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The Government Watchdog
Updated: 9 hours 19 min ago

Wisconsin in focus: State Senate OKs ending work permits for 16- and 17-year-olds

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 07:15

Wisconsin State Journal: State Senate OKs ending work permits for 16- and 17-year-olds

The state Senate has sent Gov. Scott Walker a bill removing the requirement for 16- and 17-year-olds to obtain permits signed by their parent or guardian in order to work.

The bill passed the Senate on a 20-12 party-line vote. It passed the state Assembly last week.

Walker’s office did not immediately respond Wednesday to an inquiry about whether he will sign it.

Tourism and business groups support the bill, while labor groups such as the state AFL-CIO oppose it.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Senate leader Scott Fitzgerald offers tolls, more borrowing for Wisconsin roads

The state would consider tolling to pay for roads in the long term while taking out loans in the short term and then paying them off with money now used for schools and health care, under a plan laid out by the Senate’s top leader Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said that he saw little support for an Assembly Republican plan to increase taxes on gasoline to help lower state borrowing and a shortfall in road funding, citing Gov. Scott Walker’s firm opposition to a tax increase.

Instead, the state should borrow an undisclosed sum of money and then pay it off using sales and income taxes — dollar streams that typically go for education and health programs — rather than the gasoline tax, which is the state’s largest source of road funding, Fitzgerald said.

WISN 12: New sales tax proposed to fund more Milwaukee police officers

It could cost people a little more money to make purchases in the city of Milwaukee if one alderman has his way.

Alderman Bob Donovan, of the city’s 8th district, is proposing a new half-cent sales tax to fund additional police officers, firefighters and other public safety resources.

Donovan believes $40 million could be raised from the new tax.

“That would go a long way in insuring much higher level of safety (and) pay for the officers that we’ve cut over the years. It would also help the fire department,” Donovan said.

WKOW 27: Verona road businesses, commuters caught up in ongoing GOP transportation stalemate

Republicans seem no closer to an agreement on transportation funding, leaving local business owners holding their breath as they hope money to complete the Verona Road construction project is part of the final 2017-19 state budget.

If the money winds up being there – as Governor Scott Walker proposed in his original transportation budget – the third and final phase of the project will be completed by 2020.

“I think most of the businesses will tell you, if they know and if there’s some certainty about that finish line they can plan accordingly,” said Cynthia Jagge, project manager for the Verona Road Business Coalition. “They can make adjustments and things and they can navigate through it.”


Overhaul of Dodd-Frank headed to U.S. House

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 14:25

A financial reform bill is heading for a vote in the U.S. House after clearing the Financial Services Committee.

The CHOICE Act is an overhaul of the Dodd-Frank legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010. Illinois Congressman Randy Hultgren, R-Plano, supports the measure. He pointed out a key provision would prohibit taxpayer bailouts of banks of any size.

“A lot of promises were made when Dodd-Frank passed that it would do away with ‘too big to fail,’” Hultgren said. “It really hasn’t done what it said it was going to do. So that’s really a big part of this … making sure that it’s very clear that we’re not going to be bailing out these entities. They’re going to have to deal with it themselves.”

In 2008, Congress approved the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which helped bail out banks in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis. Hultgren doesn’t want a repeat of that scenario.

“They can’t get the private benefit and then, if they make bad decisions or huge risks, put that back on the taxpayers,” Hultgren said.

The CHOICE Act also repeals the so-called Durbin Amendment in Dodd-Frank, which caps fees that banks can charge on debit card transactions.

“This is price fixing,” Hultgren said. “It’s government coming in and saying what has to happen in the marketplace.”

Some said the Durbin Amendment would be a win for consumers, as merchants passed along savings from the lowered swipe fees. However, a 2013 report by the University of Chicago Coase-Sandor Institute for Law & Economics found that consumers lost more on the banking side than they gained on the merchant side.

“[We’ve seen] a loss of services that banks were able to provide before, like free checking and no-cost accounts,” Hultgren said. “Many of these things have gone away.”

Hultgren said the Choice Act would provide relief for smaller banks and credit unions in Illinois by rolling back many of Dodd-Frank’s 23,000 pages of regulations. The 14th District Republican argued many institutions are being micromanaged by the federal government, leading to banking closures across the state and nation.

“If it’s something local that was never part of the problem, we need to recognize that they need some different ways that they can function,” Hultgren said.

A vote on the CHOICE Act in the U.S. House is expected by early June.

Haupt: Identity politics handcuffs democracy

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 10:17

“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

During the height of the Cold War, everyone was seeking refuge from the Communist “curtain of fear.” The principal at our parochial school demanded our parents vote for John Kennedy because he was a Catholic. Mother Jude, with holy authority, told us if we did not insist our parents support candidate JFK, it would be sinful.

This reverently stoic nun claimed since JFK was a Catholic, he emboldened the spirituality to protect us from the dreaded USSR. When I told my father what she had commanded, I soon learned my first lesson in identity politics. He told me blatantly: “We never vote because of religion! If we vote for Kennedy it’s because of his capability to govern our nation.”

During a campaign speech, JFK reiterated that: “I am not a Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic.”

Throughout his campaign, JFK’s spiritual beliefs were the subject of controversy. Many who disliked him claimed they did not want the Pope running the White House. Although he had a conservative record with 14 years in Congress, and often disagreed with the ambassador to the Vatican, this was ignored. He led the coalition to stop unconstitutional aid to parochial schools, yet few of his critics could see beyond his Catholicism. They continually referenced the articles with scrupulously selected quotations taken out of context from statements, made by church leaders.

Although the Counsel of Bishops strongly endorsed church-state separation, which reflected the views of almost every American Catholic at the time, he was chastened unmercifully for his religion by his foe.

“For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew or a Quaker or a Unitarian or a Baptist.”


Identity politics is voting or supporting an individual because of their pigmentation, number of x and y chromosomes, their religion or ethnicity. Identity politics is nothing new. It has been around since the Dark Ages. Although America has led other societies to declare all people equal before the law, this falls on deaf ears each election. In the last decade, American liberals have pandered to their dependent special identity groups to win elections because it works.

During the 2004 Democratic Convention, Barack Obama told reporters not to look at America as Red States or Blue States but as The United States. Academia and the media were mesmerized by this young unifier and his post-racial post-partisan consonance. He became their poster child for the entire election. Yet after two terms in office, we not only have a Red and Blue America we have a battered and worn “black-and-blue” America.

“The legacy of discrimination is part of our DNA that is passed on.”

– Obama

Jesse Jackson, the linchpin of race baiting, at the Democratic Convention in 1984, defined his base as a “rainbow coalition.” This consisted of racial, ethnic and religious minorities as well as women. But few took notice that this colorful and diverse collage included everybody in America except for those of European ancestry, who founded our Republic. He accepted most women, except those who were independent, successful and would not separate themselves politically from their fathers and husbands.

At that time Jackson lacked the political force to generate much enthusiasm from his lackluster montage of mercenaries. But three decades later, American politics has taken a far left turn in the wrong direction. We are beleaguered by a host of social, cultural and political trends that are transforming the country more rapidly than a con man can steal your money in a New York City “street corner shell game!” And this is influencing the governing of our Republic in ways that were never anticipated by our noble founders at the Convention. George Washington told the other delegates, we must “Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.”

