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Updated: 9 hours 29 min ago

Haupt: Only we can cure D.C.’s swine flu

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 10:53

 “It is interesting back in 2011, shortly after the swine-flu epidemic broke out; Congress enacted an earmark moratorium that would supposedly put an end to pork-barrel spending.”

– Jenny Reed

The phrase “pork-barrel spending” derives from the antebellum period. Plantation owners would give barrels of salt pork to their slaves, who fought with each other for a share. The term acquired its derogatory connotation after the American Civil War. References to “pork” became common in Congress as representatives competed for Reconstruction dollars. By 1919 the National Municipal Review started scolding Congress for passing legislative acts and referencing them as “pork barrel bills.” And today it is common practice in Congress. Pork-barrel coupling is politely called earmarks added to the federal budget as “appropriations.”

“Being willing to donate the taxpayers’ money is not the same as being willing to put your own money where your mouth is.”

– Thomas Sowell

Due to an influenza epidemic in 2009, referred to as “swine flu,” people worldwide stopped eating pork. Although this merging of human and animal strains proved non-transmissible by consuming pork, sales tanked. By the end of 2009, the pork industry suffered a $98 million loss, and was forced to hit back. Through costly advertising, they revealed facts to disprove this fiction. They convinced The Center for Disease Control to inform the public they were erroneously informed. The CDC issued an obsequious retort: “We have concluded pork has no relationship to this influenza. We’ll refer to it as H1N1 from now on.” Pork industry spokesman Bill Brier cried foul! “Calling this influenza ‘Swine flu’ damaged us needlessly. We’ve spent millions to convince people these claims were bogus.”

Unlike Congress’ 2011 earmark moratorium on pork-barreling, the pork industry’s reputation was deceptively damaged. But consumers found out “facts” out-weighed fables and this was not just lip service to regain loyalty. On the other hand, Congress has been preaching for years about cutting back on ear-marked favors for everyone. Yet, their claims are shallow promises made to impress a disenchanted electorate. Each year as session opens, they chant the same redundant song. This makes fiscal conservative voters furious for not dropping the hammer on them. But every time their state requests more money to bail them out in a trade for votes, those freeloading off federal dollars cry foul. It’s easier to talk the talk than it is to walk the walk.

“American government has turned into a cow that gives more milk the more it’s kicked in the flanks by special interests.”

– Drew Rusk

Everyone blasts Congress for their inability to control spending. They are more reckless with our tax dollars than a driver is at the local demolition derby. But far few discern the federal government operates from a reactionary podium. They jump higher than a kite flies in an Oklahoma tornado when those most influential to their benefit desire more tax dollars. Their actions reflect the will of special interests and those most venerable to treasury favors. In 2016, there were over 200 earmarks, an increase of almost 50 percent over 2015. This was disconcerting, hitting voters far below the belt!

“Who is in charge? Is it taxpayers or is it the special interest groups?”

– Scott Walker

Pork-barrel spending is alive and well in Washington, D.C., despite their fabled claims of denial. The most frequent argument in favor of earmarks is they help pass critical spending bills. However, in the past, many members of Congress have voted for excessively costly legislation because they have received an earmark for their constituents or an avid party supporter. Don’t let anybody fool you. Congress takes their marching orders from those closest to them. That does not exclude the states eager to endorse federalism in trade for their votes.

“Balanced budget requirements seem more likely to produce accounting ingenuity than genuinely balanced budgets.”

– Thomas Sowell

“Porking-out” on American tax dollars creates more losers than winners. The losers are the public taxpayers while the winners hide in the halls of chamber. This increases the deficit, with additional funding, by attracting votes for costly legislation that barely passes the scrutiny of the CBO. This interferes with democracy by eclipsing the wishes of the voters and fuels distrust in government. It’s hard for voters to determine which legislators benefit and the ones that don’t in a system that openly incorporates “earmarks” referred to as “appropriations.”

“The problem with earmarks is Congress does not tell you the ear they are marking it from is the innocent porker.”

– John Pope

Nothing is more abused than the U.S. Transportation Authority and our states infrastructure. Donald Rumsfeld told us, “you go to war with the transportation system you have, not the system you might want.” We are currently committed to funding highways, light rail train lines, rural roadways, and even monorails that will be obsolete before they are completed. Yet last year, Americans traveled over 4 trillion miles by car, 700 billion by air, and more than 400 billion on the good old-fashioned bus. Passenger rail was a distant last with only 7 billion miles! Yet the transportation lobbyists are chomping at the bit for federal money for state projects nobody wants or will ever use.

“Wishful thinking is not idealism. It is self-indulgence at best and self-exaltation at worst.”

– Thomas Sowell

American taxpayers have great hopes in President Trump, who promised to “trump” the spending of the previous administration. And his new transportation bill demonstrates he is serious despite the wieners and criers in the states. Barack Obama blew over $150 billion in tax dollars on his green energy hoax that netted us a negative energy output. He subsidized solar and windmills, like the ones lying in the sand in the California desert with taxpayer money to the tune of a $40 billion average a year during his rocky tenure. These massive subsidies did nothing to increase the use of solar power or energy production but it sure made Al Gore ecstatic. Blasé taxpayers watched his pet projects fail as 88 percent went belly up.

“Never waste a crisis when it can impact climate change.”

– Hillary Clinton

Pork-barrel spending is nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig and calling it “appropriations.” It will never be contained; just masqueraded and renamed. And while we are preoccupied blaming Congress for not being able to live within their means, they are only reflecting the requests from those who whimper the loudest and do the most for them. Special interest groups and above all state lobbyists are eager to bury us in debt. Today, legislation is so laden with unrelated political handouts that many members of Congress don’t know what they are voting for. And those that do defend this secretive splurging claiming it is for the benefit of the general population.

“You can never bail someone out of trouble without putting someone else into trouble.”

– Dr. Arthur Laffer

Magic Johnson said, “The best doctors and medicine can’t save you if you don’t do what they tell you.” We have witnessed many medial miracles such as vaccinations for ailments like polio and pneumonia. And every year scientists develop new inoculations against influenza. But none have conjured up a cure for government swine flu. Even the best witch doctors and voodoo chiefs are clueless. This is beyond their wisdom. The only cure for swine flu is Election Day. We must elect healthy politicians instead of those infected with swine flu or susceptible to it. Congress’ manifestos to cure swine flu are like putting a Band-Aid on a malignant melanoma. James Madison warned us in 1782 : “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”

 

 

 

Wisconsin in focus: Tourism, hospitality, manufacturing groups bristle at highway tolling talk

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 06:33

Wisconsin State Journal: Tourism, hospitality, manufacturing groups bristle at highway tolling talk

Some Wisconsin business leaders say introducing highway tolling in the state could harm its economy, even as top lawmakers cite the idea as a possible linchpin to negotiations over the state’s next budget.

The opposition from the state’s business lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, and other groups illustrate part of the challenge facing lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker if they want to introduce tolling to pay for road construction and repairs.

Lawmakers and Walker aim to pass the state’s next two-year budget in coming weeks. Their disagreement on how to address a lack of revenue for roads and bridges is the biggest hurdle to the budget’s passage in the face of a July 1 deadline.

Supporters of tolling say it would create a long-term revenue source for Wisconsin’s interstates. Many were built in the 1960s and have outlived their original lifespans, meaning they must be fully rebuilt at a cost of billions of dollars.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin lawmakers will miss budget deadline as talks slow

State officials have already missed their deadline to pass a budget — it’s just that not everyone has realized it yet.

GOP lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker can still make a respectable showing compared to the budgets passed by previous Legislatures and governors. But it’s too late to pass a bill and get Walker to sign it before the state’s current budget runs out on June 30 — a mere five days hence.

Senate and Assembly leaders have reached a general agreement on increasing funding for rural school districts with small budgets. But there’s still no deal yet on other key disagreements such as transportation and taxes.

