POLITICAL AND GOVERNMENT ROUNDUP: Senate approves cuts to State's Lemon Law
The state Senate has watered down Wisconsin's Lemon Law. The vote was 32-to-1 yesterday to give fewer legal protections to those who buy defective new cars. Middleton Democrat Jon Erpenbach cast the only no vote. The measure now goes to Governor Scott Walker for his signature. An association of plaintiffs' attorneys endorsed the bill's final version. It would end the requirement that automakers pay double-damages to consumers who win in court. Wisconsin is the only state which mandates that. Also, the time limit for filing lawsuits would be reduced from six years to three years after the purchase of faulty vehicles. In addition, car manufacturers would have 45 days instead of 30 to give refunds or replacements -- or they can negotiate settlements for the first time. The bill's sponsors said they took direct aim at Milwaukee Lemon Law attorney Vince Megna. He won 880-thousand dollars in damage, interest, and legal fees in a long court case involving a Waukesha man's defective sedan. Also yesterday, the Senate voted to ban registered sex offenders from being on school property unless they notify school officials first. The Assembly okayed the measure 95-to-1 in May. It now goes to Walker for his signature.
Taxpayers are spending a lot less on the Wisconsin Shares child care program, five years after massive fraud was discovered. The Journal Sentinel said the costs of the subsidized day-care program for the working poor dropped by 65-million dollars a year in Milwaukee County alone. That's where most of the fraud took place. After it came to light, lawmakers approved a series of reforms, and a task force rooted out offenders. Thirty-nine child care providers in Milwaukee County have been convicted of defrauding Wisconsin Shares -- mostly by claiming millions in state reimbursements to serve children they never actually cared for. Similar cases were scattered elsewhere in the state. Milwaukee prosecutor David Feiss said the spending cuts have generally not hurt those in Wisconsin Shares. He said the numbers of families being served have remained held steady. David Edie of the Wisconsin Council on Children-and-Families says other factors have also brought costs down. He says reimbursement rates have not gone up since 2006. Providers no longer get paid when kids are absent. And centers which don't meet more stringent standards have lost five-percent of their funding.
Wisconsin landlords are one step closer to getting more power over their tenants. On an 18-15 vote yesterday, the state Senate approved a package of changes which landlords say would create some much-needed fairness for them. Opponents say it would roll back tenants' rights. Milwaukee Democrat Lena Taylor, a landlord herself, voted against the bill -- as did all 14 other Democrats. The measure now goes back to the Assembly to ratify some amendments. That house first approved the package by a 20-vote margin in June. Landlords could dispose of anything tenants leave behind without telling them in advance. De Pere Republican Frank Lasee says it's expensive to store those items, and future tenants pay for it. The bill also lets landlords remove improperly-parked cars without police issuing tickets first. Lasee says the police are often too busy to handle those kinds of things. Also, tenants could be evicted for crimes committed in their units, even if there was no way they could prevent them. Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking would be exempt. Middleton Democrat Jon Erpenbach said the package was nowhere near being fair to tenants. He said there were 28-thousand evictions last year, and he predicted the number would grow under the new changes. Just over 35-hundred of last year's cases went to court.
Wausau area House Republican Sean Duffy says Democrats are misleading his constituents in his position on Obama-care. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been placing automated robo-calls to voters in Duffy's district, claiming he favors a government shutdown to stop funding of the Affordable Care Act. Duffy said the Democrats falsely claim that he signed a letter from North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows which called for de-funding Obama-care in any relevant appropriations bill or any continuing resolution to keep the government running. Duffy says he believes Obama-care needs to be defunded, but a government shutdown is not the right tactic. Today, a group of over 175 House conservatives plans to introduce an alternative health care package. The Republican Study Committee's plan would give individuals tax deductions for buying state-approved private insurance, and raise government funding to cover high-risk patients. It would not have the mandates and taxes outlined in the Obama law. The group has not said how much its package would cost.
Two new members will be elected to the Wisconsin Assembly on November 19th. A special election was called earlier for the 69th District seat vacated by Republican Scott Suder of Abbotsford. Yesterday, Governor Scott Walker scheduled a vote for the same day in the 21st Assembly District, where Republican Mark Honadel of South Milwaukee recently stepped down. Candidates for both seats are now circulating nomination papers. They must be filed by the end of next Tuesday for both seats. Primaries, if needed, would take place on October 22nd. It looks like there will be a primary for Suder's seat, where four Republicans and no Democrats are running. No matter what happens, the G-O-P will keep its huge majority in the lower House. That edge is 58-to-39 at the moment.
All hunters could take part in a special crossbow season each fall, under a bill passed by the Wisconsin Senate yesterday. It would run at the same time as the traditional bow-and-arrow season from mid-September through November or early December. Monona Democrat Mark Miller, who's a bow hunter, cast the only no vote. He said crossbows have the potential to taint the archery season, and he wanted part of the season to be for traditional bow-and-arrow hunting only. Miller said crossbows are more like shotguns, in which triggers are used to release the arrows. Right now, they're only allowed for disabled hunters and those over 65. The new bill would allow all eligible hunters to use crossbows to shoot deer and smaller animals. Supporters say it would create more hunting opportunities, and encourage more people to go out hunting. The bill was approved by the Assembly in June. It's going back there to ratify some amendments. Also, the Senate voted to ban local governments from restricting bow-and-arrow hunting, except within 17-hundred feet of a hospital or school, and within 100 yards of government buildings.