The identity politics of special interests are a danger to America’s tradition of limited government and our ability to maintain law and order. This political philosophy is a by-product of our new age progressive politicians. Their fundamental philosophy is underpinning our Constitution to pander to their base and keep them corralled in a pen of dependence. During the debates in Philadelphia our framers verified they were obsessed with the challenge of keeping our republican government in check. They feared it would aggrandize its power whenever possible. Not only has identity politics diminished the power of lawmakers to govern, it has created animosity across the U.S. Liberally disproportionately redistributing wealth, taxpayers are questioning what they are receiving for their investment? The liberal use of their dollars to buy votes is not a fair return for the amount they invested.

“Today in America we have the best politicians in office money can buy.”

– Stan Gelds

If anyone in the U.S . doubts the power of special interest politics, they need not look any further than the Trump administration. We have a commander in chief who is trying to return America back to its constitutional traditions. Yet each time he proposes legislation, special interest groups inundate representatives with calls and emails excoriating his efforts. As much as America despises Obama-Scare, both Republican houses refuse to put it out of its misery. Nearly 2,000 appointed positions in the Trump administration remain vacant! This leaves many agencies without competent leaders or staffing. Trump is noticeably behind all recent presidents in securing the confirmation of Cabinet appointees and other top positions that require Senate approval. Just recently a progressive lynch mob publicly belittled and scourged a proven patriot war hero for his private religious beliefs! He finally withdrew to protect his family and state.

“Liberalism itself has failed, and for a pretty good reason. It has been too often compromised by the people who represented it.”

– Hunter Thompson

There is no separating special interest from politics. Special interest identity groups, big and small, have a corrupting influence at the very heart of our political system. Each election candidates vow to reform a system that has been broken by the prejudice and influence of special interest groups. Yet many of them feed from its tempting trough. Identify politics not only influences elections but it now convolutes presidential appointments and legislation brought to the floor.

Although Democratic nominees should be judgmentally decided on character and qualifications, progressives piece half-verbiage phrases together to destroy the character of anyone who does not buy into their brand of “control-politics.” The media feeds off of half-truths and misinformation to nurture its hungry cabal of throngs.

“In the political world we live in today, mis-quotations are a national vice.”

– Ellen Sutter

Exploiting politically correct but factually inaccurate racial motifs and gender politics is dividing our nation and threatens our critical place in the world. All patriotic Americans know the world needs a strong and free America. An un-united America at home cannot lead a chaotically divergent globe.

America has entered its darkest period because progressives have ganged up with academia and the left media to use race, sex and “feel-good” identity politics for their political success. President Ronald Reagan told us, “I believe now, as I always have, America’s strength is in We the People.’’

When will we start fighting back for America?

“We must never remain silent in the face of bigotry. We must condemn those who seek to divide us. In all quarters and all times, we must teach tolerance and denounce racism, anti-Semitism and all ethnic or religious bigotry wherever they exist as unacceptable evils. We have no place for haters in America, none, whatsoever.”

– Reagan

Wisconsin in focus: Madison considers pilot program paying panhandlers to clean up city

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 07:20

WKOW 27: Madison considers pilot program paying panhandlers to clean up city

Madison officials are considering a plan that would put panhandlers to work cleaning up the city, and it all started with a TED talk.

It’s a common criticism of panhandlers – just check the WKOW Facebook comments. “If you’re being honest, at least one time, have you wondered if they mean it? If we offered them the job, would they really take it?”

Richard Berry, the Republican mayor of Albuquerque, wanted to solve his city’s panhandling problem; historically much bigger than Madison’s.

“I decided to do something rare in government. I decided to make the solution simpler rather than more complicated,” Berry said in a TED Talk he gave in February. “I said ‘we’re gonna take this man at his word, and others like him. The man says he wants a job, we’re gonna give him a job. And we’re gonna make our city an even better place in the meantime.”

FOX 11: Wisconsin dairy farmers push for limit on ‘milk’ label

Some Wisconsin dairy farmers are among a growing contingent of those pushing Congress to limit the use of the name “milk” to beverages that come from animals, not plants.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin has introduced legislation to accommodate dairy farmers, WUWM-FM reported.

Some Wisconsin dairy farmers say the name “milk” is important and should belong only to the kind that comes from animals instead of alternatives.

“Now it’s pushing the cashew milk and the almond milk and those kinds of things. You see them advertised all day long,” said Jennifer Sauer of Sauer Dairy Farm in Waterloo. “When’s the last time you saw a milk mustache commercial? We used to have them all the time, haven’t seen them.”

Post-Crescent: Funding a stadium? LU prof has a book on that

The new arena under construction in downtown Milwaukee, soon to be the home of the Bucks, carries a price tag of $524 million. While current (and former) ownership offered up millions of dollars to build it, nearly half of the tab will be picked up by the public. Such is the price to keep the NBA franchise from heading elsewhere.

Another of the state’s largest sports venues, the 16-year-old Miller Park, was also erected with the help of public money. A sales tax hike of 1 percent was implemented in 1996 for five counties and remains in place more than 20 years later. Such is the price to keep Milwaukee a suitable home for an MLB team.

It hasn’t always been this way. Years ago, some of the most famous sports facilities in the country rose up with little to no help from the fans who also hand over wads of cash to enter the building they helped pay for.

“City of Dreams: Dodger Stadium and the Birth of Modern Los Angeles” explores the complex debate faced by cities weighing whether or not to invest in its professional sports teams and the ballparks, stadiums and arenas they require. It was published by Princeton University Press and arrived in late March.

Wisconsin State Journal: Wisconsin officials fire back at Illinois over foster child incident

Wisconsin child welfare officials on Monday defended the handling of an incident involving a runaway Dane County foster child discovered in a high-crime area of Chicago last week, after Cook County Sheriff’s deputies could persuade no one, including the girl’s foster mother in Madison and two Dane County agencies, to come and take her home.

Citing the Interstate Compact for Juveniles, under which states coordinate the return of runaway youth, Eloise Anderson, secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Children and Families, told Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart his office was at fault for contacting the wrong agencies about the girl’s plight.

Deputies should have started with Cook County child welfare workers, Anderson said in her letter to Dart, “to begin the process of working with (Dane County Human Services) to begin to facilitate the safe return of the child.”


Wisconsin in focus: Gov. Scott Walker pans gas tax proposal

Sun, 05/07/2017 - 14:03

Wisconsin State Journal: Scott Walker pans Assembly GOP proposal for net increase on gas

The Assembly Republican proposal to raise net taxes on gasoline and lower a decades-old price floor hasn’t won over a key critic — Gov. Scott Walker.

In an interview, Walker panned the proposal to apply the 5 percent state sales tax to gas. He noted the net effect of the sales tax plus a proposed 4.8-cent reduction in the per-gallon gas tax would still raise taxes on consumers about $430 million over the next two years.

“I look at that and think that really goes at odds with what we’re talking about,” Walker said. “This is a sizable tax increase on fuel.”

WMTV-15: Proposed harsher penalties for gun threats against schools

A bill proposed by state lawmakers would give harsher penalties to people who make gun threats against schools.

Currently under Wisconsin law, a gun threat against a school is not considered a felony crime, unless it can be considered a terrorist threat.

This bill would make it a potential felony crime to make a gun threat against a school. Similar to an existing law regarding bomb threats, just making the threat itself, could be grounds for felony charges.

WISN-12: Feds close Milwaukee-based Guarantee Bank

The Milwaukee-based Guaranty Bank was closed Friday by Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Guaranty Bank had 119 branches in five states, 107 of which were in retail outlets, such as grocery and general-merchandise stores. The branches in retail outlets will not reopen.

The 12 brick-and-mortar locations in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin will reopen as branches of First-Citizens Bank & Trust Co. during their normal business hours.

