Weekly Update July 5th 2015

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   Southwest Dems Present,                 Oil and Water:            a special presentation on the environmental and economic future of Milwaukee

With Special Guests:
Commissioner at MMSD, Member of The Water Council, and Former Greendale Village President John Hermes' presentation,
Milwaukee - Positioned for Major Leadership Role in the Emerging Global Water Industry. 

Conservation Director of the Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter Elizabeth Ward and award winning conservation essayist Eric Hansen's presentation, Crude Oil Shipments Threaten Wisconsin Waters

Will Wisconsin and the Upper Great Lakes continue to be the land of Sky Blue Waters?
Or will a vast swath of our pristine waters become a fading memory, soiled by the leaks and spills of a massive network of tar sands crude oil pipelines, maritime traffic and crude oil trains?

Wisconsinites have a proud history of successfully mobilizing massive citizen conservation campaigns to protect our water and community health from ill-advised industrial schemes.

Now, the crude oil threat calls out for a renewed campaign.

Space is limited, please RSVP at southwestdems@gmail.com

Budget Committee Unveils a 67-Item Motion Stuffed With Special Interest Measures
by Jon Peacock

At about 5:00 pm Thursday, as most Wisconsinites were starting the 3-day weekend, the budget committee co-chairs unveiled a “wrap-up” motion that is 24 pages long and stuffed with 67 different items – many of which are special interest measures that have nothing to do with the state budget. This omnibus motion is the culmination of more than a month of deliberations behind closed doors that included special interest groups, while excluding the general public. 

The timing of this motion – right before the holiday weekend and so close to the planned completion of the budget bill – makes it almost impossible for these complicated issues to get anything close to the public and legislative scrutiny that they deserve.  

The 67 miscellaneous measures unveiled Thursday evening are in addition to many other special interest measures added earlier in the day, such as:

  • creating a sales tax exemption for deer sold to Wisconsin hunting reserves and game farms;
  • reducing taxes for brewers of pear cider; and
  • cutting by $1.1 million over the next two years a tax that applies to cigarette manufacturers, marketers and distributors. 
- See more at Wisconsin Budget Project.
GOP lawmakers, Scott Walker abandon open records changes
by Mary Spicuzza

Faced with a swift and fierce backlash, Republicans Saturday abandoned a plan that would have gutted the state's open records law.

In a joint statement issued Saturday afternoon, Gov. Scott Walker and GOP legislative leaders said the provisions relating to any changes to the law would be removed from the state budget.

"After substantive discussion over the last day, we have agreed that the provisions relating to any changes in the state's open records law will be removed from the budget in its entirety. We are steadfastly committed to open and accountable government," the statement read. "The intended policy goal of these changes was to provide a reasonable solution to protect constituents' privacy and to encourage a deliberative process between elected officials and their staff in developing policy. It was never intended to inhibit transparent government in any way."

The announcement came from Walker, but it was also attributed to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette). Darling and Nygren are co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee.

They added, "In order to allow for further debate on this issue outside of budget process, the Legislature will form a Legislative Council committee to more appropriately study it and allow for public discussion and input."

The governor said he would meet with legislative leaders Monday to discuss the budget and Milwaukee Bucks arena plans.

The turnaround came less than 48 hours after lawmakers slipped the plan into the budget unannounced in a late-night session heading into a three-day holiday weekend.

Read More At JSOnline.

Did the conservative Lakeland Times just demand "Recall Walker"?


Oneida County, WI is a deep red part of the state.  In the 2014 gubernatorial election, the vote went 57% for Gov. Scott Walker.

So, as Giles Goat Boy pointed out with a Whoah! yesterday, it was stunning to see the conservative Lakeland Times paper editorialize about the appalling attempt to eviscerate Wisconsin's open records law under the headline Our View: The Wisconsin Republican Party: Corruption, cronyism, and sleaze:

It is nothing less than the attempted murder of honest government, and the perpetrators of it deserve the political equivalent of the death sentence: recall. To that end, the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee, Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), need to come clean and tell the world who authored this attack on democratic principles.

If they won’t, they need to be recalled.



Wisconsin Budget: Breaking Down The Big Issues

The two-year state budget the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee approved early Friday morning on a 12-4 party-line vote heads to the Legislature next week.

Here are some highlights of how the budget affects education:

– Public schools won’t be cut by $127 million as Walker proposed, but they also aren’t getting much more money. Funding would be flat the first year of the budget, then go up by about $69 million in the second year, but schools aren’t being given the authority to increase spending over the next two years. That means if a district does get more aid, it will have to divert it to lowering property taxes unless a special referendum is approved by voters allowing spending to go up.

– There will be more opportunities for students who meet income qualifications to attend private voucher schools. The 1,000-student enrollment cap in the statewide program would be lifted, with the new lid set at no more than 1 percent of a district’s total students, and that would increase 1 percentage point a year for 10 years until there is no cap. Money to pay for voucher students would now come out of public school aid.

– Students with disabilities who are denied open enrollment in another district would be able to use a taxpayer-funded voucher for private schools.

– In its last meeting Thursday, the budget committee removed a provision that would have made Wisconsin the first state in the country to allow anyone with relevant experience, including high school dropouts, to be licensed to teach noncore academic subjects in grades six through 12. They also removed a provision allowing anyone with a bachelor’s degree to be licensed to teach in core subjects of English, math, social studies or science.

DNR Works To Wrap Up Scrapped GTAC Mine Project
State Has Sent Mining Company Final Bill For Review Costs
by Danielle Kaeding

The state has sent the final bill to a mining company for the cost of reviewing plans to construct a $1.5 billion iron mine in northwestern Wisconsin.

The final tally came in at $356,538. Ann Coakley, waste and materials management program director for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said that mining outfit Gogebic Taconite has already paid $350,000. Coakley said the next step is to close out stormwater permits and boreholes.

"If they are going to turn over the boreholes to the landowner, then the landowner will have to get a bond for those boreholes," said Coakley.

GTAC President Bill Williams said the landowner does plan to maintain them.

"What it does is it gives him a leverage in selling his mineral rights to someone else or renting them to somebody else, because they’ve already got holes that can do the hydrology work right on site," Williams said.

Read More At WPR.
Obama Plans Broader Use of Clemency to Free Nonviolent Drug Offenders

Sometime in the next few weeks, aides expect President Obama to issue orders freeing dozens of federal prisoners locked up on nonviolent drug offenses. With the stroke of his pen, he will probably commute more sentences at one time than any president has in nearly half a century.

The expansive use of his clemency power is part of a broader effort by Mr. Obama to correct what he sees as the excesses of the past, when politicians eager to be tough on crime threw away the key even for minor criminals. With many Republicans and Democrats now agreeing that the nation went too far, Mr. Obama holds the power to unlock that prison door, especially for young African-American and Hispanic men disproportionately affected.

But even as he exercises authority more assertively than any of his modern predecessors, Mr. Obama has only begun to tackle the problem he has identified. In the next weeks, the total number of commutations for Mr. Obama’s presidency may surpass 80, but more than 30,000 federal inmates have come forward in response to his administration’s call for clemency applications. A cumbersome review process has advanced only a small fraction of them. And just a small fraction of those have reached the president’s desk for a signature.

“I think they honestly want to address some of the people who have been oversentenced in the last 30 years,” said Julie Stewart, the founder and president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a group advocating changes in sentencing. “I’m not sure they envisioned that it would be as complicated as it is, but it has become more complicated, whether it needs to be or not, and that’s what has bogged down the process.”

Read More At NYTimes.
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