Government and Political Roundup: Legislation being drafted to end voter registration on Election Day
Two Republican state lawmakers say they're drafting a bill to end voter registration at the polls on Election Day. Representative Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc and Senator Alberta Darling of River Hills asked their colleagues yesterday to co-sponsor the measure. Governor Scott Walker brought up the idea last month when he told a California audience that he favored ending Wisconsin's 36-year-old practice of same-day registration. But yesterday, Walker told reporters that expanding the economy is a bigger priority - and opponents had turned his voter registration comments into a quote, "ridiculous issue." Kleefisch said he had been working on a bill in the last session to end same-day registration. He agreed that jobs are more important at the moment - but he said it's also vital to ensure a fair vote. Kleefisch said there's a better chance for fraud with same-day registrations - which supporters of the practice dispute. Yesterday, Milwaukee Democrats and their supporters got together to urge Walker to drop the subject. Mayor Tom Barrett said those who were unhappy with the presidential results are trying to change the voting rules. And he called it a "significant, orchestrated national attack." Senate Democratic leader Chris Larson said any election rule changes should get support from both parties. Otherwise he said the public will quote, "view it for what it is - tilting the table to one side or the other." But state G-O-P Senate President Mike Ellis says there's not an agreement among Republicans in his chamber to end same-day registration. And Ellis said his members would most likely keep their focus on the economy.
Governor Scott Walker now says he would try to stop his fellow Republicans from passing an Arizona-style immigration crackdown. Walker said yesterday it would be a huge distraction, at a time when lawmakers should focus on creating jobs and training workers to fill vacant private sector posts. This is the second time that Walker has flip-flopped on a Wisconsin immigration law. When he first ran for governor in 2010, he said he had serious concerns about the Arizona law - in which police are required to ask criminal suspects about their immigration status if the officers believe they're in the U-S illegally. Walker changed his mind a few days after his initial comments - and Assembly Republican Don Pridemore of Hartford introduced an Arizona-style crackdown in the most recent session. The bill never went anywhere - and Pridemore has not said whether he'll try passing it again in the new session which opens in January.
Wisconsin farmers unwittingly let their state government keep a million dollars' worth of farmland preservation tax credits last year. The Agriculture Department said over two-thousand farm owners used the wrong forms to claim their credits - and as a result, they claimed about three-dollars less per acre than what they could have received. Keith Foye of the ag department said Dane County had the most under-claimed tax credit filings, with just over 500. Brown, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, Fond du Lac, Jefferson, Rock, Iowa, and Columbia counties also had significant amounts of unclaimed farmland credits. Farmers receive the tax breaks in exchange for keeping land in agricultural use, and following state soil-and-water conservation requirements. Over 15-thousand farmland owners collected a total of 19-million in preservation tax credits last year. Foye said those who entered into their agreements before July of 2009 should use Schedule F-C in claiming the credit this year. Those with agreements after July of '09 should use Schedule FC-A.