Wausau Daily Herald: Demand for nurses, educators string in Wisconsin

Wisconsin comes out on top in a ranking of “best and worst states for nurses,” as heath care systems face challenges in hiring registered nurses and nursing educators say they need increased support.

A report released Wednesday by personal finance website WalletHub placed Wisconsin in the top slot of Best & Worst States for Nurses.  The ranking was drawn largely from pay, the number of elderly people expected by 2030, quality of nursing schools, number of job openings, number of work hours and commute time.

Nursing is facing the squeeze from increased demand for services from an aging population and a retiring pool of veteran nurses. The Administrators of Nursing Education of Wisconsin say the state is facing a shortage of more than 23,000 registered nurses by 2040.



Guest Voice: How the New York Times misrepresents the U.S. Supreme Court

Sat, 05/06/2017 - 08:33

A recent New York Times story, titled “A Polarized Supreme Court, Growing More So,” illustrates how left-of-center media distort perceptions of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The story’s problems begin with the lead paragraph’s assertion that Justice Neil Gorsuch’s appointment is “a conservative replacing another conservative.” What the Times probably intended to say is that the appointment replaces an originalist with an originalist. Originalism and conservatism are not the same thing.

Originalism is untied to political results, whether liberal or conservative. It applies the methods English and American judges have used for centuries to interpret most documents, including constitutions. The primary difference between modern originalists and non-originalists hinges on whether judges should be consistent or whether they should change the rules of interpretation for some hot-button constitutional issues.

In the article, as elsewhere, the Times describes the Court as split five-to-four, with the majority constituting a “conservative bloc.” It is more accurate to describe the Court as split four ways: (1) liberal activists (Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor), (2) originalists (Clarence Thomas and Gorsuch), (3) advocates of judicial deference (John Roberts, Samuel Alito), and (4) an erratic social libertarian (Anthony Kennedy).

“And, in a shift in recent years,” the Times writes, “partisan affiliation has become a very strong predictor of voting trends for all its members.” The sentence is technically true but substantially misleading. This description would be better: although Democratic appointees have been reliably liberal on most issues, Republican appointees have commonly slipped to the left—a slippage reduced recently as GOP administrations have adopted better vetting procedures.

The article’s thigh-slapper is its description of Kennedy as “a moderate conservative.” Anyone familiar with Kennedy’s judicial style knows that he is not a moderate anything, much less a conservative. It is true that he has voted to strike down some particularly ambitious pieces of congressional legislation, but he has also reaffirmed the very liberal view that the federal government may exercise almost unfettered control over the national economy. More importantly, he has written a series of opinions reaching radical social results through an untethered and virtually unprecedented methodology.

Similarly revealing are the “experts” the Times chose to quote. Apparently, there are no experts in flyover country or in the South. Everyone worth hearing is from the Northeast or West Coast.  This is an extraordinary omission because the nomination of Gorsuch, a Coloradan, was widely viewed as an effort to rebalance the court toward the country’s center.

Neither do practicing lawyers exist in the Times’ world. Everyone quoted is affiliated with an academic or policy institution.

Nor do consistent originalist experts exist—even though the Gorsuch hearings dwelt largely on originalism. The Times quotes four liberals and one activist libertarian. No originalist scholars at all.

The Times article cites just one case by name: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The Times treats that case, as is common among liberal writers, as an unqualified “conservative” victory. In fact, it was a split decision, with originalists winning on one issue but losing on the other.

Several years ago, the Times was properly criticized for describing the Court’s activist liberals as its “four moderates.” While the latest article doesn’t make that mistake, it does reveal the Times’ propensity for putting its left-of-center views at the hub of the ideological universe. Thus the reporter describes Obama appointee Merrick Garland as “not especially liberal.” And he selected for publication an unrebutted claim that Garland was “centrist.”

Yet the reporter’s own article shows this to be untrue. It includes another unrebutted quotation in which a long liberal wish list is described as “safe” with Garland. If he were a centrist, presumably liberals would lose sometimes!

In fairness, the Times does quote an expert who cautions against its stereotyped nomenclature—pointing out that labeling Gorsuch and Garland as “‘conservative” or “liberal” is “too simplistic and unfair to both of them.” That caution, however, is buried at the end.

Rob Natelson is Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence at the Independence Institute’s Senior Fellow. This column previously published in the American Conservative and on the Independence Institute’s website.

Wisconsin, 15th in manufacturing job growth, to Illinoisans: Come on up

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 06:58

New employment numbers show Wisconsin surpassed many of its Midwest neighbors in creating new manufacturing jobs over the past year, prompting one Wisconsin business leader to put out the welcome mat to Illinois workers.

Wisconsin added 3,000 manufacturing jobs between March 2016 and March of this year, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. That amounted to a 0.6 percent gain in manufacturing employment, the 15th highest gain among the 50 states.

In contrast, Illinois lost 6,500 manufacturing jobs – 1.1 percent of its total manufacturing jobs – during the same time period,  placing the state 35th in the nation in terms of percentage change in manufacturing employment. The rankings were calculated by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, which provided the data to

“Wisconsin needs to market its great career and lifestyle opportunities to people living in other states – especially ones like Illinois where the economic outlook is far from positive,” Kurt Bauer, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), said in a prepared statement.

Members of the business association believe reforms enacted since 2011, when Republican Scott Walker took over as governor, have transformed a state that had been hostile to business to one that’s now business-friendly, according to Bauer.

“This is the most pro-business governor in Wisconsin’s history,” he told “We’ve lowered taxes, reduced regulations and limited the authority of unelected bureaucrats to promulgate rules.”

A recent survey of WMC members illustrated the new-found enthusiasm of employers in the state, Bauer said.

“Ninety percent of Wisconsin businesses believe that Wisconsin is heading in the right direction,” he said.

And because the unemployment rate in the state is now down to 3.4 percent, Bauer said finding an adequate number of qualified workers poses a challenge. In turn, he said he would welcome Illinois residents to relocate to Wisconsin.

Bauer and others also credit the state’s manufacturing and agriculture tax credit, which cut the corporate tax paid by manufacturers from 7.4 percent to nearly zero, with boosting economic growth in the state. A study released this month by a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor concluded that the tax credit added almost 21,000 manufacturing jobs statewide since 2013.

In addition, the state and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) have increased investments into so-called Fab Labs at Wisconsin high schools, according to Lee Swindall, the WEDC’s vice president of sector strategy development. The labs give students hands-on computer training and analytical skills to help prepare them to enter the state’s expanding industries.

“We have a pretty significant basket of economic development aids that go to manufacturing,” Swindall said.

The manufacturing sector in Wisconsin represents a fifth of the state’s domestic product, and overall industrial expansion reached the $2.2 billion mark over the past two years, he said. The sector was hard hit during the recession in 2008 but has been one of the fastest to recover, according to Swindall.

“I expect that trend to accelerate for the next 18 to 24 months,” he said.

The WEDC official emphasized that the entire state is tightly bound to the fate of the manufacturing economy. It constitutes one-fifth to one-fourth of the economic output in at least 68 of the state’s 72 counties, according to Swindall.

“Manufacturing is part of the DNA of this state, along with agriculture,” he said. And according to WEDC figures, the manufacturing industry employs 468,000 people in Wisconsin, with an average annual income of $55,000.

Ethan Schuh, spokesman for the Department of Workforce Development, said in an email to that grants funding youth apprenticeship programs have also helped to keep the Wisconsin economy humming.