“It’s an artificial deadline,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), who readily acknowledges that the budget will be late. “I’m not worried about it.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: U.S. Supreme Court rules against Wisconsin cottage owners

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday upheld Wisconsin court rulings that the owners of a family cottage on Lake St. Croix were not entitled to compensation over development regulations that bar the sale of the family’s adjacent lot.

The Murrs wanted to sell the lot to finance an upgrade to the cottage their parents built 56 years ago, and argued that  St. Croix County has essentially taken their land through strict shoreline development and conservation rules and should pay just compensation for that loss under the Fifth Amendment.

But the county and the state say the family’s two adjacent parcels, taken together, would easily accommodate a single modern home, and so they have not really lost any value. The government also noted that the original owners were aware of the development restrictions when they sold the lots to their children.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-3 decision, agreed that the Wisconsin courts correctly analyzed the issue as one concerning a single parcel. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was not on the court during arguments in the case, did not participate.

Wisconsin in focus: Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson and 3 other Republicans withhold support from Senate health care bill

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 07:16

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson and 3 other Republicans withhold support from Senate health care bill

Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin joined three other conservatives in the U.S. Senate in withholding their support for the Obamacare replacement bill their party unveiled Thursday.

“Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor,” Johnson, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky said in a joint statement.

“There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current health care system but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs,” they said.

Of the four, Johnson’s dissent may be the most surprising, since it has been widely assumed in Washington he would ultimately vote for the bill. And he may still.

Wisconsin State Journal: Assembly GOP slips pre-existing condition protection into late-night bill

Assembly Republicans introduced and passed a bill early Thursday that provides some protections for those with pre-existing conditions should Congress roll back protections under the Affordable Care Act.

The bill caught Democrats by surprise — it was introduced as an amendment to their own bill prohibiting lifetime caps on health insurance coverage, something the ACA, also known as Obamacare, also prohibits. The Democrats used a procedural maneuver to bring the bill to the floor, where it would most likely fail, to force Republicans to debate and vote on a contentious topic.

In a surprise move, Republicans stripped out the Democrats’ language and inserted their own, passing the bill 62-35 along party lines. It still must pass the Senate and be signed by Gov. Scott Walker before becoming law.

A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Senate Republicans were still reviewing the bill Thursday.

NBC News: Wisconsin Lawmakers Push Bill That Would Expel Campus Hecklers

The battle for free speech continues to wage on college campuses.

The Wisconsin state Assembly passed a Republican-backed bill on Wednesday that would allow college administrators to expel students for “disrupting” campus speakers — a controversial piece of legislation that may be at odds with First Amendment rights, many lawmakers and legal experts argue.

The Campus Free Speech Act, which came out of the Assembly without a single Democratic vote, will clamp down on University of Wisconsin students who “materially and substantially disrupt the free expression of others” by imposing punitive measures on hecklers.

The bill still has the hurdles of getting past the state Senate as well as Governor Scott Walker, who has already signaled that he will sign it.

“Thanks to the Assembly for their commitment to free speech on UW campuses,” posted Walker on Twitter on Thursday morning.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee is on the move, but still not a great city to live in, according to rankings

Here’s a conundrum: Milwaukee has been ranked the fifth fastest-growing city in the country while also earning a spot on a list of the 50 worst American cities to live in.

The growth ranking was compiled by Our Town America, a new move marketing franchise (a company that mails you stuff about local businesses when you move in somewhere). The company looked at the cities with the highest moving-in activity in the last 12 months, and compared that to the previous 12 months to determine the fastest-growing cities.

San Antonio topped the list. Ten of 45 (22%) cities on the list are based in the Midwest, including Chicago at No. 10.

Compare that to 24/7 Wall Street’s rankings, which put Milwaukee as the sixth-worst city in the country to live in.

Those rankings were based on a variety of factors including crime rate, employment and housing affordability.

Detroit was ranked as the worst U.S. city to live in.

Wisconsin in focus: Green Bay Democrats want to open BadgerCare to all Wisconsin residents

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 06:04

Green Bay Press-Gazette: Green Bay Democrats want to open BadgerCare to all Wisconsin residents

Two local Democrats and a citizen advocacy group are calling for opening BadgerCare enrollment to all state residents in order to combat rising health care costs.

State Sen. Dave Hansen and state Rep. Eric Genrich, both Democrats from Green Bay, said the bill they’ve introduced offers a cost-effective option to enable every resident to acquire affordable insurance.

The proposal, developed with local members of Citizen Action Wisconsin, is a response to health insurers no longer offering coverage in some communities and the projected loss of coverage for millions of Americans if the American Health Care Act is adopted.

BadgerCare is the state’s insurance program for low-income individuals and families. Enrollees under the proposed expansion would be charged premiums based on income levels.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Assembly takes up bills to tighten election recount rules and fight the opioid fentanyl

The state Assembly voted Wednesday to tighten the rules for conducting election recounts and to fight the deadly synthetic opiate fentanyl.

The actions came in a marathon Assembly session extending into the evening as legislators also debated a bill aimed at curbing disruptive protests on college campuses. Also Wednesday, Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation allowing the use of delivery robots on sidewalks across the state.

The legislation on recounts passed the Assembly on a voice vote and now goes to the Senate.

Assembly Bill 153 comes in response to 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s demand for a recount after Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win Wisconsin since 1984. Stein received just 1% of the vote but was able to force a recount here under state law.

Fox News 6: Gov. Walker signs bill allowing robot deliveries in Wisconsin

Wisconsin residents could soon see robot delivery vehicles roaming the state’s sidewalks.

Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Wednesday, June 21st that allows robot delivery vehicles to operate on sidewalks and in crosswalks.

The robots are essentially high-tech rolling coolers loaded with sensors that can read the environment. People also can operate them remotely. Starship Technologies has been using them to deliver takeout food in Europe, California and Washington, D.C.

WISC TV 3: ACLU wants to bar public from Lincoln Hills hearing

The American Civil Liberties Union wants to kick the public out of a federal court hearing when it plays recently obtained video of inmates being pepper-sprayed at troubled Wisconsin youth prisons.

The ACLU asked U.S. District Judge James Peterson in a court filing Tuesday to close the court when the videos are shown during a Thursday hearing. The ACLU argues that they have not had time to obscure the faces of the young inmates or alter audio of their names when they are spoken.

The ACLU says it is also open to “other means to protect the identity of the youth depicted in the recordings.”

Study: Heroin use costs U.S. more than $51 billion a year

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 05:38

Heroin use and addiction in the U.S. costs more than $51 billion every year, according to a new study released by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s school of Pharmacy.

Researchers came to the figure by tallying the costs of crime and incarceration, lost productivity on the economy, and treatment of not only addiction but of other diseases addicts are more likely to catch, such as HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and tuberculosis. The overall costs includes overdose deaths as well.

Simon Pickard, professor of Pharmacy Systems, Outcomes and Policy at UIC, said the study allows policy makers to explain the value of fighting heroin addiction.

“If we can avoid some of the cost that this epidemic is imposing on us, $50 billion to American society is a huge cost,” Pickard said. “Policy makers understand economics. They can make a case to the taxpayer in economic terms that fighting this epidemic has value for their money.”

The last time a study looked at the cost of the nation’s heroin epidemic was in 2001, using data from the 1990s. Since then, Pickard said there are a number of different factors that drive up the epidemic’s cost, namely medical advances to treat associated diseases and the higher cost of incarceration.

It costs more than $30,000 to incarcerate an individual heroin user, which does little to solve the root cause of the addiction.

The Illinois Department of Public Health estimates that tens of thousands of Illinoisans are abusing opioids. The figure is growing quickly downstate. Pickard said economically depressed areas such as downstate Illinois, which has seen sharp increases in addiction admissions, need the most attention.

“If Southern Illinois has been very hard hit, we need to try to work with those communities and get people help,” he said.

Pickard said the cost of heroin addiction is more expensive to the nation than Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, the disease commonly associated with smoking.

“It places it among the highest burdens of disease in the country,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says heroin overdoses have more than doubled since 2002.

There is no one cause to the heroin crisis, experts agree. One major factor, many agree, is the overprescribed use of opioid painkillers.

