Rep. Riemer: Time to focus on Wisconsin's priorities
Contact: Riemer, (608) 266-1733
State Representative Daniel Riemer (D – Milwaukee) released the following statement on today’s State Assembly floor agenda:
“When I talk with constituents in their homes and in the community, never has anyone told me they want more money in our elections. Instead, they talk about the need for family supporting jobs. I hear about the need for affordable health care so when people get sick, they can see a doctor or a nurse instead of facing daunting medical bills. They talk to me about how it can be a struggle to find affordable child care, and how they want the public school down the street to have the best teachers and be safe for their children. Not once has a constituent or a voter expressed a desire to expand unlimited corporate money in our politics.
“Republicans in the legislature focus solely on making sure corporations can donate unlimited amounts to campaigns, ensuring there is more undisclosed money spent on elections, and dismantling the agency tasked with making sure everyone is playing by the rules. I will stay focused on working hard for what the people of Wisconsin care about: jobs with good paying wages, strong public schools, and affordable health care for everyone in this state.”
This past spring, I attended separate listening sessions held by Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) and Rep. Ken Skowronski (R-Franklin). Both were asked if they intended to investigate the flagrant waste of taxpayers' money by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
They expressed concern and promised to pursue WEDC's problems. Talk is cheap. This agency, created by Gov. Scott Walker in 2012, has been under fire for failing to follow state or federal laws and its own policies in the handling of loans to businesses promising to generate jobs. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's investigative reporting has and continues to inform its readers of WEDC's giving unvetted, unreviewed and uncollectable loans of $8.6 million as of July 23 ("Another WEDC loan goes sour").
No wonder Rep. David Craig (R-Big Bend) and Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) want to do away with the 50-year old Legislative Audit Bureau (the nonpartisan watchdog that audits state agency books). Craig and Jarchow want to disband the Joint Audit Committee and give the auditing powers to committee chairs in the state Assembly and state Senate who may or may not choose to investigate fiscal wrongdoing.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Lazich could then appoint an inspector general in each large state agency for a six-year term. What is to prevent partisan appointees from overlooking further unvetted loans?
Currently WEDC's questionable lending practices can't be pursued by Wisconsin Department of Justice attorneys, so taxpayers are on the hook for the bad loans and private attorneys' fees to seek repayment from businessmen and their companies that lacked the ability to pay back loans received.
What to do? Hold Walker accountable — the facts should require him to give taxpayers honest answers. Also, it is time the U.S. Department of Justice assign forensic accountants to investigate WEDC and all who have participated in this debacle.
Carpenter wants arena ticket surcharge, removal of luxury box tax exemption
The BMO Harris Bradley Center already has a ticket surcharge and luxury box holders can afford to pay sales taxes, Carpenter said. Both would provide revenue streams to help pay for a new arena.
“I’ve long said both a ticket surcharge and making luxury boxes subject to the sales tax are essential to any deal to make sure that those who benefit from the area are the ones who support its construction,” Carpenter said in a news release.
The Legislature’s Joint Survey Committee on Tax Exemptions was scheduled to meet this morning to discuss Carpenter’s proposals, but the meeting was cancelled shortly before it was scheduled to begin.
Carpenter said the meeting cancellation is a sign that there is not enough support to pass the arena plan.
“I think it’s an indication of problems in River City,” Carpenter told BizTimes Milwaukee this morning. “I think (Republicans) tried to rush this too much. I think the Republican leadership has done a lousy job. They are screwing this thing up.”
However Zach Bemis, a spokesman for Sen. Devin LeMahieu, who is co-chair of the Joint Survey Committee on Tax Exemptions, said the meeting was only cancelled because of a scheduling conflict. Republicans were caucusing on the budget this morning. The Joint Survey Committee on Tax Exemptions meeting will be rescheduled, he said.
Carpenter could be a key vote for the arena deal. Republicans say they will need some Democratic votes to pass the arena deal and since the arena would be built in Milwaukee, Democrats from Milwaukee are getting extra attention.
