Attorney General Josh Kaul has asked Governor Tony Evers to include additional funding in Evers’ budget for more crime lab analysts. In his successful campaign for the post last November, Kaul attacked former Republican Attorney General and now Judge Brad Schimel for well-publicized delays in the processing of evidence from crime scenes.
Evers is currently working on his two-year budget, which the governor expects to unveil on Feb. 28.
As expected, Wisconsin’s two U.S. Senators, Ron Johnson (R) and Tammy Baldwin (D), split their vote to confirm new Attorney General Willima Barr to succeed acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker. Barr, a former attorney general during the George H. W. Bush administration, was nominated to serve his second term in the office by President Trump. The vote to confirm was 54-45, with all Republican senators voting for Barr. Three Democrats broke rank and voted for Barr.
In opposing his nomination, Baldwin said, “I do not have the confidence I need that this nominee to be America’s top law enforcement official will provide the independence we must have at this critical time.” In a prepared statement, she added, “I am also troubled that Mr. Barr would not commit to making the Special Counsel’s report public because I believe the truth should be revealed to the American people when the investigation is concluded.”
A recent Associated Press article headlines: “Liberals eye 2020 takeover of Wisconsin Supreme Court.” The article continues: “Wisconsin liberals hope to take a key step this spring toward breaking a long conservative stranglehold on the state’s Supreme Court, in an election that could also serve as a barometer of the political mood in a key presidential swing state.
If the liberal-backed candidate wins the April 2 state Supreme Court race, liberals would be in prime position to take over the court when the next seat comes up in 2020 — during a presidential primary when Democrats expect to benefit from strong turnout.”
Help get the word out to voters interested in the April 2 election to fill a vacancy on the state’s highest court that on Saturday, Feb. 23, Appeal Court Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer, who hopes to fill the vacancy, will be here in Green Lake. Judge Neubauer is making a campaign tour that Saturday with stops in Adams, Green Lake, Marquette and Waushara counties. Green Lake is the last stop on the tour and Judge Neubauer is expected to be in Green Lake at the Goose Blind between 4 and 4:45 p.m.
State Senator Luther Olsen, right, with Representative Joan Ballweg, left.
In his weekly newsletter to constituents, dated Feb. 8, State Sen. Luther Olsen reports the following:
“I am introducing two new pieces of legislation along with Representatives Mark Born and John Jagler regarding school operations and pupil data.
The first bill would allow a school administrator to warn a student before a fire, tornado or school safety drill, if it is in the best interest of the student. Under current law, these drills must be conducted without prior warning, but school administrators have highlighted that a warning would be helpful for students with disabilities, for example.
The second bill adds parents and guardians’ names to the statutory list of directory data. Under current law, information contained within a pupil’s record is confidential. School boards are permitted to disclose what is known as “directory data” without first getting permission from parents or guardians. The state law defines what is considered directory data. This includes a pupil’s name, address, phone number, date and place of birth, major field of study, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, dates of attendance, photographs, degrees and awards received and the name of the school most recently previously attended by the pupil.
Schools are not required to include all of these items in their directory data list, but they cannot add any items that are not specified by law.
Missing from that list, under current law, are the names of the pupil’s parents or guardians. For safety reasons, there are scenarios where law enforcement or child welfare agencies might need to access that information. While there are limited circumstances under current law in which law enforcement and child welfare agencies can access additional information beyond what is considered directory data, by adding parent and guardian names to the directory data list, they will be able to access the information in a more timely manner.
We are currently circulating both bills for co-sponsorship and hope to introduce them shortly.”
Members of Wisconsin’s Republican Party appear pleased with the amount of money raised over the last half of 2018 by conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn. Hagedorn is running against Judge Lisa Neuibauer in the April 2 election for a seat on the court being vacated by retiring Judge Shirley Abrahamson.
According to their figures, Hagedorn raised over $310,000 in the last half of the year. According to a post on the wisgop.org website, “The announcement is a sign of a strong campaign with a message that is resonating across Wisconsin. This end-of-year haul has surpassed the top fundraising totals of nearly all recent Supreme Court candidates in the last six months of a year leading up to an April election.”
According to another report, Hagedorn’s total is “almost three times as much as Screnock and almost $100,000 more than Justice Rebecca Dallet raised at this point in the campaign.”
“At stake is more than just one Supreme Court seat. If conservatives fail to win this seat, the Democrats will just be one Spring election in 2020, held at the same time as their presidential primary, from being able to accomplish all of their Progressive dreams by judicial fiat. If the Democrats gain control of the Court, they can rewrite the legislative district lines just like they have in other states. They can override the legislature and mandate school spending levels – which will mean even higher taxes. They can undo all of the reforms of the Walker era without ever having to go through the legislature.
Instead of focusing on the presidential election, everything that matters in Wisconsin is on the line right now.”