Illinois has recently enacted laws that make the overdose-fighting drug naloxone, commonly known as NarCan, available to emergency responders.

The study can be found here.

Wisconsin in focus: Paul Ryan promises to overhaul tax code this year despite hurdles

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 06:42

Wisconsin State Journal: Paul Ryan promises to overhaul tax code this year despite hurdles

House Speaker Paul Ryan is promising to overhaul the tax code by the end of the year despite political divisions among Republicans and a crowded legislative agenda for Congress.

Ryan is due to give a speech on tax reform Tuesday afternoon to the National Association of Manufacturers. In excerpts released by his office, Ryan says Republicans, who control Congress and the White House, have a rare opportunity to re-write the tax code for businesses and individuals.

“We are going to get this done in 2017. We need to get this done in 2017. We cannot let this once-in-a-generation moment slip,” Ryan says in prepared remarks. “Transformational tax reform can be done, and we are moving forward. Full speed ahead.”

According to Ryan’s office, the Wisconsin Republican will “warn against accepting half measures or believing there is a path to reform without obstacles and political challenges.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: At heart of landmark Supreme Court case: a gerrymandered map that has helped lock in huge legislative majorities for Wisconsin GOP

The news Monday that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a landmark legal fight over Wisconsin’s redistricting plan puts the spotlight on a gerrymandered political map that has helped lock in legislative majorities for the GOP since it took power in 2011.

The key legal question: Can a set of political districts be so stacked toward one party that it violates the Constitution?

Until the court speaks, that is unsettled law.

But while the law is uncertain, the politics are quite clear.

Legislative boundaries like Wisconsin’s present a stark civics question:

How meaningful are elections when control of the legislature in a competitive state is largely predetermined by the way the districts are drawn?

WISC 3: Appeals court: State can’t appeal highway funding decision

A federal appellate panel has dismissed state officials’ efforts to obtain federal funding to expand a highway between Fond du Lac and Sheboygan.

Wisconsin officials have been trying to secure federal funding to widen a 19-mile stretch of State Highway 23. The project was estimated to cost about $168 million as of early 2015.

A group called 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin that works for sustainable land use filed a lawsuit in 2011 to stop the project. The group argued a federal environmental impact statement was incomplete and without it the federal government couldn’t release any money.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman agreed.

Haupt: Fed up with elder abuse

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 06:09

“The Federal Reserve can continue to print more money, but cities and states can’t.”

– Rob Liner

The central bank has crushed the interest rates seniors have relied on for centuries to supplement their incomes and live lives that are meaningful and independent. After slaving in factories, fighting wars for our country and preserving democracy around the globe, the Fed has ruthlessly cut off the income of many of our greatest contributors to democracy and the free world:

“This generation made the sacrifices and paid ahead, so our country could remain free and libertarian.”

– Al Collins

Although America elected a capitalist leader, so far the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates at sub-zero. Capitalists foolishly felt the Fed would raise them if a conservative was elected, but they were swindled again. They felt they’d stop printing $5 billion a day to stimulate a factitiously contrived housing recovery. Barack Obama’s friends at the Fed made his recovery look real yet it was as phony as a $3 bill! This ghoulish Fed stuck future Americans with a debt they’ll never pay off. This was done to finance an illusion of “non-ready-shovel-ready-jobs” since the housing market could perpetrate the phantasm of a recovery to disguise his failures. Now, taxpayers are footing the bill for this hoax the rest of their lives.

“Blessed are the young for they shall inherit the national debt.”

– Herbert Hoover

From the time this “Monster of Jekyll Island” was first created by JP Morgan and his gang of thugs, it has become the most impudent scam in economic history. Facts speak for themselves! It caused wars, boom-bust cycles, inflation, depression and, once in a blue moon, prosperity. The Fed was not a brainchild the government arbitrarily conjured up to watch over our money supply. It was a tool of a cabal of totalitarian bureaucrats who have helped shape the denigration of the 20th and 21st centuries. Developed in reaction to a catastrophic financial panic in 1907, a few independent wealthy plutocrats met in secret meetings with the vile “Mr. Hyde” on Jekyll Island, and adjured a plan with the blessings of Congress, to set the Central Bankers of the world on fire!

“The central bank nearly wrecked the world economy and has created one calamity after another.”

Jeff Tucker

It took these tycoons nine days to invent the beastly Federal Reserve. The motive behind this devil was more than guarding our money supply. They weren’t trying to solve an economic problem; but a political worriment. The U.S. didn’t need a new central bank; they had one in Morgan. He was the aphoristic lynchpin of Wall Street who bankers turned to when trouble arose. He was spirited, powerful and vain with an apostolic ability to persuade anyone to do anything. The economic future of the world’s greatest power was subservient to his wealth and his inflated ego. When these henchmen left Jekyll, they had taken control of all U.S. money. They have been playing Russian Roulette with it since then.

“He who controls the money supply of a nation controls the nation.”

– James Garfield

The Fed has proven they can screw up a junkyard without ever trying. Their hidden agenda when Obama reigned was to allow him to sky-rocket our national debt by reducing the interest rates to lower our borrowing costs. That raised the national debt higher than the Goodyear blimp flies on Super Bowl Sunday! And this activist Fed didn’t care about the harm they were doing, since elders will be gone when the economic tsunami hits! Because liberal progressivism has influenced every government institution in America, they have chosen sides. And don’t expect them to change now.  They will remain there until it benefits them to sell out to the other guys. This nightmare is alive and well.

“Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes its laws.”

– Mayer Rothschild

During Obama’s tenure, the era of virtual-nothing interest rates was devastating to senior citizens. It was a federal offense: “The Fed Elder Abuse Act.” You’d think now that we have a 70-year-old head of the Fed, Janet Yellen, she’d have sympathy for seniors struggling to survive? But that’s a pipe dream. When you pay someone $199,700 a year who is not concerned about maintaining a house, paying rent, buying groceries, health insurance, and fuel, why worry about others? She obviously agrees with Marie Antoinette when she told the peasants, “Let them eat cake.” And that is Federal Elder Abuse in its quintessence.

“Elder abuse is a slap in the face of all morality.”

– Ellen Waters

The Fed has turned its back on reality. From our first colonies, we have had an investment balance that was the adrenal gland of our economy. People put money in stockings, buried it in cans, kept it with trusted store keepers and later deposited it in our 1st post offices before we had banks. They found innovative ways to stash their money for a time when it was needed. America was built by savers who over-saved and under-consumed so they could survive with a well-earned retirement. It was over-saving that made America financially and economically healthy. Now seniors must say:

“I learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, and I have remained content.”

– Jay Strong

The Fed’s blitzkrieg against the elderly is more abusive than anyone will admit. The banks used to give seniors a “living-interest rate” on their savings and trusted them to reinvest their money. This gave them both a good return on their investment, which was healthy. Now that has gone the way of the corset, the infamous Chevy Corvair, and the Dick Clark Show. Seniors, who used to rely on safe investments to live in security, now “pay” for the challenge of letting the Fed steal their money. And the Fed treats them as 2nd class citizens with their hands out! They just tell them to get an EBT card and a free cell phone. Now:

“He who will not economize will have to agonize.”

– Confucius

Today, pension plans are so grossly under-funded, seniors are being told they are in danger of losing that one last remnant of security they had worked for all of their lives. And this is Fed Elder Abuse at its pinnacle! Insurance companies depend on interest rates to survive. They’re sucking air due to ground-zero rates. The companies insuring long-term health care are raising their premiums higher than an addict who just got a fix. Because the Fed has artificially kept the Consumer Price Index so low, seniors aren’t getting increases in Medicare or Social Security stipends. We need to pass the Federal Elder Abuse Act soon, before all of our seniors are forced to take jobs as greeters at the local Walmart!

“These days, you’ve ‘gotta’ milk a dollar out of every dime.”