Carpenter is a former Milwaukee Bucks season ticket holder. The NBA says a new arena is needed in Milwaukee to keep the Bucks here long term. The current and former owners of the Bucks have pledged to pay for half the cost of the proposed $500 million arena, plus any cost overruns and maintenance and operational costs of the building. The state Legislature is reviewing a public financing proposal for the other half of the project, which would provide funds for the arena from the state, city, county and Wisconsin Center District (which runs the downtown Milwaukee convention center, the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and the Milwaukee Theatre).
“I want the Bucks to stay,” Carpenter said. “I know the value of the Bucks.”
But Carpenter has been critical of the proposed arena deal. He said Republicans should hold public hearings in Milwaukee on the arena financing plan. Democrats have been shut out of negotiations on the arena deal and Carpenter said that Republicans have not reached out to him to get his support.
“They don’t include other people (in the negotiations), how can they expect to get their votes?” Carpenter said.
Republicans should start over on the arena deal by bringing all sides to the table and working to drive a harder bargain with business interests, Carpenter said.
“We have to go back to the negotiating stage and negotiate a little bit harder,” he said. “I don’t know why local businesses and the (Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce) are not coming up with $25 million (for the arena). I don’t understand why Marquette (University) isn’t contributing anything.”
The Joint Finance Committee met for more than five hours Monday in a public informational hearing to gather information about the arena deal. Milwaukee Bucks president Peter Feigin, MMAC president Tim Sheehy, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett all appeared before the committee.
During Monday’s hearing, state Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, raised concerns about the Wisconsin Center District’s part of the deal. The Wisconsin Center District would own the arena and provide $93 million, plus interest, which would be the largest public share of the project.
Taylor complained that the Wisconsin Center District was not involved with the arena deal negotiations and was not invited to Monday’s hearing.
“Governor (Scott) Walker and Republicans have dropped the ball on this arena deal from day one by not only excluding legislative Democrats from the negotiations, but the Wisconsin Center District as well,” Taylor said in a statement. “To leave a major partner out of negotiations, propose a bill that disbands their governing board and then stick them with a huge bill speaks volumes as to why this deal isn’t done yet. Arrogant mistakes like this have put this entire deal in jeopardy. It is so very critical that we craft a responsible deal that is fair for all interested parties.”
Representatives for state Senate Majority Leaders Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, could not immediately be reached for comment this morning.
Originally posted at http://www.biztimes.com/article/20150707/ENEWSLETTERS02/150709885
Thousands gather in Madison, Wis., for the latest Sanders rally
MADISON, Wis. — Bernie Sanders stood before 10,000 screaming fans in this liberal college town on Wednesday night and promised to fulfill all of their progressive dreams: paid vacation for all, generous maternity leave, tuition-free public colleges, a minimum wage of $15, no more big banks, less youth unemployment, dramatic prison reform and an end to economic inequality.
“Please, think big, not small,” Sanders said. “Our vision should be that in the wealthiest country in the history of the world there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.”
The crowd was the largest Sanders has seen since launching his long-shot presidential campaign in late May — and it far exceeded the expectations of some local Democrats who thought Sanders was aiming a bit high in booking an arena that could hold 10,000.
As Sanders spoke for more than an hour, his voice grew hoarse and at times he struggled to complete a sentence before the crowd cut him off with cheers or chants of “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” Any mention of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was met with loud boos. This was, after all, the “People’s Republic of Madison” — a progressive college town where it’s often easier to find a local craft beer than a Bud Light.
The Wednesday night rally was one in a series that Sanders has hosted in states that are not key to winning the Democratic nomination but are known for quickly generating crowds of thousands.
“In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of people here,” Sanders said as he took the stage.
Sanders has been climbing in early polls but is still far behind Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton. He also has yet to raise as much money as Clinton, whose campaign announced Wednesday that it has collected more than $45 million since April.
On the campaign trail, Clinton has mostly favored intimate gatherings away from the media, while Sanders has been trying to assemble the largest crowds that he can.
The cities he is picking — including previous stops in Denver and Minneapolis — are not located in key early primary states and often lack the racial diversity that is crucial for a Democrat to win the general election. But these cities are ripe with white progressives who are attracted to Sanders, a 73-year-old independent and self-described socialist with unruly white hair and a fiery disdain for anyone he believes is taking advantage of the underdog.