“Wisconsin has invested heavily in apprenticeship programs for both youth and adults,” Schuh said. “In particular, Wisconsin invested $3.2 million in youth apprenticeship grants last year to provide high school juniors and seniors with access to innovative school-to-work solutions that effectively prepare them to enter the workforce.”

That’s in addition to a program initiated by Walker called Wisconsin Fast Forward, which funds worker-training projects and helps to create partnerships among employers, economic development groups and those in the workforce.

Still, the state’s manufacturing sector faces some challenges in the years ahead. Some manufacturers that export their products to other nations are concerned with proposed changes in the North American Free Trade Agreement and the strong dollar, which tends to dampen exports, Bauer said.

And with an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent, employers can have difficulty finding qualified workers to fill highly skilled positions.

“Our birth rates haven’t been at replacement levels since the late 1990s,” he said, so the state continues to need in-migration.

“Our transformation from an anti- to a pro-business state has been remarkable, but it is still incomplete,” Bauer said, adding that some remnants of the state’s past progressivism still linger.


Wisconsin in focus: Assembly GOP plan steers state toward flat income tax

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 06:34

Wisconsin State Journal: Assembly GOP plan steers state toward flat income tax

State Assembly Republicans have unveiled a sprawling plan to revamp how fuel sales are taxed, provide a long-term funding infusion for roads and bridges and steer the state toward a flat income tax.

Broad outlines of the plan emerged earlier this week, but new details emerged Thursday. The plan includes major tax cuts for top earners, a new fee on hybrid and electric vehicles and elimination of tax credits aimed at homeowners.

It also would cut the existing per-gallon fuel tax while applying the 5 percent state sales tax to fuel purchases.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan wins near party-line vote on health care

Getting his own party to agree on a conservative health care overhaul turned out to be a massive lift for House Speaker Paul Ryan, but he finally got it done Thursday, with hardly any votes to spare.

“A lot of us have been waiting seven years to cast this vote. Many of us are here because we pledged to cast this very vote,” Ryan said from the House floor, referring to the GOP’s repeated vows to repeal Obamacare.

Republican colleagues cheered the speaker, but Democrats jeered when he called the bill’s passage a “deliberative, bottom-up, organic process.”

“They didn’t have one hearing on it, didn’t make text available until late last night,” said Wisconsin Democrat Ron Kind. “They don’t want the American people to know what’s in it. It’s a huge tax cut bill for the most wealthy, paid for by kicking 24 million people off of their health insurance.”

WTMJ 4: Wisconsin butter ban faces constitutional test

The battle over your right to buy butter is heading to federal court after Wisconsin forced a second dairy company off store shelves.

Minerva Dairy of Ohio filed suit in April after the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection began enforcing an obscure law from 1953.

That law says all butter sold in Wisconsin must be approved through a state-mandated taste test and issued a grade.

Executives at Minerva Dairy argue that process is unconstitutional.

WKOW 27: Wisconsin GOP introduces campus heckler bill


The Wisconsin GOP has introduced a bill aimed at punishing those disrupting speeches on UW and tech college campuses. This followed several instances of conservative speakers being interrupted or having their speeches canceled by the universities citing safety concerns for those speakers.

Dissent and protest have been a part of American culture since the beginning. It’s expression protected under the first amendment. But if that expression incites violence or prevents another’s freedom of expression you end up with a legal conundrum.

“No one has the right to prevent another person from speaking,” said Cheryl Gill, a partner at Johns, Flaherty & Collins Law Firm. “I mean, that’s the essence of free speech.”

Study: Income tax rate has major impact on pro sports teams win-loss record

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 07:23

Upset that your favorite basketball or hockey team is watching the playoffs from their sofas? A UIC professor says a state’s tax burden shares some of the blame.

University of Illinois at Chicago professor Erik Hembre has released a working draft that shows a professional team in a state with high income taxes could win up to four fewer games in an 82 game season compared to a team in a state without income taxes. This is because the better players are more likely to gravitate toward states that allow them to keep more of their money.

Hembre found that, since the mid-1990s, a 10 percentage point increase in income taxes means anywhere from a 1.9 to 3.0 percentage decrease in winning percentage. That formula also takes into consideration other factors such as the weather in Miami being warmer than Minneapolis in January.

The logic behind this, Hembre said, is that players in free agency are being offered deals from states with no income tax that are, all other factors aside, more competitive than other teams because a player would be able to keep more of their salary.

“There’s been this negative correlation between income taxes and winning percentage in both the NBA and the NFL every single year for the past 20 years,” Hembre said. “It’s not saying that income taxes are the only factor. It’s saying that income taxes are a factor, just like the weather. Every single year for the past 20, there’s been this negative correlation, and it’s been growing in the NBA.”

He said the results are more pronounced in sports such basketball, football and hockey because they have salary caps that give free-agent signings more impact.

But agent Michael Naiditch, founder of Chicago-based N.E.T. Sports, thinks players don’t care about their tax burden as much as they should.

“Basketball players often live pretty well, and I think they care more about lifestyle than they do about savings,” Naiditch said.

Decisions on where sports’ free agents decide to sign also is more complicated than money. Factors like weather, family and winning championships all cloud the data, Naiditch said.

A professional athlete also has to file taxes with states other than their place of residence. Some states have what is commonly known as the “jock tax,” which taxes an annual percentage of a player’s total income based on the days they performed in each specific state.

According to 2016 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hundreds more professional athletes live in Florida than any other state because of it not having an income tax.

Wisconsin in focus: Gov. Scott Walker cautious on flat tax

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 07:19

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Gov. Walker mum on Wisconsin GOP lawmakers roads plan, cautious on flat tax

Gov. Scott Walker signaled skepticism Wednesday of any quick approval of a proposed flat income tax even as he repeatedly held off on commenting on most parts of a larger tax and transportation plan from Assembly Republicans.

In an interview, Walker said he’s waiting to see the full details Thursday on the sweeping GOP proposal to raise taxes on gasoline while slicing those on income. But when pressed, the governor hinted he may not be ready to embrace two of the plan’s key elements: cutting the state’s required price markup on gasoline; and putting the state on a path to a flat income tax.

“A flat tax is interesting to me. It’s intriguing to me. It may be something we talk about in the future. I like the simplicity of it. But right now what we tried to do in this budget (is) build a stronger work force,” Walker said in his Capitol office.

Wisconsin State Journal: GOP bills target ‘dark stores’ big-box tax strategy

Republican state lawmakers have unveiled a pair of bills they say would prevent owners of big-box retail stores from lowering their property tax bills while shifting local tax burdens to small businesses and homeowners.

Rep. Rob Brooks, R-Saukville, and Sens. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, and Roger Roth, R-Appleton, announced the legislation at a Capitol news conference Wednesday. At least one Democrat, Oshkosh Rep. Gordon Hintz, also supports the measures.

Opponents of the bills fault “activist assessors” for creating the problems the bills are meant to address: the so-called “dark store” strategy.

Green Bay Press-Gazette: Dollar stores grow as other retailers shrink

The retail-store funeral procession keeps growing.

J.C. Penney, Macy’s, Sears, Kmart, Payless ShoeSource, Abercrombie & Fitch, Gander Mountain, hhgregg and more – all have joined the lengthening line of merchants closing brick-and-mortar stores.

But there’s one type of retailer for whom the bell isn’t tolling: Dollar stores – those downscale outlets filled with everything from underwear and laundry detergent to frozen pizza – are thriving.

And Wisconsin appears to be targeted for accelerating growth.

WISN ABC 2: Mayfair Mall claims city is overcharging for property taxes

Mayfair Mall is at war with the city of Wauwatosa over property taxes, but in this case, if Mayfair wins this fight, taxpayers will be on the hook for millions.

