Boots & Sabers

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0803, 27 Jan 23

April ballot gets even more important

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week:

Wisconsin’s April election is shaping up to be one of the most important spring elections in decades. Not only is there an election for the state Supreme Court that will decide whether the court retains its majority of constitutional conservatives or flip to an activist tool of leftists ideologues, but the Legislature has placed two important referendums on the ballot for the voters’ consideration.


The first referendum is an advisory referendum regarding work requirements for welfare recipients.


The question put to voters is simply, “Shall able-bodied, childless adults be required to look for work in order to receive taxpayer-funded welfare benefits?”


The referendum is only advisory, so it is more akin to a broad opinion poll of Wisconsin’s voters. The impetus for the referendum is to bolster support for planned Republican efforts to enforce welfare work requirements. Since Gov. Tommy Thompson implemented Wisconsin Works in 1996 which required welfare recipients to work or seek work and broke the cycle of dependency for thousands of Wisconsinites, the enforcement of the work requirement has eroded.


Gov. Tony Evers has used the pandemic to waive work requirements for some welfare programs despite continued low unemployment and Wisconsin businesses being unable to fill open jobs. There are ample opportunities to work for those who are willing, but Evers is using the pandemic as an excuse to stop enforcing a law that he opposes. As Republicans prepare legislation to reinstate work requirements for welfare recipients, they are hoping, probably in vain, that a strong show of public support will encourage Evers to agree.


The second statewide referendum on the April ballot is far more important. Article 1, Section 8(2) of Wisconsin’s Constitution currently prohibits judges from considering anything other than what it will take to ensure that a defendant will appear in court when setting a bail amount. The result of this prohibition has been that judges are hamstrung into granting low bail to defendants even when there is a glaring risk that the defendant will commit more carnage before their court date.


Way too many Wisconsinites have been victimized by criminals who were out of jail because of grossly low bail.


The referendum on the ballot asks the voters to amend the Constitution to allow judges to consider, “the totality of the circumstances, including the accused’s previous convictions for a violent crime, the probability that the accused will fail to appear, the need to protect the community from serious harm and prevent witness intimidation, and potential affirmative defenses” when setting bail for someone accused of a violent crime.


This is the final step in the process to amend the state Constitution. The identical question has been passed by two successive sessions of the Legislature and now the question goes to the voters for final approval. The governor does not have any role in the constitutional amendment process. Noteworthy is the fact that the question passed with bipartisan support in both houses of the Legislature in both legislative sessions.


If the amendment passes, it does not mean that Wisconsin judges will use their newly granted latitude to impose appropriately high bail for defendants who have a history of habitual thuggery. There are far too many leftist judges on the bench who will continue to coddle crooks with low bail. If Wisconsinites want to keep more violent offenders off the streets for longer, they will have to get to the polls and elect better judges. But the good judges will use their new power to protect Wisconsinites with higher bail for violent criminals and Wisconsin will be better for their diligence.


Wisconsinites who want a safer Wisconsin that takes crime seriously should vote “yes” to amend the state Constitution. Then they should vote for the conservative Supreme Court candidate to affirm their anticrime convictions.


0803, 27 January 2023


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