“He kind of has a base here already,” said Robert Hansen, 38, a Sanders supporter from the Milwaukee suburb of Greenfield. “He’s always pretty sure to draw a crowd if he can come here.”
Madison has consistently delivered for other Democrats. When President Obama was first running for president, he visited Madison twice and was greeted by thousands. When Obama ran for reelection in 2012 and stumbled in the first televised debate with Mitt Romney, he immediately visited the University of Wisconsin at Madison — greeted by a crowd of 30,000. (Obama will be in La Crosse, Wis., on Thursday to talk about the economy.)
“People in Madison come out for political rallies much more so than in many, many other parts of the country,” said Cris Selin, 65, a Democrat who lives in Madison and volunteers for Clinton’s campaign. “I would challenge Senator Sanders to get nine [thousand] or 10,000 people out to a rally in New Hampshire, where it matters more.”
This week, organizers in Madison hung posters in downtown coffeehouses and restaurants listing Sanders’s priorities: get big money out of politics; deal with extreme wealth and income inequality; combat climate change; and make college education affordable. The posters state that they were “paid for by Bernie 2016 (not the billionaires).”
“I feel like Bernie is an honest politician,” said Trevor Triggs, 30, a state employee who lives in Madison and sat in the front row at the rally. “He’s someone I can believe in, which is pretty rare.”
Triggs said that he hadn’t heard of Sanders until recently and has never gotten this involved with a campaign, even donating 20 bucks out of his tight budget. The last time he felt this sort of a connection was when former Vermont governor Howard Dean (D) ran for president in 2004 on a similar progressive platform.
By venturing to Wisconsin’s capital city, Sanders immediately set himself up as a contrast to Walker, who is expected to announce his own presidential candidacy July 13.
The state Republican Party put up a billboard showing Clinton and Sanders on a scooter with this message: “Left and Lefter. Yesterday’s candidates — extreme policies.” Bernie responded to this this accusation by listing off Republican-backed policies that he says are more extreme, such as restricting access to birth control and abortion.
Walker welcomed Sanders to his state by tweeting: “We have one thing in common: neither of us wants another President Clinton.” Later in the night, Walker’s top political adviser Rick Wiley tweeted: “@HillaryClinton call your office (Brooklyn, not Manhattan). This is Bernie’s crowd in Madison.”
Walker’s popularity in statewide polls has fallen recently, but he has always been unpopular in this liberal enclave. That’s especially true now: Walker’s proposed budget calls for heavy cuts to the public university system, and he has complained about tenured professors not working hard enough for their salaries. Walker’s staff members learned years ago not to mention his name or “the governor” while out for dinner or drinks, lest their identities become known to Madisonians looking to debate.
Sanders is a regular guest on local progressive radio shows and has been to Wisconsin several times before — including a visit in 2011 after Walker led an effort to strip some public-sector unions of their bargaining power.
Throughout his speech on Wednesday night, Sanders told the crowd that this campaign is not about him. Instead, he said, it’s a grass-roots movement to redistribute wealth.
“I am more than aware that my opponents will be able to outspend us,” Sanders said. “We are going to win this election because if we do our job well, if we develop the grass-roots national movement that I know we can, at the end of the day, they may have the money, but we have the people.”
Wisconsin straw poll surprise: A narrow Clinton win
Bernie Sanders shocks with 41 percent of the vote.
Hillary Clinton is crushing the rest of the Democratic presidential field in national polls, but over the weekend, in a Wisconsin straw poll, there was reason to give the Clinton camp pause and the Bernie Sanders camp hope — Sanders scored a strong second-place finish with 41 percent of the vote, to Clinton’s 49 percent.
The Vermont senator, a self-described democratic socialist and a long shot for the White House, received 208 of 511 delegate votes at the Wisconsin Democratic Party convention in Milwaukee on Saturday, while Clinton won votes from 252 of the delegates, leaving her just short of a majority.
Vice President Joe Biden and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who announced his candidacy late last month, each received 3 percent of the vote. Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who is considering a bid, won 2 percent, while former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who announced his long-shot candidacy last week, received 1 percent.