When it was built back in 1958, Mayfair Mall was one of the country’s first shopping malls.

This week, Mayfair is in court arguing Wauwatosa is charging the state’s largest mall more than its fair share in property taxes.

Haupt: How overtaxation can kill an economy

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 09:48

“I hate big government, but I really hate a government that doesn’t work. So when they say we either have to raise taxes or cut core services, it’s actually a false choice.”

– Scott Walker

During the late 1970s and continuing for a decade, America experienced unprecedented prosperity.

President Ronald Reagan created wealth and jobs, and everyone prospered. Under his leadership, Americans changed the incentive structure on all taxes, inflation, and regulation. This enabled our economy to roar back to life after the anti-growth, high-inflation Carter years that devastated the US. But as usual, few political leaders profit from the sins of the past. And in the past eight years, America has moved away from protecting capitalism, which has decimated growth and prosperity. This is why blue color America rebelled and elected a president with a stellar record of free market success. He campaigned in blue and red states to give everyone the same opportunity to be prosperous like him.

“Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.”

– Ronald Reagan

The policies of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi caused America to lose its status as the world’s growth and job-creation machine. Their economic mismanagement of our nation was an unmitigated disaster. Economists warned them if they did not curtail expanding government, we’d go belly up.

This gang of four’s policies not only failed to articulate a recovery; they set us back to the nightmare created by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The activist Federal Reserve and Obama’s fiscal stimulus policies ravaged social and economic progress. Their systemic solution to try and revive a failing economy was to raise taxes and redistribute wealth. This was only a straw man to cover up their plans to facilitate their brand of progressive social engineering.

“Those who believe that what our people desire is big government are living in a state of delusion.”

– Marco Rubio

Before our wise founders set forth to create a free market nation of free men, they were congruent in philosophy on one key principle: History demonstrated that the larger a government is, the more expensive it is to run. Since they wanted to give us a republic, they looked to Rome as an example of what “not to do.”

The cataclysm of the Roman Empire was a result of the greatest tax burden in history for the average citizen. The 3rd century taxation was so desolating that many citizens were driven to starvation and bankruptcy. Rome was so desperate for money they chased after widows and children to collect taxes owed by their deceased. By the 4th century, the Roman economy was dolorous. Many farmers vacated their land and moved into the cities to receive public amenities. By then, Rome was spending most of its taxes on military and public entitlements and people wanted more.

“What people want is big government that they don’t have to pay for.”

– Timothy Noah

Greece mimicked the Romans in 2008 as their economy wilted quicker than a lily in summer. Most of Europe entered the global recession, but Greece bottomed out. Unemployment reached 28 percent in 2013, which was worse than the U.S. during the Great Depression. Government spending was 50 percent of Greece’s economic output by 2013. Greece’s score from The Economic Freedom of the World Index was the lowest in all of Europe’s free nations.

During the heart of this tumultuous fiscal crisis, Greece soon tried to atone for this profligacy by implementing a fiscal “austerity” program to reduce government’s size and cut back onerous levels of entitlements. But the people revolted and Greek leaders cried uncle!

“Big government doesn’t help the middle class, it buries it.”

– Rubio

Like so many countries before, Greece suffered a crisis caused by too much government and the politicians decided the solution was to “drum roll” its size and scope. It is a sobering reality. The tax burden was so oppressive people didn’t want to inherit property. Throughout the land people were lining up renouncing their inheritance. They’d rather give it away than pay the taxes.

When this tax revenue dwindled to a trickle, Greek politicians squeezed even more from the taxpayers. They had drones on social media to see if people had lifestyles more extravagant than income they reported to tax police. Greek officials foolishly thought the more they raised taxes and printed money to pay their bills, the sooner the economy would improve.

“To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

– Thomas Jefferson

The economic decline of any civilization is caused by political elites who give away the farm and milk the cows dry every time someone demands something. By permitting voters to dictate social policy, they must increase public debt and debase the currency. This results in obloquious taxation and insidious restrictive laws. The people sell their liberty like Judas sold his soul for “30 pieces of silver.”

To support the waterloo of giving government unrestricted power, they put the propaganda machine into high gear to ensure everyone that this is for their good. Deluded by patriotic fervor, voters are too simple-minded to notice they’re being plundered by the state. Whether it’s direct or indirect taxation by printing money like Obama and Carter did, the result is the same. Tactics to support wealth redistribution have been used for centuries to market political agendas at the expense of all taxpayers.

“Unrestricted government power always leads to lost liberty and freedom.”

– Nick Davis

The economic blunders in Greece and Rome will be replicated worldwide for centuries. People cannot comprehend that government does not have any money except what they steal from them. And “He who giveith takeit away”! We have felt the sting of these past failures already.

There are many blue states on a bad trajectory, such as California and Illinois. If there’s any hope for the politicians in Sacramento and Springfield to right the ship, they best do it now. If they beg the feds for money. D.C. must tell them no! This is your faux pas for bankrupting your state houses. Ludicrous, unfunded pensions and obscene benefits for blue state employees are a ticking time bomb. D.C. must school them. There are no more gifts of bailouts from ol’ Uncle Sam.

“A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.”

– G. Gordon Liddy

Plato saw the writing on the wall in 400 BC: “Democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder.” Politicians will continue to misappropriate funds when taxpayers foot the bill. Perhaps in 1,000 years, historians will be writing the same thing about us. It’s not far-fetched if we don’t remember our history.

Rome was not built in a day and it did not fall in one. It was a transition from the frugal governing by Julius Caesar to when Odoacer deposed the Emperor Romulus into exile. They were unable to defend themselves and were easily conquered.

“The Roman Empire was much like us. They lost their moral core, their sense of values of who they were.”

– Ben Carson

We must transform our tax policy into an engine of growth and innovation and apply “tough love” to cut back on social engineering and entitlements before we meet the fate of Rome and Greece. We have no more money to buy votes.

Government’s “We have what it takes to take what you have” attitude, “grab our money and run with it,” must be changed. We must maintain capitalism and free markets in order to field our strength as a world leader, to protect our liberty and freedom. Anyone can increase taxes and balance the budget, but it takes guts to tell people the free ride is over.

D.C. must learn how to say “no!” If we fail to do this now, big government will be our Waterloo. Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “In 1790, the nation which had fought a revolution against taxation without representation discovered that some of its citizens weren’t much happier about taxation with representation.”

Wisconsin in focus: GOP plan would hike taxes on gas, slash income taxes and borrowing

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 07:48

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: GOP plan would hike Wisconsin taxes on gas, slash income taxes and borrowing

Wisconsin would hike taxes on gasoline and slash income taxes and borrowing for roads, under a proposal being discussed privately by top Assembly Republicans.

The sweeping plan by Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) is expected to be presented to rank-and-file GOP lawmakers in the Assembly as soon as Thursday and then to the public.

Several sources who have had parts of the plan shared with them cautioned that its details have been changing and could shift again. But the plan takes on a pair of ambitious goals over the coming years: filling a long-term shortfall in the state roads fund while remaking the state’s income taxes in a more conservative mold.

Wisconsin State Journal: Madison School Board OKs big change in employee health insurance options

Employees of the Madison School District will have one fewer health insurance provider to choose from, requiring just over 1,000 employees to find a new primary care doctor.

But the estimated $3 million the district will save from dropping Unity, its highest-cost provider, will help bankroll increased compensation for the district’s roughly 4,000 employees, while covering any additional premium costs the new state budget may require them to pay.

