

Excellent. And the guarantee from Gou is icing on the cake.

The WEDC board approved the deal, 8-2, after protesters shouted at the agency’s directors as they voted to go into a private session. The pair of no votes came from state Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire), who is running in the Democratic primary for governor.

Gov. Scott Walker and Foxconn’s billionaire founder Terry Gou will sign the 29-page contract Friday afternoon at SC Johnson with U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of Janesville on hand. 

Coming after critics pounded an initial deal with Foxconn Technology Group of Taiwan, the state’s final contract with the company includes greater requirements for job creation and calls for Foxconn and Gou to stand behind those job requirements to the tune of up to $500 million or more.

Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. head Mark Hogan said the Walker administration had always planned on tougher job requirements and didn’t add them in response to criticism. Hogan touted the personal guarantee from Gou as “highly unusual” but declined to say when the state had first asked Gou for it.

“It really speaks to the level of commitment and confidence that he has that this is going to be a great investment not just for him but for the state of Wisconsin,” Hogan said of Gou. 

Wisconsin Passes Homeowners Bill of Rights

Excellent!

Both the Assembly and the Senate voted to pass the “Homeowners’ Bill of Rights,” a package of property-rights protections that included a provision aimed directly at providing relief to the Murr family.  A pair of bills that constitute the homeowner rights protections now head to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk.

The family argued that amounted to an uncompensated taking of the land. Pacific Legal Foundation, a non-profit law firm, got the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, but the court ruled 5-3 for the state in June.

Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) and Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) responded with a bill that would let property owners build on and sell substandard lots if they were legal when they were created. It would also prohibit merging adjacent lots that share the same owner without the owner’s permission.

Planned Parenthood Fights to Kill Babies

This lengthy story about how urgently and fervently Planned Parenthood wants to be able to kill babies without any accountability or consequences is grotesque. At least there is one piece of morality in the piece.

Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, argues that informed consent is “pretty much standard operating procedure” for any medical procedure. While Vukmir, a registered nurse, was raised to oppose abortion, she says her health care background has played a large role in her approach to the issue. She recalls a moment in the 1980s, when a colleague expressed disbelief that Vukmir could be “a nurse and … pro-life.”

“It’s precisely because I’m a nurse that I’m pro-life,” she says. “This is what we do; we save lives. There never was a question for me whether or not I would support legislation to protect human life, because it’s professionally what I’ve always done.”

Special election for the 58th Assembly District

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

After Rep. Bob Gannon’s untimely death in office, the citizens of the 58th Assembly District must go about the task of filling his seat. To that end, Gov. Scott Walker has called for a special election.

When a legislative seat is unexpectedly vacated, the governor has wide discretion on when to call a special election. The governor could have waited for the April ballot, but given that the April election is for non-partisan offices, it is sensible to hold an election on a different date for the 58th Assembly District.

The special election is coming up very quickly. The primary election will be Dec. 19 and the general election will be Jan. 16. Two candidates have already announced that they are running for the office, but potential candidates have until Nov. 21 to file their nomination papers.

The 58th Assembly District is overwhelmingly Republican. Glenn Grothman, now Congressman Grothman, held the seat from 1993 until 2005, when he challenged incumbent Republican Senate Leader Mary Panzer, in a primary and soundly defeated her. Grothman was replaced by the equally conservative Rep. Pat Strachota. When Strachota retired from office in 2014, several conservative candidates stepped forward to vie for the seat.

During the partisan primary election of 2014, Bob Gannon, Sandy Voss and Tiffany Koehler battled it out for the Republican nod. Tellingly, nobody even tried for the Democratic nod even though it was an open election without an incumbent on the ballot. That is an indication of how Republican the district is.

Bob Gannon won that primary with 51.3 percent of the vote and went on to win the seat unopposed in the general election. Gannon won reelection unopposed last year. As Republican as the 58th Assembly District is, the primary election on Dec. 19 will really determine who will go to Madison to represent the district.

The two candidates who have stepped forward already offer a quality choice for the voters. The first is Steven Stanek, who announced his candidacy the same day that Walker announced the special election.

Stanek is a Republican from West Bend. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Stanek owns and runs Direct Disposal Services of Wisconsin.

He is married with three teenagers and has been heavily involved in local clubs and youth athletics. Stanek is committed to focusing on fiscal responsibility, jobs and public safety. This is not Stanek’s first foray into politics as he was the campaign manage for Republican Jeff Fitzgerald when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2012.

