GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL ROUNDUP: Gov. Walker not a fan of term limits for politicians
Governor Scott Walker says the high turnover in the state Legislature proves that Wisconsin does not need term limits for its politicians. He says it's another reason that the Badger State is more aggressive about reform than neighboring Illinois -- where minority Republicans recently proposed a constitutional two-term limit for its statewide officers. At least 22 of Wisconsin's 99 Assembly members are leaving their posts after this year, along with seven of the 33 senators. During a recent visit to Kaukauna, the Republican Walker told W-H-B-Y Radio in Appleton that Wisconsin has people willing to serve in Madison, and then go back home and serve in their home communities -- or to retire because it's time. Not all of Wisconsin's departing lawmakers are in those boats. A few are seeking higher office this fall. Some are leaving because they're tired of the polarization. Also, it was reported earlier this week that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos urged G-O-P colleagues who are thinking about leaving in 2016 to do so now, so the party has a better chance of keeping the majority at least through 2018.
An official of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is being promoted. Tricia Braun has been named the new vice president for economic and community development in the state's job creation agency. She'll lead the W-E-D-C's efforts to work with businesses and communities in expanding their job bases. She joined the department last November as a regional development and job attraction director. Before that, Braun spent 15 years in economic development agencies in three other states.
Wisconsin's political polarization has not only led to fewer competitive legislative seats -- it has also discouraged regional cooperation in the state's largest population center. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Craig Gilbert spent six months in a Marquette University project which analyzed the effects of a predominantly-Democratic Milwaukee and Madison and the deeply-Republican counties which surround them. His newspaper published a fourth major story about Gilbert's research today. Marquette political scientist Amber Wichowsky said the political dividing lines make it difficult to tackle major problems in ways that benefit the entire Milwaukee region. U-S House Republican Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls says it all depends on how regional cooperation is defined. If it means quote, "unloading Milwaukee costs on the collar counties, you'll see a great deal of push-back on that." City alderman Robert Bauman says the suburbs ignore the value of what big-city attractions bring to a region, when they oppose things like cultural institutions and a new Bucks' arena.
Rhinelander is the latest Wisconsin city to ban hand-held cell phones while driving. The Common Council voted 5-to-3 this week to join Wausau, Marshfield, and Wisconsin Rapids in restricting cell-chatting behind the wheel. Supporters cited safety concerns. Opponents said the situation is already covered by the existing inattentive driving laws. One council member asked what's next, saying that many drivers also eat, put on makeup, and do other things which distract their driving. Rhinelander Police Chief Michael Steffes said there would be a grace period before tickets start being issued. Signs will also be posted alerting drivers to the hand-held cell ban.
State transportation officials have announced a renewed effort to catch traffic violators with aerial patrols. D-O-T safety director David Pabst says the idea is not to secretly spy from above. He says they want you to know they're there, so you can voluntarily avoid a ticket by slowing down and driving safer. The D-O-T plans to announce many of this summer's enforcement dates on Twitter. Sixty-four aerial enforcement missions were made a year ago, in which an officer radioed troopers on the ground who stopped two-thousand vehicles. About 13-hundred speeding tickets were issued that way. Those officers also caught eight drug offenders, and six people wanted on warrants. A six-member team flies three planes based in Madison, Eau Claire, and Oshkosh. Those are the same numbers of planes from 2012, the last time there was a major news story about the subject. At that time, the emphasis was on construction zones -- where many violators are caught by aerial patrols. Those efforts have not always been in vogue in recent years. Former Governor Jim Doyle cut state funding for the aerial patrols in 2003, when one state airplane was sold. But the officers went back in the air a year later.