The changes, which Superintendent Jen Cheatham recommended last month in her budget proposal for next school year, were approved in a special board meeting Monday and will take effect July 1. Members will vote on the full budget June 26.

The Capitol Times: Bill loosening regulations of high-capacity wells headed to governor’s desk

Changes for high-capacity wells in Wisconsin are headed to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk.

The state Assembly approved a plan Tuesday night that would loosen regulations on how high-capacity wells could be repaired, reconstructed or transferred to a new owner. It was the last legislative vote in a years-long battle over the proposed changes.

The bill, which carried over from the Senate, was one of the Assembly’s last orders of business Tuesday after a seven-hour session. It passed along party lines, 62-35, with one member abstaining. The Senate passed the bill last month.

LaCrosse Tribune: Wisconsin legislature passes bill targeting opiods

Wisconsin lawmakers passed a package of bills Tuesday designed to combat opioid abuse, which has reached epidemic proportions and causes more overdose deaths than there are traffic deaths in the state.

The nine proposals approved nearly unanimously by the Senate were expected to be quickly signed by Gov. Scott Walker, who called lawmakers into a special session to take up the bills and draw attention to opioid abuse. Walker thanked lawmakers in a tweet and said he looked forward to signing the bills. The Assembly passed two more opioid-related proposals Tuesday evening as well.


Wisconsin in focus: All but 2 farmers affected by milk dustup have newbuyers

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 09:04

Wisconsin State Journal: All but 2 farmers affected by milk dustup have new buyers

WATERLOO — Life is back to normal for Waterloo dairy farmers Shane and Jennifer Sauer following an April they’d rather soon forget.

On Monday, milk produced by the Sauers’ 120 cows began shipping to the couple’s new processor, Rolling Hills Dairy Producers Cooperative in Monroe, which informed the couple five days ago it would take their milk under a long-term arrangement.

“Getting that call (from Rolling Hills) was the closest thing to our best day ever,” Jennifer Sauer said Monday from her Waterloo farm, which hosted media from around Wisconsin and Canada as well as state dairy industry representatives to discuss the dairy crisis the state has faced the past month. “It was a huge relief.”

The Sauers were among 67 dairy farmers informed in early April by Greenwood-based milk processor Grassland Dairy Products Inc. that it would stop taking their milk after April 30 because it had lost its Canadian customers for ultra-filtered milk, a high-protein ingredient used in cheese production.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Senate to vote on bills targeting heroin, regulations

MADISON – The state would clamp down on Wisconsin’s opiate problem by expanding treatment, hiring special agents and establishing a charter school for addicted teens, under legislation that the state Senate is set to approve Tuesday.

Passage in the Senate would send the bills to Gov. Scott Walker, who called for them earlier this year and is expected to approve them. Senators are also scheduled to take up bills to make cheese the official state dairy produce, loosen rules for water skiing, and make it a longer and more complex process for state agencies to approve new regulations.

The measures focusing on heroin and opioid addiction enjoy bipartisan support but sparked passionate debate in the Assembly last month over whether they do enough to reduce the hundreds of overdose deaths each year in Wisconsin from the problem. Proposal would eliminate Wisconsin license for hair stylists

In the state of Wisconsin, cosmetologists and barbers are required to be licensed to practice, however, one group is hoping to change that with a new bill.

Mike Nichols, President of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute said Wisconsin is overly burdensome by regulating professions that shouldn’t need it, like cosmetologists and barbers.

“We have a lot of folks who have not had the opportunity and have not had jobs and have not been able to create businesses,” Nichols said. “Government has been an impediment to that with regulations they impose on a wide variety of professions.”

Post-Crescent: Fox Crossing homeowner shaken by freeway expansion

FOX CROSSING – Homeowner Sara Huolihan feels helpless when her house shakes and her windows rattle.

It’s as if she were caught in a recurring earthquake, she said.

The vibrations caused by the reconstruction and widening of the Tri-County Freeway — a seven-year, $482 million project that’s within a stone’s throw of her property at 1351 Racine Road — have cracked her wall and counter top, she said, and have disrupted her life.

REINS Act headed to Wisconsin Assembly for a vote

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 16:01

Wisconsin is one step closer to reining in regulatory rules and putting the power back into the hands of the people they elected to make the decisions.

On April 26, the Committee on Government Operations, Technology, and Consumer Protection recommended the passage of the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act. The act, which was approved in a 3-to-2 vote, aims to rein in the rule-making authority of regulatory agencies. Now, it will be scheduled for a vote by the Assembly.

“Wisconsin will have an opportunity to provide citizens with more transparency and greater input in the development and implementation of regulations in Wisconsin,” Eric Bott, state director at Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin, told

Earlier this year, Rep. Adam Neylon, R-Pewaukee, and Sen. Devin Lemahieu, R-Oostburg, reintroduced the bill, which would require state agencies to get legislative approval for any regulation with an economic impact of more than $10 million. Additionally, it would empower officials to conduct independent economic analyses of a new rule’s costs instead of solely relying on agency estimates. The legislature also would determine the regulatory agency’s ability to create the rule.

“This proposal is not only necessary, but critical to improving the administrative rule-making process. It will bring additional legislative oversight into that process and provide more opportunity for the public to comment on the rules that will impact taxpayers and business owners alike,” Neylon said.

Currently for a regulation to take effect, an agency drafts a rule and submits it the governor for approval. The final draft is reviewed by one standing committee in each legislature and by the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative rules. The state House and Senate must pass a bill objecting to the regulation and then have the governor sign it to block the rule.

“The bill reforms the administrative rule-making process, helps prevent over-regulation on businesses, and provides more transparency to the public on the regulatory process,” Bott said. “It puts the power back in the hands of the people by allowing the people who were elected to office to get back control.”

Neylon said this act will be a relief for businesses.

“REINS will require state agency fiscal estimates to include the cost of compliance on their projections,” he said. “It will freeze costly new rules by requiring the Wisconsin legislature to approve spending over $10M within the first two years. This will greatly ease the burden on industries that have to pay huge sums of money to comply with regulatory changes that are often part of a political agenda. Agencies should be administering the law, not creating new ones.”

Supporters of the act in Wisconsin and nationwide have said the bill will provide more accountability and transparency prior to the implementation of any major regulations. Opponents have said the bill will obstruct the most basic of protections because it will require the House and Senate to approve all new regulations.

In 2016, a similar bill passed the assembly, but stalled in the Senate due to opposition from environmental groups and the Wisconsin branch of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

Bill Smith, director of the Wisconsin NFIB, told that he opposed last year’s bill, but testified in favor of the current bill.

“We objected to the bill last year because it would have sent regulations that impacted small businesses to the Office of Business Development before the state Small Business Regulatory Review Board. We have the review board, we did not need review by the business development office, too,” Smith said.

Amendments were made to last year’s bill, specifically it left the regulatory review to the board, which consists of a group of appointed volunteer small business owners who examine and comment on rules and regulations that impact small businesses. With the changes, Smith said the NFIB felt comfortable supporting it.

“We support having our elected officials play the defining role in the regulatory process,” Smith said. “It will be interesting to see what happens. I don’t know if it will pass, but I think it has a better chance than it did the last session.”

A version of the REINS bill also is making it’s way through Congress. In January, the act passed the U.S. House, but has not gone before the Senate for a vote.

If passed at the federal level and it becomes law, the REINS Act would require that the House and the Senate vote to approve any new agency regulation whose estimated cost exceeds $100 million. If Congress fails to approve a new rule within 70 days of its publication, the regulation dies.