The result is another encouraging sign for Sanders, an Independent who is drawing large crowds in early nominating states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. In the two weeks since he announced his candidacy, he has seen an uptick in the polls against Clinton — who remains the heavy favorite — and is showing signs he is picking up some supporters of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the progressive icon who has said repeatedly that she is not running for president in 2016.
Robert Hansen, the Wisconsin Progressive Democrats of America coordinator, said the state party is receptive to Sanders’ left-leaning message, in part because of Democrats’ anger over Gov. Scott Walker’s aggressively conservative tenure. “The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has a very progressive agenda that aligns very much with Bernie,” Hansen said. “The majority of people behind the scenes are far more progressive or liberal than what you’d see in some other states.”
Hansen added that since Walker’s push against unions, organized labor has “re-engaged” with the state party more than in the past and progressive activists have gotten more involved in the Democratic infrastructure.
Kelly Westlund, chairwoman of the Chequamegon Democrats and a 2014 congressional candidate, said that around 1,300 delegates attended the convention, the highest number in about 20 years, due to the closely contested party chair race. Westlund, who arranged a bus for organizers traveling from northern Wisconsin about seven or eight hours away, said the increased attendance was mostly from grass-roots activists.
“I don’t know that this convention was necessarily representative of the establishment,” she said, adding that Sanders’ message is resonating in rural areas of the state.
Both she and Hansen noted that the pro-Clinton booth was located right outside the straw-poll voting location.
“Just imagine if we had really worked it,” said Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs.
Clinton won last year’s straw poll, with Warren coming in second.
Clinton spokesman Jesse Ferguson said in an email Monday, “She looks forward to talking to Wisconsin voters in the months to come and competing in the Wisconsin primary.”
Clinton in recent weeks has been rolling out a more progressive agenda to seize upon the energy in the left wing of the party that has mostly been directed toward Warren, despite her insistence she is not running.
The Democratic front-runner has spoken more aggressively about workers’ rights, immigration reform and an overhaul of the criminal justice system, and has refused to take a firm stance on President Barack’s Obama’s trade negotiations, which have been heavily criticized by progressives.
Still, the left lean could be a hard sell to some hard-core liberals, and Clinton is also battling stubbornly high untrustworthiness ratings, which are starting to take their toll on her favorability numbers.
“If you’re Secretary Clinton, you can’t write anything off,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic strategist and former Bill Clinton adviser, adding that the stress level in the Clinton camp is likely “high” after the straw poll.
“He is on her left, and no matter what you throw at him, he seems to be reasonably unstoppable at the moment,” Sheinkopf added.
But it’s another data point to support what Sanders advisers often call the “restive progressive base” — a growing coalition of liberal voters who are disenchanted with the past six years of Obama and are looking for more fundamental change. That the result came at a state party convention is particularly notable; Sanders, after all, is the longest-serving independent in congressional history and isn’t a member of the Democratic Party. And it’s another indication Sanders can be competitive, particularly in liberal states, such as Washington, where a poll late last month showed him at 24 percent.
“The Wisconsin straw poll and huge turnouts at town meetings in New Hampshire and Iowa are sending a message that people care about real issues like income inequality and the collapse of the American middle class,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a statement Monday.
Annie Karni contributed to this report.
"But Rep. Daniel Riemer, D-Milwaukee, thinks characterizing the bill as friendly to workers is "unfair and dishonest."
Riemer, who sits on the Assembly Committee on Workforce Development, is concerned the law could drive down wages and ultimately force employees to work more for less.
Wisconsin is one of relatively few states with "day of rest" laws on the books. But Democrats say changing that requirement would be a step backward.
"There’s something culturally, even spiritually important about having a day of rest," Riemer said, adding that regardless of one's religion, the concept is one that's deeply embedded in Western culture."
"Let's Rebuild Wisconsin's Middle Class"
By State Representative Daniel Riemer
Wisconsin's middle class must be rebuilt. Our families need a raise and investments in their future. The means to achieve this are within our grasp. We only need the will to do so and the willingness to govern pragmatically rather than ideologically if we are to rebuild Wisconsin's once robust middle class., please view the full article.