– Gayle Forman

Those approaching retirement have three choices: save more, work longer, or tighten their belts; and pray. What happens when the whole country is faced with this dilemma? This is why most are wondering how the Fed was ever allowed to abuse its duty to guard and protect our money supply? Why have they become an army for the progressives? How can they justify their incompetent illogic by punishing seniors so young progressives can buy homes paid for with the pensions and security dollars of our elder patriots? Should older Americans be forced to live out their lives barrennessly because of Federal Elder Abuse? “It’s always easier to spend other people’s money than yours.”

The Fed has abused our seniors too long. It’s time to expose this heinous crime! Robbing them of their savings, taking away the security they once cherished, to give it to the federal government to make these villains into heroes should be a felony. That’s a nefarious crime that must be stopped! We need to pass the Federal Elder Abuse Act now. Our society has a duty to pay back those who have paid forward and repay them for their loyalty to the USA.  “To leave our elders stranded on an economic island of despair is a ‘holocaust’ for the purpose of generation cleansing”! (Jane Kline)

Supreme Court’s ruling on Wisconsin mapmaking case could impact gerrymandering across U.S.

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 14:47

There could be changes coming to how Illinois’ legislative maps are drawn every ten years with the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing to take up a Wisconsin case on the very issue.

Longtime Democratic Party activist Bill Whitford brought the case Gill v. Whitford, which challenges Wisconsin’s 2011 State Assembly map as unconstitutional. He said his state’s apportion scheme denies residents the ability to have real choice at the ballot box.

The Seventh Circuit Court found the map violates the constitution because it gives one party more power than the other. The case was then petitioned to the nation’s high court, which announced Monday it will hear it in November.

A ruling next spring could impact not just Wisconsin, but other states with similar issues, including Illinois.

In Wisconsin, Republican majorities draw political boundaries to favor Republicans. In Illinois, Democrats have that control. The practice is known as gerrymandering.

The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a brief to the Supreme Court to affirm the lower court’s ruling in favor of Whitford.

CLC President Trevor Potter said the effect in Illinois is clear.

“More than 60 percent of the state legislative seats in the general election were uncontested, [with] no Republican running against those Democrats because they were such Democratic districts,” Potter said.

The same was the case for some Republican-dominated districts where there wasn’t a Democrat challenger in the most recent general election.

There could be challengers in party primaries, but Potter said that can make things more politically polarized, “which I think makes it much harder to have legislators do what the voters say they want, which is to come up and solve problems and figure out how to talk to each other and compromise.”

Paul Smith, lead plaintiffs attorney for the Wisconsin map case, said if the outcome is in their favor, there could be a lawsuit challenging Illinois’ map-making process using the ruling from the Supreme Court.

“And they would argue that the new legal standard is such that the Illinois map doesn’t measure up constitutionally and they would have a pretty good argument that it should be fixed before the next round of redistricting comes along,” Smith said.

Potter said the crux of the case in Wisconsin, as it is in Illinois and other states, is politicians pick their voters, not the other way around.

“What we have in this situation is essentially a theft of that right by whichever party is in power at that moment,” Potter said.

Smith said a victory for the plaintiffs would “be to really affect the way the legislators in all of the states draw their maps next time in 2021 because they will know there’s a much-enhanced risk of the map being thrown out and they would much more likely try to minimize the degree of bias in the maps. We’re hopeful that within the next decade, we could have a dramatically changed playing field.”

Last year, a citizen-led group in Illinois collected over half a million signatures to get a question on the general election ballot to change the state constitution, allowing for an independent commission to oversee the map-making process. The measure failed a court challenge brought by an attorney with connections to House Speaker Michael Madigan and the Illinois Democratic Party.

“Illinois suffers greatly from gerrymandered, partisan-drawn legislative districts that result in a lack of fair, competitive elections,” Brad McMillan, Vice-Chair of CHANGE Illinois, the group that took over for the effort to change how Illinois’ maps are drawn, said. “The highest court in America could establish clear constitutional limits on partisan map-drawing that could have applicability to Illinois and other states.”

The national group Patriotic Millionaires put out a statement Monday supporting the plaintiffs in the Wisconsin case.

“Too many Americans have had the key to their power — their votes — stolen by the very system that was instituted to secure their rights,” Morris Pearl, chairman of the group, said.  “Partisan gerrymandering has distorted our political system and disenfranchised voters for far too long.”

Wisconsin in focus: Hotel, apartment owners contest whopping increases in property values

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 06:30

Wisconsin State Journal: Hotel, apartment owners contest whopping increases in property values

Madison hotel and apartment owners are contesting huge spikes in property values this year — many increases are over 100 percent — but city officials say properties were undervalued and increases are appropriate and warranted.

Ahead lies a potentially lengthy appeal process and court fights with results deciding tens of millions of dollars in property value, millions in property taxes, and the balance of tax burden between commercial and residential property owners.

The Madison Concourse, 1 W. Dayton St., the city’s biggest hotel, saw the largest dollar jump among hotels, a whopping $41.7 million, or 215 percent increase, to $61 million. The Hub Madison apartments, 437 N. Frances St., leaped $64 million, or 123 percent, to $115.9 million, the highest among apartment buildings.

The big increases surprised hoteliers and are “pretty unreasonable,” said Charlie Eggen, president of the Greater Madison Hotel & Lodging Association.

WISC 3: Wisconsin attorney general reveals opioid investigation

Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel has taken the unusual step of revealing the state Department of Justice is investigating opioid manufacturers.

Schimel announced last week that he and a group of attorneys general from other states have been looking into drug companies’ opioid marketing practices to see if any have engaged in illegal activity.

The investigation could conceivably lead to a multi-state lawsuit against the companies. A number of states already have sued drug manufacturers, accusing them of misrepresenting the risk of prescription opioids and fueling addictions.

Rarely does Schimel or any DOJ official acknowledge the existence of an investigation.

Wisconsin State Journal: Local officials mull using Metro Transit buses for texting while driving surveillance campaign

Dane County and Madison officials are looking to collaborate on a plan that would let law enforcement use Metro Transit buses for a distracted driving campaign, but concerns remain about the idea’s appropriateness.

A contract making its way through the Madison governmental process would allow Dane County Sheriff’s Office deputies to ride on Metro Transit buses during off-peak hours as part of an effort to reduce texting while driving. Contingent on a federal grant, the plan calls for several plain-clothed deputies to ride through crash hot spots on each bus, giving them the ability to search for distracted drivers from a higher vantage point, said Sheriff’s Office Sgt. R.J. Lurquin.

Deputies would be the only passengers on the buses and would be in communication with uniformed deputies or surrounding police departments to notify them of someone texting and driving or using a cellphone in a work zone, Lurquin said.

“We’re not necessarily looking to issue citations to everyone we make contact with,” he said. “We want people to be aware of the law and just worry about driving and texting later.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Summer vacation? Many Americans say they can’t afford it

Forget frequent flier miles, last-minute getaways and even road trips. Nearly half of Americans say they won’t be taking a vacation this summer, mostly because they can’t afford it, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The new AP-NORC survey, conducted in May, said 43% of Americans won’t be taking a summer vacation. The top reason for skipping a trip was the cost, cited by 49% of non-vacationers. Another 11% said they can’t take the time off from work, while 3% said they don’t like to be away from work.

About half of Americans living in households making less than $50,000 a year don’t plan to take any summer vacation this year, and they’re especially likely to cite costs as a reason.

And if your employer gives you paid vacation days, consider yourself lucky: Forty-one percent of those surveyed who work full or part time said they do not get any paid time off from their employers to use for vacation. Younger and lower-income workers are especially likely to not get any paid time off.

Wisconsin in focus: Foxconn seeks immense sites in Wisconsin for possible factories

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 07:37

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Foxconn seeks immense sites in Wisconsin for possible factories

The giant Taiwanese company that has said it is considering investing billions to expand its television panel manufacturing to the U.S. – and possibly to Wisconsin – wants a 1,000-acre site for the operation.

Maybe.

The immense size of the parcel specified in the company’s recent request for proposals – as big as the Village of Shorewood – indicates the scope of the potential manufacturing complex.