Wisconsin in focus: Wisconsin Trump voters give him A+ to C

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 08:53

Green Bay Press-Gazette: Wisconsin Trump voters give him A+ to C-

As Trump’s presidency approached Saturday’s 100-day mark, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin reporters sat down with his supporters across America’s Dairyland. Reporters spoke in depth with 17 voters who backed Trump in November to get their opinions of his performance. We asked them how Trump was doing, and to assign him a letter grade.

They gave him mostly solid grades and insisted the real-estate mogul will deliver on many of his promises from his anti-establishment, “drain the swamp” presidential campaign.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Property values climb in city of Milwaukee

Property values in Milwaukee have increased about 4.5% citywide.

The new figures for 2017 include assessed values of residential properties in the city, which have increased approximately 3%, and apartments, which have jumped nearly 10%.

The increases mean the average home value in the City of Milwaukee is $103,000, up from $100,000 in 2016, an official said. That figure includes single-family homes, as well as two- and three-family homes.

Post-Crescent: Marijuana legalization faces uphill battle

While state legislators recently allowed the use of a marijuana extract for specific medical purposes, don’t expect marijuana legalization to expand anytime soon.

State Rep. Amanda Stuck told an audience in Appleton on Thursday that Wisconsin is a long way from allowing recreational or widespread medical use of marijuana.

“While (the CBD oil bill) wasn’t everything we wanted, it was a step in the right direction,” Stuck said. “…Frankly, I don’t think we are very close to having fully legalized medical marijuana.”

Wisconsin State Journal: State Assembly to vote next week on controversial high-capacity wells bill

Republicans who control the state Assembly have set a Tuesday vote for a controversial bill to dial back oversight of high-capacity wells, even as Democrats and environmental groups continued to say the bill is being rushed to the desk of Gov. Scott Walker.

It’s at least the second time in recent weeks that critics assailed supporters of the bill as moving forward too speedily and without sufficient public input. The full Senate passed the bill earlier this month after one of its committees approved it by paper ballot.

“All signs point to this bill is being rushed and not thoroughly vetted,” said Amber Meyer Smith, a spokeswoman for Clean Wisconsin, an environmental group that opposes the measure.

LaCrosse Tribune: GOP legislation would require UW campuses to discipline students who disrupt speech

Republican lawmakers would require University of Wisconsin System institutions to discipline and potentially expel students who disrupt speeches on campus, and mandate that UW stay neutral on political controversies.

Prompted, its sponsors say, by battles over free speech at UW-Madison and universities across the country, the bill makes Wisconsin the latest state in which lawmakers have sought to ensure controversial ideas are presented on college campuses by limiting the sometimes disruptive tactics of their opponents.

“We are making a pretty clear statement here that free expression should not be inhibited and will not be inhibited,” said Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, the bill’s lead author.


Florida in focus: Plastic war: Coral Gables set to ban the bag

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 08:50

Miami Herald: Plastic war: Coral Gables set to ban the bag

David Lewis remembers what it was like a few years ago immediately after the city of San Jose, California, passed a law prohibiting supermarkets and other stores from giving shoppers plastic bags for their purchases. Some vocal residents argued that getting a plastic bag at the grocery store was their god-given right. Some even threatened to vote out local officials who supported the ban.

“What we found was there were a few loud people who were very anxious about this change,” said Lewis, executive director of the environmental group Save the Bay. “But we really found no significant problem among consumers in adjusting.”

Lewis said that within about a week, most San Jose residents were bringing reusable bags when they shopped.

Tallahassee Democrat: Gambling deal closer, including dog racing, but larger problems remain

Lawmakers are closer to a gambling deal that could expand gambling in Florida and toss a requirement that sites offer dog racing or other live events if they want to feature card games.

But the fixes being debated by House and Senate leaders leave Florida’s gambling environment fundamentally broken, some industry leaders say.

The House, which has fought expansion of gambling, offered to allow voters to approve eliminating the requirement that track owners provide dog or horse racing if they want to offer card games like poker.

Tampa Bay Times: Bill proposes to cloud Sunshine Law by letting elected officials meet privately

The Florida Constitution and the state’s famed Sunshine Law give residents the right to observe meetings held by their elected officials.

But a bill going to the state House floor today would render significant aspects of that constitutional guarantee meaningless by allowing local elected officials — from city and county commissioners to school board members — to meet behind closed doors and discuss public matters in secret.

The proposed law (HB 843) from Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, would exempt from open meetings requirements any gatherings between two members of a local, county or state agency board or commission. Those officials wouldn’t have to give any notice about their meeting and they wouldn’t have to keep any records of what they discuss. The exemption would apply to boards or commissions with at least five members.

Orlando Sentinel: Florida teacher accused of calling students ‘murderers’ for raising livestock

An Ocala science teacher stands to lose his job after school officials said he harassed and called Future Farmers of America students “murderers” for raising livestock to be sold for slaughter.

Middle school teacher Thomas Roger Allison Jr., 53, has been placed on unpaid leave from Horizon Academy at Marion Oaks near Ocala, according to a Marion County school district letter documenting the case.

In a written recommendation for termination, Superintendent of Schools Heidi Maier said Allison “has engaged in a repeated, egregious pattern of mistreating, ridiculing, insulting, intimidating, embarrassing bullying and abusing FFA students, crushing their dreams and causing them to feel that they must discontinue FFA activities to enjoy a peaceful school environment.”

The Gainesville Sun: Florida governor: Actions are legal in fight with prosecutor

A prosecutor is wrong in arguing that Florida’s governor violated the state constitution when he took away almost two dozen cases from her office after she announced she’d no longer seek the death penalty, Gov. Rick Scott and Florida’s Attorney General argued in court documents filed Thursday.

Florida’s governors have had the authority to transfer cases for 112 years, even after Florida’s prosecutors went from being appointed to being elected by voters, according to a motion filed with the Florida Supreme Court by Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi.


New regulations could mean longer waits for medicine

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 09:02

By Ben Yount –

Legislation filed at the Illinois Capitol could have consumers waiting hours or longer for their prescriptions.

The idea is simple: make sure pharmacists aren’t overworked and that they have time to talk with patients.

The proposed fix isn’t as simple. Rob Karr, head of the Illinois Retail Merchants’ Association, said some lawmakers are pushing a plan backed by the Teamster’s union to limit pharmacists to filling no more than 10 prescriptions per hour. The legislation also mandates pharmacists take an hour-long break each eight-hour shift.

Karr says a 10-script limit might leave patients waiting or without their medicine.

“Let’s assume a pharmacist is on prescription nine, and a mother with two prescriptions comes in, does she have to wait until the next hour?” Karr asked. “What if a cancer patient, who can easily have 10 prescriptions by themselves, walks in and gets them filled. Does that constitute the bulk of the pharmacists’ duties for the next 45 minutes?”

There also are concerns about small town and inner city pharmacies that only have one pharmacist on staff.

Karr says the proposal is an attempt by the Teamsters to get from the legislature what they cannot get on their own.

The Teamsters represent a small number of pharmacists in the Chicago area.

“They’ve been unable to win these things at the bargaining table, so they are turning to the Assembly,” Karr said.

Garth Reynolds, executive director of the Illinois Pharmacists Association and a practicing pharmacist, said his organization opposes the bill.

“We’re against the bill as it’s currently written,” Reynolds said. “That’s an unreasonable ask not only for pharmacy but for the public in general.”

Someone being released from a hospital might need as many as 12 or more prescriptions, Reynolds noted. What’s a pharmacist to do in that situation?

