GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL ROUNDUP: Pay raises for state employees to be debated today in Madison
A Wisconsin legislative panel is expected to decide this morning whether to give state employees their first general pay raise in five years. The Joint Committee on Employment Relations is scheduled to act on a pay plan drafted by the Walker administration. It calls for a one-percent hike in each of the next two years, and an extra 25-cents-an-hour for those making less than 15-dollars-per-hour. The U-W System could use its allotment either for across-the-board hikes, or for targeted merit increases designed from keeping top talent from bolting to other schools. Legislators would also get the one-percent hikes, but not until after their next elections. Assembly and Senate pay would go above 50-thousand dollars, and the governor who’s elected in 2014 would get just over 147-thousand per year. If the committee approves the pay hikes today, they would take effect on Sunday. Governor Scott Walker said the pay plan was the result of quote, “tough but prudent decisions” over the last two years. That included the near-elimination of collective bargaining for most public employee unions.
Under a new Wisconsin bill, U-W students would not be punished for seeking help for intoxicated friends – even if they were drinking underage themselves at the time. Senate Democrat Fred Risser of Madison says he wants all 26 U-W campuses to have the same policy that the Madison campus now has. He said the university could not suspend a student who seeks to help a friend – and it would throw out any citations from law enforcement. Dylan Jambrek of the United Council of U-W Students says a lot of underage drinking takes place “in the shadows” – and those drinkers are not willing to come forward to help friends in trouble, or even if they witness a crime. Jambrek says the bill would encourage more students to come forward and report crimes like sexual assault which they see while drinking. Risser’s bill has been referred to the Senate Universities and Technical Colleges panel.
A Republican state senator who was recalled a year ago will ask an apparently-friendlier set of voters to give him his old job back. Van Wanggaard of Racine says he’ll run for the Senate seat he first won in 2010 when he defeated Democrat John Lehman. Lehman won the seat back in the recall vote last summer. Next year, Wanggaard will run in a newly-shaped district drawn by his fellow Republicans in 2011. Lehman believes it would give Wanggaard a better chance of winning, saying the territory normally votes 58-percent Republican. Lehman says he won’t announce until this fall whether he’ll seek re-election. Wanggaard was the only one of four senators to lose a recall election last year, over the Act-10 public union bargaining limits. It gave Democrats a one-vote majority in the Senate for about six months – but they could do very little with it, because the Legislature was out-of-session for the year by then.