“That’s a massive, massive amount of acreage to have for any sort of manufacturing,” said James T. Barry III, a longtime commercial real estate professional in Milwaukee.

But Foxconn Technology Group, the firm currently being wooed by both Wisconsin and Michigan to build factories that could employ thousands, hasn’t followed through on some of its previously announced plans.

Wisconsin State Journal: Scott Walker to sign bill limiting state agency rulemaking power

Gov. Scott Walker’s office said he expects to sign a bill giving a state legislative panel the power to block proposed environmental and other rules put forth by state agencies.

“Governor Walker thanks the Legislature for sharing his commitment to bold regulatory reform and looks forward to signing the bill into law,” Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said.

The state Assembly passed the bill Wednesday on a 62-34 vote. The state Senate passed the bill last month.

Under the bill, which supporters call the REINS Act, state agencies could not impose rules projected to cost businesses or local governments more than $10 million. Lawmakers and the governor would have to enact a law instead.

The Cap Times: Progress on education funding, but transportation still an issue in Wisconsin budget negotiations

An agreement on education funding may be in sight, but Wisconsin lawmakers still have a long road ahead before they reach a deal on the state’s transportation budget.

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee resumed work on Gov. Scott Walker’s two-year budget proposal on Thursday after a two-week hiatus prompted by stalled negotiations over those two areas.

As negotiations began to deteriorate early this month, Senate leaders raised the possibility of splitting the budget into separate proposals between the two houses, and Assembly Republicans proposed their own education plan designed to bring relief to school districts that spend less than most others.

Assembly members including Joint Finance co-chair Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and committee member Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, toured the state promoting their plan, which would direct an additional $92 million in revenue limit authority for school districts that spend less than most others and an additional $30 million for the state’s general schools funding mechanism than what the governor proposed in his own spending plan. At the same time, the proposal would offer about $70 million less than Walker’s proposed $649 million increase in per-pupil aid.

WKOW 27: State budget committee unanimously rejects Gov. Walker’s self-insurance plan

The Wisconsin State Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) unanimously rejected Governor Scott Walker’s idea to switch to a self-insurance plan for state workers by a vote of 16-0 Thursday afternoon.

Wisconsin currently allows roughly 250,000 state employees to select from a variety of health insurance plans offered by 17 different private providers.

Gov. Walker’s proposal would have had the state pay to cover employee benefits directly, with a few private companies administering the plans.

The Walker administration argued the switch would save the state $60 million over the next two-year budget, but JFC leaders said that number was questionable.

 

Wisconsin in focus: Taiwan’s Foxconn, assembler of iPhones, considering Wisconsin plant

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 07:38

CBS News: Taiwan’s Foxconn, assembler of iPhones, considering Wisconsin plant

A Taiwanese company that assembles Apple’s iPhones and other electronics is considering building a plant in Wisconsin that could employ thousands of people and give Gov. Scott Walker a huge political boost as he prepares to run for re-election.

A person with direct knowledge of the negotiations who was not authorized to speak publicly confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday that the state is in talks with Foxconn. At least one other upper Midwest state, Michigan, is also pursuing the plant.

President Donald Trump alluded to negotiations with an unspecified company during a visit to Milwaukee on Tuesday, saying Walker might get “a very happy surprise very soon.” Trump said “we were negotiating with a major, major incredible manufacturer of phones and computers and televisions.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Assembly calls for constitutional convention to balance federal budget

The Wisconsin Assembly joined conservatives in other states Wednesday to call for holding a constitutional convention to require Congress to balance the federal budget.

The measure passed, 54-41, with seven Republicans siding with all Democrats to vote against it. The proposal now goes to the Senate, which like the Assembly is run by Republicans.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said a convention is necessary to get the federal government’s finances in shape.

“We are drowning in debt,” he said. “Congress has failed to act in any meaningful way to curb our growing debt.”

Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) argued against the plan, contending a convention could lead to drastic changes to long-established rights to free speech and to own guns.

Wisconsin State Journal: Senate approves changes to private school voucher systems

Private schools in the state’s voucher programs would be required to conduct background checks before hiring staff and would no longer need to meet some academic standards under a bill the Senate approved Wednesday.

The bill, which was introduced late last week with bipartisan support, eliminates certain standards, one of which participating schools must achieve — either that 70 percent of voucher students advance one grade level, 80 percent demonstrate significant academic progress, average attendance rates among participants of 90 percent or 70 percent of voucher parents meet participation goals.

The bill, approved 28-5, also requires participating schools to conduct employee background checks and strengthens financial accountability measures. The Department of Public Instruction and school voucher advocates support the changes, some of which were proposed in State Superintendent Tony Evers’ budget proposal.

The bill also expands eligibility requirements by allowing students who previously attended public school out of state or were on a voucher program waiting list to participate in future years.

Wisconsin in focus: Wisconsin could land ‘major, incredible manufacturer’ soon, Donald Trump says

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 07:07

Wisconsin State Journal: Wisconsin could land ‘major, incredible manufacturer’ soon, Donald Trump says

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday during a visit to Wisconsin that he and Gov. Scott Walker were negotiating to bring a “major, incredible manufacturer” to the state.

Trump’s second visit to the state this year was to promote apprenticeships and attend a $1,000-per-ticket fundraiser that Walker billed as “one of the biggest events we’ve ever had for a statewide elected official.”

During a panel discussion with Walker, cabinet secretaries, students and CEOs, Trump mentioned that he and Walker were negotiating with the manufacturer behind the scenes.

“We have a lot of companies moving into the United States and we are negotiating with a lot of companies,” Trump said. “I think they’re going to give the governor a very happy surprise very soon.”

It wasn’t immediately clear to which company Trump was referring, but Walker recently traveled to Japan for a trade mission. Trump said the company made phones, computers and televisions.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Rockwell and Manpower team up to train new generation of digital-age manufacturing workers

The next generation of digital-age manufacturing workers will need to be tech-savvy and able to sync with artificial intelligence.

Such workers are deemed essential for any industrial economy that wants to be competitive, including manufacturing-heavy Wisconsin.

And they are in woefully short supply.

ManpowerGroup Inc., a global staffing firm, and Rockwell Automation Inc., which supplies tech-driven industrial productivity systems, on Tuesday announced they are collaborating to train what they call a new breed of “advanced digital manufacturing” workers.

The two Milwaukee-based companies promise to focus on U.S. military veterans who are re-entering the civilian workforce. Rockwell and Manpower are ramping up a joint training program and aim to “upskill” 1,000 workers each year, starting next year and continuing into the foreseeable future, Manpower said.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin continues to lose out under Republicans’ Obamacare repeal legislation

States like Wisconsin that didn’t fully expand their health programs under Obamacare would still miss out on billions of dollars under a proposed Republican repeal of the federal law, an industry report has found.

In a bit of political irony, mostly GOP-led states that didn’t join the Obamacare party would get little in the way of credit — even from Republicans in Congress who are promoting a repeal bill.

“It locks in a massive (health care) funding disparity between expansion and non-expansion states,” said Eric Borgerding, chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Hospital Association. “It’s really sort of astounding that you have states that rejected Obamacare and now in the bill they’re being penalized for rejecting it.”

Eliminating the funding gap for the 19 non-expansion states including Wisconsin is a top priority for the state’s Republicans such as Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers. But the bill in Congress doesn’t do that, in spite of the number of prominent Republicans that Wisconsin has sent to Washington, D.C., including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

Forbes: New York Shakespeare Festival received $30M from taxpayers

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 13:45

New York City’s Public Theater “Shakespeare in the Park” production of “Julius Caesar” sparked political drama for its on-stage assassination of a Trump-like Roman ruler. Before the performance Donald Trump Jr. asked via a tweet, “I wonder how much of this ‘art’ is funded by taxpayers?”

Here’s the answer to Trump Jr’s question: Data at OpenTheBooks.com shows that over $4.1 million in federal, state and city grants funded the New York Shakespeare Festival (NYSF) – the parent company to Public Theater and its production, Shakespeare in the Park – over the past three years. The total amount since 2009?  Nearly $30 million.