Reynolds said his association is lobbying lawmakers to vote against the measure.

The bill remains stuck in the House Rules Committee.


Florida in focus: ‘Unprecedented openness’ slams shut as House, Senate leaders force secret budget deal

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 08:54

Miami Herald: ‘Unprecedented openness’ slams shut as House, Senate leaders force secret budget deal

After promising unprecedented openness, House Speaker Richard Corcoran has spent long days and nights negotiating an elaborate budget deal in secret with Senate counterpart Joe Negron, keeping most other lawmakers and the public in the dark.

Like attorneys privately resolving a court case, the two lawyers are cutting deals on tax policy, public school spending, charter school expansion, major environmental projects and levels of local pork-barrel spending. They are also negotiating state worker pay raises, new pension and healthcare plans, changes to statewide tourism and job-incentive programs, and other issues — even a need-based college scholarship program for the children of farmworkers, a Senate priority.

Sun Sentinel: Most Broward teachers to get raises of 4 percent or higher

Broward teachers can expect to receive between 3 and 5 percent salary boosts, with the most experienced instructors slated to take home an extra $2,000 per year.

Pay would be retroactive for the 2016 to 2017 school year if the School Board and teachers approve the deal.

About 75 percent of teachers would see 4 percent raises or higher, said Superintendent Robert Runcie.

Florida Times-Union: Big donors, political pros on witness list for Day 2 of former U.S. Rep. Brown’s trial

Prosecutors plan to present testimony from a lineup of well-known political donors Thursday for the second day of former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown’s federal fraud trial.

Michael Ward, the retiring CEO of CSX, is scheduled to answer questions, as are Husein Cumber, an executive with Florida East Coast Industries and member of JEA’s board of directors and Susie Wiles, a veteran political consultant who ran Donald Trump’s Florida presidential campaign.

Gasper Lazzara, an orthodontist and donor to civic causes, is also scheduled to talk about his support for One Door for Education, the self-described scholarship fund bogus that prosecutors said collected $800,000 but awarded just $1,200 in scholarships.

Tampa Bay Times: As Spring Hill turns 50, longtime residents contemplate its future

Greg Kirkland looked down his street near Kass Circle — the original commercial core of Spring Hill — and considered the future of his now 50-year-old community.

Most of Spring Hill lacks sidewalks, he pointed out, and Kass is dominated by down-market enterprises, including a thrift store and a used furniture outlet. The houses in Spring Hill are too spread out to support any real community hub, he added, and are mostly occupied by financially strapped residents.

Kirkland, 52, a flooring contractor who has lived in Spring Hill on and off for 15 years, said only partly in jest that it may be time to start over from scratch.

Palm Beach Post: Why Realtors hate Trump’s proposal to double the standard deduction

President Donald Trump on Wednesday revealed more details about his proposed tax cuts, and one provision in particular — the near-doubling of the standard deduction for married couples from $12,700 to $24,000 — has the nation’s largest lobbying group nearly apoplectic.

The National Association of Realtors had yet to respond to Trump’s proposal announced Wednesday afternoon, but a letter last month from NAR President William Brown to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dropped the verbs “devastating,” “debilitating” and “cripple.”

Wisconsin in focus: Bill would let victims, witnesses block body camera releases

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 08:52

Wisconsin State Journal: Bill Would let victims, witnesses block body camera releases

State Republican legislators are circulating a bill that would seal off huge chunks of police body camera video from the public, saying they want to protect the privacy of people shown in the footage.

Rep. Jesse Kremer and Sen. Patrick Testin’s bill would exempt footage of everything recorded in public except for injuries, deaths, arrests and searches from the state’s open records law. Video of officer-involved shootings that take place in public would still be accessible.

But if footage were taken in a place where someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a home, police would need permission from victims, witnesses and property owners before the video could be released to the public.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Convict hired to work with mentally disabled over experienced candidates

A state center for the mentally disabled had more than a dozen experienced candidates to choose from, but passed over them to hire a supervisor who has been investigated for four serious offenses and convicted of two over the past 11 years, records show.

The state had 12 applicants who had done work supervising staff at the Southern Wisconsin Center in Union Grove or at nearby state prisons and also had private-sector candidates such as a veteran, according to documents released to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel under the state’s open records law.

Post-Crescent: Ex-Iron Work employees get TAA assistance

The U.S. Department of Labor certified a Trade Adjustment Assistance petition from former Brillion Iron Works employees on Wednesday.

The certification means the ex-employees will be eligible for additional re-employment benefits, such as job training, income support and job search assistance, paid for by federal funds, which are administrated by states. The program aids workers whose jobs are lost due to foreign trade.

Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin lobbied on behalf of the employees who filed the petition on Oct. 5, weeks after Metaldyne Performance Group, of Southfield, Michigan, announced the foundry would close by the end of 2016.

Green Bay Press-Gazette: Stadium board boosts Shipyard, arena projects

The Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District pledged $1.5 million to kick off two major metro development projects.

The board on Wednesday pledged $1 million for replacement of the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena and Shopko Hall in Ashwaubenon and $500,000 for The Shipyard on Broadway in Green Bay.

“This puts us on a fast track … actually taking a concrete step forward helps us get all that support,” Green Bay Economic Development Director Kevin Vonck said of Green Bay’s $500,000 grant.


Wisconsin in focus: U.S.-Canada trade battle heats up

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 08:56

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: U.S. slaps Canada with tariffs on lumber

A week after President Donald Trump called Canada a “disgrace” for policies that hurt Wisconsin dairy farmers, he’s slapping tariffs on Canadian lumber.

“It has been a bad week for US-Canada trade relations,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Tuesday.

The tariffs, of up to 24%, are aimed at Canadian exports of softwood lumber into the United States – material that’s used in the building industry.

The National Association of Home Builders, based in Washington, D.C., said the tariffs could drive up the cost of new homes.

Wisconsin State Journal: State offers dairy farmers, processors financial lifeline amid crisis

State officials are offering financial help to Wisconsin dairy farms in desperate need of customers and for processors already oversaturated with milk to absorb more.

Gov. Scott Walker, who on Tuesday also weighed in on the international trade tension at the root of the crisis, announced that the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority will temporarily loosen the rules on a revolving capital loan program for dairy farmers and milk processors.

It’s not a long-term solution, state officials say, but it provides another resource for Wisconsin’s dairy farms affected by Grassland Dairy Products Inc., of Greenwood, which informed 67 dairy farms earlier this month, most from Wisconsin and some from Minnesota, it no longer would accept their milk after May 1.

Green Bay Press-Gazette: Associated Bank looks for steady growth

Associated Bank CEO Philip Flynn expects another year of steady growth for Wisconsin’s largest bank.

Flynn told shareholders, directors and employees at the Green Bay-based bank’s annual meeting at the KI Convention Center that a solid economy, improving interest rate margins and low unemployment have helped the bank’s bottom line. He said he expects incremental growth in assets, loans, deposits and net income will continue in 2017 as it has since 2012.

LaCrosse Tribune: Midwest timber industry welcomes tariffs on Canadian lumber

The upper Midwest timber industry is welcoming the Trump administration’s announcement that it’s imposing tariffs averaging 20 percent on softwood lumber entering the United States from Canada.

The industry has been struggling in Minnesota and Wisconsin in recent years. The housing market crash in 2008 cut demand for softwood lumber products such as pine 2×4 studs and other kinds of boards used to build homes, which are among the products affected by the administration’s move. So industry groups in both states saw Monday’s announcement as good news for communities with sawmills, and for loggers who supply them.