The second candidate is Tiffany Koehler of Slinger, who ran in the primary against Gannon in 2014 and garnered a strong 27.7 percent in that election. Koehler spent 14 years in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and mental health specialist. After graduating from Cardinal Stritch University, Koehler spent many years working in the mental health field in the private sector with several organizations.

Most recently, Koehler has been serving as a legislative aide to the late Rep. Gannon, her former primary opponent. Koehler’s political positions will sound very familiar to conservatives in the 58th. She believes in less government, less taxation, more freedom and reducing government’s footprint.

While there is still time for other candidates to enter the race, the voters of the 58th Assembly District are already presented with two quality candidates from which to choose. The primary election is six weeks away, so voters will have to make an effort to get to know the candidates so that they can make an informed choice.

As a side note, local election clerks are always in need of volunteers to work at the polls. This is especially the case for a special election. If you are able to help facilitate our election process, please consider calling your local clerk for more information on how to become an election day poll worker.

Tiffany Koehler Announces for 58th

We have a race!

Nov. 3, 2017 – Washington Co., WI – A formal announcement is set for Monday, Nov. 6 as Tiffany Koehler is expected to set into the ring as a candidate for the open seat in the 58th Assembly District.

For the past 11 months Koehler has served as the policy advisor and legislative aide to Rep. Bob Gannon.

The seat in the 58th Assembly District opened last month following the untimely death of Rep. Gannon.

Koehler ran for this seat in the primary against Gannon after former Representative Pat Strachota retired. It speaks well for her that her former primary opponent would hire her to work for the district in Madison.

Assembly Passes Mining Bill

It’s good to see the state legislature back at work.

Assembly Bill 499 would replace a law that essentially bars companies from extracting minerals such as copper, gold and silver because of pollution concerns.

Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield), the chief Assembly sponsor of the bill, said the measure would allow Wisconsin officials to consider mining proposals just as its neighbors have for decades.

“Minnesota is doing it on our left,” he said. “Michigan is doing it on our right. We need to be part of that discussion.”

[…]

Wisconsin is the only state with such a restriction, which has kept mining companies out of the state since Rio Tinto Kennecott closed the Flambeau mine in Ladysmith in 1997 after four years of mining copper, gold and silver.

Supporters of the bill say that new technology allows for safer, cleaner mining that would bring needed jobs to rural areas.

Environmentalists say opening the door to metallic mining would threaten state waterways.

Dealers Push Back on Tesla Law

Uh huh.

JANESVILLE—Tesla seeks a change to state law that would allow it to open its own stores and service centers in Wisconsin, but it could face pushback by some traditional auto dealers.

[…]

He said the law could circumvent what he considers healthy competition by dealers under a current law structure that he said ultimately benefits consumers.

“The purpose of the laws on the books, it’s well known. If you have multiple (local or regional) representatives — in this case, dealers — it produces competition. That’s good for the consumer. If it’s a factory-direct sale, you have one source, and there is no other source of competition,” Clapper said.

The rule change could cut licensed dealerships from the equation and offer “no advocate between the consumer and the manufacturer,” he said.

I completely understand why the dealers would push back on this change in law. After all, this is their business model and they don’t want to see it changed. But their arguments don’t hold water.

The root of their argument is that dealers provide value by introducing competition into the market for consumers. This was true 50 years ago when there were only really three manufacturers in the market (Ford, GM, & Chrysler). Now there are not only dozens of manufacturers, but consumers can literally shop for care all over the country via the internet. In fact, I’m willing to bet that most dealers would admit that many of their customers walk into the showroom already knowing a lot about the vehicle and how much they are willing to pay. Their argument is no longer valid in our modern economy.

Dealers do provide value and I’d think that many consumers would still prefer to buy through a dealer where they can have a relationship and great service. But some consumers would rather buy direct from the manufacturer, and that’s OK. Just like some people buy their computers and phones over the internet and some still like to go to Best Buy or Wal Mart to get them.

Lawmakers should resist the urge to keep forcing an unnatural market condition just to appease the automobile dealers.

 

Assembly Passes Bill Prohibiting State from Covering Abortions for Employees

Good!

Abortions would not be covered by health insurance plans for Wisconsin state employees, with few exceptions, under legislation approved Thursday by the state Assembly.

Lawmakers voted on party lines to approve the bill, authored by Sen. David Craig, R-Town of Vernon, and Rep. André Jacque, R-De Pere. It awaits action in the Senate.

Under the legislation, the state’s Group Insurance Board would not be allowed to enter into a group health insurance plan contract or provide a group health insurance plan on a self-insured basis that provides abortion services, except for in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

It’s unclear whether the legislation would change anything in practice, as state plans currently only require coverage for medically necessary abortions.