After Trump, Jr’s tweet, the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) was quick to clarify it had not funded this particular Shakespeare in the Park performance. However, the NEA disclosed its $630,000 in grants to NYSF since 2009. The NEA also disclosed that it continued grantmaking to NYSF’s other Public Theater project – “New York Voices” at Joe’s Pub – giving $25,000 in February.

By any estimation, NYSF is cashflow and asset-rich. In the latest year of IRS disclosed data (ending 8/2015), the non-profit had a financial asset base of $53 million; saved $22.4 million in cash-on-hand and invested securities; received nearly $28 million in contributions – $106 million over the past five years; and earned total revenues of $40 million.

Adam Andrzejewski is the founder and chief executive officer of OpenTheBooks.com. To read his full column at Forbes.com, click here.

Haupt: Your governor, your guardian of the 10th Amendment

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 19:50

“The Tenth Amendment said the federal government is supposed to only have powers that were explicitly given in the Constitution but I think the federal government’s forgotten that.”

– David Mills

Our founders penned the Tenth Amendment out of necessity. It was hindsight after a summer of impassioned debates at the Convention of 1787. The adoption of our Constitution was opposed by many influential patriots including Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and Sam Adams. They were in disaccord over the powers of the central government and its ability to subvert the will and the rights of the states. They persistently argued the Constitution would eventually lead to an over-powering central state which would destroy the individual liberty of the people and the legal integrity of the states. Many dubiously tagged as Anti-Federalists concurred with Jefferson: “When the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”

The Tenth Amendment was a necessary bone to toss at the liberty hungry patriots with the Bill of Rights. This reaffirmed their understanding the Constitution guaranteed all powers not granted to the central government were reserved to the states and to “them.” The Tenth Amendment clearly emphasized the limited powers delegated to central and state governments. This helped quiet the storm against ratification by most colonies. The highly susceptible patriots agreed this was the best insurance they could get to be free and continue exercising their sovereignty. They were comforted when Thomas Jefferson echoed: “All authority existing outside this domain belongs to the people.”

Since ratification established a bond of states under federal oversight, two issues have generated constant debate: What’s the true nature of the union? What powers, privileges, duties and controls does the Constitution actually grant the central government and reserve to the states? As a result of these heated disparities, the South engaged in a bloody civil war to put an end to this. But that only opened a bigger can of worms. And after the war, this has been fiercely disputed each time D.C. exercises federalism over our sacred sovereignty to reshape our nation’s political, social, and economic anatomy for their advantage.

“The plan of the convention aimed only at a partial union or consolidation. The states would clearly retain all sovereignty as before.”

– Alexander Hamilton

Federalism has reared its ugly head for decades under different masks and disguises. From 1789 to 1901, we had Dual Federalism with little collaboration between state and federal governments. After 1901, we lost liberty under Cooperative Federalism, marked by increased collusion between all levels of government. We witnessed the national income tax and an influx of federal programs that burden us today. Between 1960 and 1968, Creative Federalism was the beast that ballooned under Johnson’s Great Society. It shifted many powers from the states to the federal government through dependent-aid systems. Today we are fighting Contemporary federalism, characterized by shifts in intergovernmental grants, the growth of forced unfunded mandates, over regulations, and excessive control by Washington.

“Federalism should maintain our unity, not destroy it.”

– Alyn Lun

Though the progressives have established a firm position on the national political battlefront through continual growth of federalism, the complexion of our individual state governments proves we have had enough. Over half of our states are composed of conservative legislatures and governors in an effort to stop runaway federalism. Since Obama took office, Republicans captured control of 27 state chambers that Democrats held after the 2008 elections. The GOP controls the most legislative seats it has held since the founding of the party. Unpopular policies by progressive politicians have not gone unnoticed, and there’s a growing trend in our states to isolate themselves from the evils of federalism. They’re fighting back on Election Day.

Yes, “Elections have consequences.”

– Obama

The governor’s chair is now increasingly important in our states because it is the most powerful office in our legislative caucuses with clout, control and visibility. It is considered vital to isolate the states from federalism. While everyone talks about the presidency, American governorship gets little attention. Since all government is local, many voters think of their mayors and commissioners as those most affluent. They consider the governor as another figurehead stewarding their state. They seldom know anything about their syllabus before Election Day. They fail to perceive it is he or she who sets the states political and social agenda for the legislature and is the ultimate shield that stands between encroachments of federalism in their lives.

“A wise governor told me a long time ago, political capital you don’t get more of by keeping it. You get it by using it.”

– Scott Walker

Conservative state governments around the U.S. have made progress reforming civil service and beating back public sector union power. They are articulating a coherent agenda that satisfies the political center, as well as the moderate left. The red tide in our state governments has brought the GOP to its most commanding position in state governments in years. But it could shift at any time if the people elect the wrong type of conservative who is a mere party politician rather than one who defends their values and independent state culture. And this is not as hypothetical as one might think, considering the strength of the political party machine. It is that machine that bestows their blessings on a potential primary candidate that has the greatest influence on picking winners and losers.

“The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of political control.”

– Karl Marx

While watching the apocalyptic response to Donald Trump’s victory in so many liberal precincts around the U.S., governors and legislatures in many states realize they now have the headroom to raise state income by lowering business taxes. By taking advantage of cutting back the demands federal government placed on them in the past to toe the line from D.C. or get their entitlements cut, the states can now generate their own creative revenue. By replacing many federal services and benefits they had to pay the government for one-shoe-fits-all mismanaged programs as an agenda for social engineering, they can do it themselves. They no longer have to give the feds huge sums of money and beg to get a portion back by following their rules. They are no longer held hostage by the federalists.

“Governors compete. States compete. People and businesses decide.”

– Doug Ducey

For decades, true conservatives have preached of returning more power to the states, knowing they could do more, and do it more efficiently than Washington. Blue states have supported federalism for years. But red states have fought back to maintain the dignity of the 10th amendment which is our sacred cow. The 10th Amendment is not a sword that cuts both ways. We either govern by it or federalism will consume us. And the governor is the key ingredient in defending us against federal extortion of our rights and liberty. Therefore, it is preeminent we judge every candidate for governor on their legislative history and how they have supported the ethos of the 10th and its proclamations.

Machiavelli wrote: “It is much more secure to be feared than to be loved.” And that is the way the feds have been governing under progressive domination. And if we do not take advantage of our conservative administration in D.C. and its brand of politics, we will forever be wondering why we lost our sovereignty.

“Washington, D.C. is full of think tanks, theoreticians and advocacy groups. Governors are the ones whose feet are on the ground.”

Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen

If Republicans in state capitols can’t articulate a coherent governing agenda that satisfies the political center, the red tide that has brought the GOP to its most commanding position in state governments in a hundred years could begin to shift.

When states and local communities take the lead on policy, the people are that much closer to the policymakers, and policymakers are that much more accountable to the people. Few Americans have spoken with their president; many have spoken with their mayor.

Up until the outbreak of the Civil War, the federal government for the most part minded their business and kept their grubby hands out of our states’ constitutional privileges.

During the pre-federalism period, the country waged a war for independence and established a confederation form of government that created a league of sovereign states. Deficiencies in the Articles of Confederation prompted its repeal and the ratification of a new Constitution, creating a federal system of government comprised of a national government and states. Almost immediately upon its adoption, issues concerning state sovereignty and the supremacy of federal authority were hotly debated and ultimately led to the Civil War.

The period from 1789 to 1901 has been termed the era of Dual Federalism. It has been characterized as an era during which there was little collaboration between the national and state governments. Cooperative Federalism is the term given to the period from 1901 to 1960. This period was marked by greater cooperation and collaboration between the various levels of government. It was during this era that the national income tax and the grant-in-aid system were authorized in response to social and economic problems confronting the nation. The period from 1960 to 1968 was called Creative Federalism by President Lyndon Johnson’s administration. Johnson’s Creative Federalism as embodied in his Great Society program, was, by most scholars’ assessments, a major departure from the past. It further shifted the power relationship between governmental levels toward the national government through the expansion of a grant-in-aid system and the increasing use of regulations. Contemporary federalism, the period from 1970 to the present, has been characterized by shifts in the intergovernmental grant system, the growth of unfunded federal mandates, concerns about federal regulations, and continuing disputes over the nature of the federal system.