As referenced in a previous post about the Wisconsin GOP-led deal with Foxconn and the massive tax breaks given to the foreign technology company, Bloomberg Business Week issued an in-depth report that suggests that all is not well with the project, despite President Trump’s intervention.
To develop its report, Bloomberg interviewed dozens of people familiar with the project. Its conclusion, “A huge tax break was supposed to create a manufacturing paradise, but interviews with 49 people familiar with the project depict a chaotic operation unlikely to ever employ 13,000 workers.”
One of the strengths of an organization is its ability to marshal resources for the common good. In our case, our members are alerting us to information on issues and elected officials through two new sections of our website: Issues and We’re Watching … If you have not visited them, click on their links.
Additionally, members and friends alert us to new, addition sources of information. For example, Ken Knight recently sent us information on the Wisconsin Budget Project, an independent Madison-based research group that focuses on tax and budget policy. The group also works with Kids Forward (formerly the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families) which looks at issues important to families and kids, through the lens of how taxes and how the state budget impacts them.
Here is a link to the Wisconsin Budget Project website and one to its Facebook Page. We think you will find both to be of considerable value. Note that you can also sign up on its website to receive email updates (something you can also do here if you want to receive email updates for our website).
Policy areas that are included on its website include:
New member of the House of Representatives and a veteran Massachusetts senator are introducing a “massive policy package that would remake the U.S. economy, while also eliminating all U.S. carbon emissions.” As pointed out in this article from NPR, “That’s a really big–potentially impossibly big–undertaking.”
Update 2/7/2019: Their proposal is is a nonbinding resolution, meaning that even if it passes, it wouldn’t on its own create any new programs.
Republican Sen. Johnson was interviewed on Bloomberg TV about the Wall, FoxConn, and trade. On trade, Johnson said, “I am a Constitutionalist” and that Congress has given up too much authority to the Executive Branch. Johnson also defends his party’s Wisconsin deal with FoxConn and says new Governor Tony Evers is creating “uncertainty” when Evers says the state will review the environmental concessions given to Foxconn. Uncertainty, Johnson continues, is something business hate, Bloomberg analysts suggest that the deal with Foxconn is a “disaster.”
While there is a consensus that Citizens United created an unacceptable corruption of the political process by allowing corporations to have an oversized voice in our elections, there is no consensus on how to negate the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that says corporations have the same free speech rights as people. One often talked about mechanism for overturning the court’s decision is to pass a constitutional amendment. But that would require a constitutional convention. That process presents its own set of issues.
One organization struggling with the “do we or don’t we” issue is the League of Women Voters. Here is a recent statement on their position from Cindy Diemer, president of the LWV of the Ripon Area:
Some of you have been looking for guidance concerning Citizens United and WI United to Amend as a bill recently introduced from [Wisconsin] Rep. Subeck and Sen. Hansen would create an advisory referendum to appear on the November 2020 ballot calling for a constitutional amendment to limit election spending.
LWVUS does not currently support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
The last paragraph is where it prohibits support for an amendment.
The League has received requests to support a constitutional amendment without fully specifying the content of the amendment. The League has long evaluated its advocacy work based on our positions, on the opportunity to best make a difference, and on the availability of necessary resources. The League has not yet found a proposed constitutional amendment that we can support within our positions. Because Money in Elections is a priority for the League, we will be continually re-evaluating the opportunity for legislation in this area.
LWVWI and local Leagues can not support this action for a ballot referendum. However, we continue to advocate in other ways for better campaign financing, greater transparency and stronger rules regarding money in politics.
We also understand that many members do work on this issue outside of their League work and individuals can certainly continue to do so.
Several Republican bills signed by Gov. Scott Walker in December limited both the governor and attorney general’s powers, including eliminating the state Department of Justice’s solicitor general’s office, allowing lawmakers to intervene in state lawsuits and requiring the attorney general to get the Legislature’s approval before settling laws.
In an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio, new Attorney General Josh Kaul attacked those bills while also saying that his office will do more to address the opioid epidemic and growing meth problem in Wisconsin.
” I’m going to work with law enforcement agencies at the county, local and federal level to improve coordination so that we can work together to target large scale drug traffickers, people who are transporting meth, heroin or fentanyl across county and state lines.
“I’m going to be an advocate for expanding access to substance abuse treatment in Wisconsin. One of the things I’ll be doing as (attorney general) is taking a look at where the multi-state investigation is into the pharmaceutical manufacturers because we need to hold them accountable to the extent that they’ve been responsible for the opioid epidemic through false and deceptive marketing practices.
“And then one other area is we still haven’t expanded Medicaid in Wisconsin. If we do that we’d be able to cover about 80,000 additional Wisconsinites under BadgerCare … and we’d also save the state about $190 million a year. And we can put that into a number of areas, for example expanding access to treatment.”