Wisconsin in focus: Wisconsin redistricting effort could shape future U.S. elections

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 08:01

Denver Post: Wisconsin redistricting effort could shape future U.S. elections

With newly elected Scott Walker in the governor’s office and a firm grip on the legislature, Wisconsin Republicans in 2011 had a unique opportunity to redraw the state’s electoral maps and fortify their party’s future.

Aides were dispatched to a private law firm to keep their work out of public view. They employed the most precise technology available to dissect new U.S. Census data and convert it into reliably Republican districts even if the party’s fortunes soured. Democrats were kept in the dark, and even GOP incumbents had to sign confidentiality agreements before their revamped districts were revealed to them. Only a handful of people saw the entire map until it was unveiled and quickly approved.

In the following year’s elections, when Republicans got just 48.6 percent of the statewide vote, they still captured a 60-39 seat advantage in the General Assembly.

Now, the Supreme Court is being asked to uphold a lower court’s finding that the Wisconsin redistricting effort was more than just extraordinary – it was unconstitutional.

Wisconsin State Journal: Want to know what’s proposed for the state budget? This bill requires you be told

A new proposal would make it more difficult for the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to make sweeping budget changes outside of public view.

Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, and Rep. Scott Allen, R-Waukesha, sought support from colleagues last week for the so-called “Budget Transparency Act.”

The proposal likely would have prevented the 2015 committee passage of a measure to curtail access to public records, said a spokesman for Nass, Mike Mikalsen.

It requires public notice of at least 48 hours for budget motions going before the budget-writing finance committee. There is no current law requiring public notice of such motions, which committee members make to propose changing individual parts of the governor’s budget proposal.

The bill calls for the motions to be posted online at the website of the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Wisconsin State Journal: University of Wisconsin officials make pitch for employee raises, maintenance funding

Institutions around the University of Wisconsin System are being held back by outdated facilities and low employee pay, according to campus leaders, who made their pitch Friday for lawmakers to chip in more state funding to remedy those problems.

The chancellors of several UW campuses, along with System President Ray Cross, asked legislators during a meeting of the Board of Regents at UW-Milwaukee to increase funding for building maintenance and construction in the 2017-19 budget, and to provide $78 million to boost compensation for workers.

Those costs have been sore points for UW officials in a budget they have mostly praised otherwise because it increases operating funding for the System by $36.2 million.

While System officials requested $794.5 million worth of capital funding for renovations and new construction at UW campuses, Gov. Scott Walker’s capital budget proposal would provide just $128.3 million.

U.S. Supreme Court asked to take case challenging forced union dues

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 07:44

The nation’s high court is being asked to take up the issue of whether government employees should be forced to pay dues and fees to government unions.

The case Janus v. AFSCME originated in Illinois. Mark Janus and several other Illinois state employees say they don’t want to be forced to pay union dues. Their case was struck down by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in March, which opens up the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.

National Right To Work Foundation represents the plaintiffs. They filed a petition Tuesday asking the Supreme Court to hear the case.

Foundation President Mark Mix said this is about compelled speech vs. free speech.

Mix said what’s happened is there’s “a private institution in between taxpayers and elected officials and [the union] is able to speak for government employees that, heretofore, never asked for, never wanted, and in fact stand back and say, ‘I don’t want you to speak for me,’ as [plaintiffs] have said in this case,” Mix said.

An outcome in their favor would be good for public sector workers across the country, Mix said.

“If the court takes it and rules the way we think they should and the way we hope they will, then government employees across the country could no longer be compelled to pay dues or fees to a union to keep their job,” Mix said.

Multiple messages seeking comment from the national AFSCME union were not returned.

Back in March, when the case was struck down by the 7th Circuit, AFSCME President Lee Saunders said in a statement that if plaintiffs win, it would “make it harder for public service workers like teachers, firefighters, nurses, and public safety workers to speak up together for better public services, stronger communities, and wages and protections that benefit all Americans.”

Mix said Saunders “might be damaged by it because he has a pretty neat business model right now where he can compel people to pay him as a condition of them working for government.”

Many states don’t have exclusive union monopoly bargaining privileges, Mix said.

“The fact is, this is a question of union monopoly power and further, to add insult to injury, while we give them the right to – ‘quote, unquote’ – speak for workers that don’t want them to speak for them, we also unfortunately gave them the privilege to compel people to pay fees for taking away their right to speak for themselves,” he said.

“Saunders and the bosses at AFSCME would be troubled by this, but the workers who wanted to voluntarily join the union, participate with the union, could all do that” if the case goes in the plaintiffs’ favor, Mix said.

The plaintiffs are also represented by Liberty Justice Center.

Sun Prairie sale ends costly experiment

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 09:44

The sale of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin’s municipal broadband system, completes a failed experiment that left ratepayers on the hook for years of financial losses.

TDS Telecommunications Corporation recently announced it had completed the purchase of the telecom assets of Sun Prairie Utilities. The network was bought for $2.88 million, slightly more than the city’s outstanding debt on the assets, Wisconsin State Journal reported.

The private provider will now begin building a fiber network capable of 1 gigabit-per-second download speeds to serve the area’s residents. Madison-based TDS will offer cable and phone service, as well.

“To deliver these new advanced services, we will be investing significant private capital,” said Jim Butman, chief operating officer of TDS.

The utility built a network that lost money – often significant amounts – during the majority of its years in operation, Watchdog.org reported.

Sun Prairie Utilities first built a fiber ring in the late 1990s to connect municipal buildings and schools, using a $600,000 loan from the electric division.

The network later expanded to offer fiber-to-the-home to residential areas and businesses. The broadband network connects slightly more than 500 homes and apartment buildings and about three dozen businesses.

That was a penetration rate of only about 4 to 5 percent of the homes in Sun Prairie, which evidently were not enough customers to turn a profit as the network lost money in at least 10 of its 16 years in operation. Watchdog reported the broadband division posted losses around $450,000 in each of 2001 and 2002, losing money every year until 2006. The division saw profits in 2006-08, but lost money in 2009 due to a $212,000 investment into the network. After three years of gains from 2010-2012, the division went into the red again, posting three straight years of losses, including $166,000 in the hole in 2015.

The network made Taxpayers Protection Alliance Foundation’s map of “broadband boondoggles,” a map of failed municipal networks built on the backs of taxpayers or ratepayers.

Tom Struble, tech policy counsel at R Street Institute, noted that many communities build these networks not to be profitable, but to service residents they feel are underserved. The question is at what cost is hemorrhaging money worth it.

“More often than not, these networks are unprofitable,” he said. “If it were a normal business it would be a failing one.”

City officials say the sale is less about unloading the debt and more about the ability for a private provider to expand the service quickly. City administrator Aaron Oppenheimer told Wisconsin State Journal the city had received estimates the tab would be $27 million to expand the high-speed internet to all residents of Sun Prairie and require hiring 20 more employees.

While TDS’s fiber expansion will hit most customers who are now unserved, it’s not guaranteed to provide service to every home. A stipulation of the contract allows TDS to bypass areas if the per-unit cost to connect exceeds $2,000.

The city’s taxpayers will benefit beyond having the debt load removed: If TDS reaches a customer penetration level of 25 percent Sun Prairie will get part of the revenue for the next five years. City facilities and schools will also get discounted internet service as part of the deal.

Struble said Sun Prairie was wise to essentially enter a public-private partnership rather than use more local money to try to expand the network, and noted the contract also seems fair to TDS, which would likely pay well more than $2.88 million to build out the assets it will obtain in the purchase agreement with the city.

“It sounds like a rational decision on both sides,” he said.

Rival Charter Communications opposed the sale, saying it was now at a disadvantage because the city would help TDS market the network, but city aldermen pointed out to Charter that had the company offered to buy the municipal network they would have considered its offer.

Wisconsin in focus: Scott Walker: I’d consider tolling motorists at Illinois state line

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 07:17

Wisconsin State Journal: Scott Walker: I’d consider tolling motorists at Illinois state line

Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday that he’d consider highway tolls in Wisconsin if they’re collected from motorists entering the state, particularly from Illinois.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said separately that a highway tolling plan could be a key part of a broader deal for the state’s next transportation budget — a key area of disagreement among Republican Senate and Assembly lawmakers as they craft a 2017-19 state budget.

That disagreement, combined with divisions on how to address taxes and education spending, has put the two houses at loggerheads and stalled budget talks.

With just weeks before a July 1 deadline to pass the new two-year spending plan, lawmakers canceled both of this week’s planned meetings of the Joint Finance Committee. State spending will continue at current levels if lawmakers fail to pass a new budget on time.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin becoming national leader in hiring disabled workers

When Nate Kube lost a long-term convention center job, he struggled to find work — and his place.

Kube, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, got a new start through a program called Project Search. Last year, the 26-year-old front desk agent became associate of the year here among the 1,500 employees of Kalahari Resorts and Conventions.

“It made me feel like I had a sense of purpose again … It was really hard for me to get back into the workforce. I almost wanted to give up, but coming into Project Search gave me a sense of purpose and it gave me some of my pride back,” Kube said.

Stories like Kube’s are becoming more common in Wisconsin. Driven by an expanding economy and work by GOP Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic lawmakers, Wisconsin is moving more disabled workers toward self-sufficiency.

Wisconsin State Journal: Wisconsin submits plan to become first state to drug screen some Medicaid enrollees

Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday asked President Donald Trump’s administration to let Wisconsin become the first state to require drug screening for poor, childless adults who seek Medicaid and impose a time limit on coverage unless they work.

Walker’s administration softened its initial plan in response to public comments, however, reducing premiums and emergency room co-payments and letting people skip drug tests and sign up for Medicaid when they’re ready to start drug treatment.

The proposal “is about helping people transition from public assistance into Wisconsin’s workforce, where they can build a solid financial foundation for themselves and their families,” Walker said in a statement.

People with disabilities are exempt from the work requirement.

Study finds Wisconsin poverty rate reached new low in 2015

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 06:38

Wisconsin conservatives see a recent drop in the state’s poverty rate as proof that low taxes and pro-business policies are working.

The report by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that a key statewide poverty measure declined from 10.8 percent in 2014 to 9.7 percent in 2015 – the lowest rate ever recorded since the university’s Institute for Research on Poverty launched the annual study nine years ago.

As Wisconsin emerged from the Great Recession, the addition of 70,000 jobs helped to push down the poverty rate, the study found. In turn, the child poverty rate hit a record low of 10 percent, and the number of elderly residents living in poverty went from 8.3 percent to 7.8 percent over the same time period.

“Recent research from the UW-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty shows that the Wisconsin comeback has the poverty level statewide at its lowest point in nine years,” the Wisconsin Republican Party said in a statement. “Thanks to the bold reforms of Gov. Scott Walker and Republican leaders, Wisconsin is working.”

Report co-author Timothy Smeeding, a professor of public affairs and economics,  downplayed the effects of any recent state policies.

“The short answer is no – nothing the state did explains the decline,” Smeeding said in an email. “In fact, the decline might have been a bit bigger if the state did not reduce its EITC (earned income tax benefit) or toss 40,000 off of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). But these would make only a tiny difference.”

Overall, Smeeding sees the national economic recovery and uptick in jobs as the prime movers in the poverty rate reduction, coupled with some outmigration to other states.

In addition, the University of Wisconsin report emphasizes the role of that state’s social safety net in helping workers struggling at the low end of the wage scale in Wisconsin.

“This report also underscores the importance of a safety net that enhances low earnings for families with children, puts food on the table and encourages self-reliance – as Wisconsin’s safety net does – and in doing so makes a big difference in combating poverty over and above the job market effects …” the report says.

But Michael Jahr, vice president of outreach and special projects with the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, does see a correlation between declining poverty rates in the state and Wisconsin’s current pro-business mindset, which he says has been fostered by Republican control of both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office.

“That mindset has led to stability in the Wisconsin economy that has allowed for job growth to the point where we almost have full employment,” Jahr told Watchdog.org.

In the past eight years, Wisconsin went from having a sizable budget deficit to a budget surplus, he said, and one of the reasons behind such trends is Wisconsin having a governor who said no to any kind of tax increases.

Local governments have become more efficient as well, according to Jahr, because the state repealed the prevailing wage law dealing with school projects, freeing up public funds for other expenditures.

“We’ve exceeded what a number of other states are experiencing,” he said, noting that it’s common to see “We’re hiring” signs around the state due to shortages of skilled workers.

Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, who serves on the Assembly Children and Families Committee, sees the national economic recovery driving the decline in the poverty rate. And she echoed concerns expressed in the University of Wisconsin report that the safety net’s effects are beginning to shrink due to changes in SNAP, along with increases in the cost of child care and medical expenses.

“In the last couple of years, we’ve seen the GOP attacking anti-poverty programs,” Subeck said.

The positive news on the poverty numbers could be reversed if the safety net in the state continues to deteriorate, she said.

Subeck sees a multitude of problems continuing to squeeze workers in the state, including a minimum wage that hovers at the poverty level, the state coming in last in the nation in business startups and uncertainties about the job market as the nation shifts away from manufacturing.

“I think we’ve had a rough six years under Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican majority,” said Subeck, whose priorities include raising the minimum wage and maintaining the state’s safety net.

But Jahr advocates a different course to help expand economic opportunities for those who are struggling. He favors reducing some of the state’s occupational licensing requirements that keep would-be entrepreneurs from opening their own businesses and helping ex-offenders gain an improved chance for employment.

“Business certainly helps in terms of poverty alleviation,” he said, “but there are still barriers to entry that are not offset by a good economy.”

 

Wisconsin in focus: Wisconsin Assembly rolls out K-12 plan, only to hit roadblock in Senate

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 08:02

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Assembly rolls out K-12 plan, only to hit roadblock in Senate

Assembly leaders unveiled an education plan Tuesday that they said would put more money into classrooms and cut property taxes, but the idea was immediately rebuffed by their fellow Republicans in the Senate.

It was the latest sign that work on the state budget is stalled, even though Republicans enjoy complete control of state government.

“I’m willing to negotiate at any time, any place, anywhere,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said at a news conference.

But there was no evidence that would happen anytime soon.

Wisconsin State Journal: Despite billions of public dollars, some rural residents slog through slow internet

Donovan Wright lives in a small subdivision in the town of Pleasant Springs near Stoughton, just 12 miles from the center of Wisconsin’s second-biggest city, but he is among more than an estimated 232,000 state residents who cannot tap a wired network to get online at any speed.

It means his children access the web using unreliable and sluggish cellular service to do their homework. He can’t file his tax returns online. And streaming Netflix? Not a chance.

Michael Bridgeman, of the town of Roxbury in northwest Dane County, goes to a local library or the UW-Madison campus, a half-hour’s drive away, to do just about anything more internet-intensive than checking email. His slow connection hampers the occasional consulting work he does.

Jane Leverance of the town of Oregon wants to enjoy some of the conveniences other people with internet access have enjoyed for years, including paying bills online. But even with a cellular-powered Wi-Fi hot spot to get online, the connection and speed are unreliable.

WKOW-27: Report: More than one third of kids in rural Wisconsin rely on Medicaid, BadgerCare

A new report shows Medicaid provides more health coverage to rural communities than Wisconsin’s metro areas.

The study, by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (CCF) and the University of North Carolina NC Rural Health Research Project found that an average 34% of children in rural areas and small towns in Wisconsin receive health coverage through Medicaid and BadgerCare.

That number is 31% in metropolitan areas.  Medicaid participation is also higher for adults in rural Wisconsin, but by a smaller margin.  The report lists 14% of adults as using Medicaid in rural areas, versus 13% in metro areas.

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