State Legislative News Briefs: Special Assembly elections to be held tomorrowWisconsin Legislature
-- Three new Wisconsin Assembly members will be chosen tomorrow. Special elections will be held to replace three Republicans that Governor Scott Walker named to his cabinet.
Three new Wisconsin Assembly members will be chosen tomorrow. Special elections will be held to replace three Republicans that Governor Scott Walker named to his cabinet.
The race that appears to be the most competitive is in the La Crosse area. Democrat Steve Doyle and Republican John Lautz have gone toe-to-toe over the Republican Walker’s plan to curtail collective bargaining by most public employee unions. Tomorrow’s winner will replace Mike Huebsch, who became Walker’s administration secretary in January. The other Assembly elections will choose new members to replace Scott Gunderson of Waterford, who took a top post in the DNR – and Mark Gottlieb of Port Washington, who’s the new Secretary of Transportation. Even if Democrats win all three races, it won’t put much of a dent in the Assembly’s GOP majority. The Assembly now has 57 Republicans, 37 Democrats, and one independent. Another vacancy will be filled later.
As politicians point fingers, they’re handing Wisconsin taxpayers a $27,000 legal bill connected with the absences of 14 state Senate Democrats. Republicans hired the Jim Troupis law firm to look for ways to get Democrats back onto the Senate floor. That’s after they left the Capitol for three weeks in February and March in a failed effort to block a vote on the bill to limit collective bargaining by public employee unions. Attorney Troupis got $375-dollars-an-hour, and his colleagues were paid at least $290-an-hour. Senate Democrat Bob Jauch of Poplar called it an “outrageous use of taxpayer dollars,” and he said the GOP senators should pay for it out of their own pockets. But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said the Democrats are the ones who left – and they should be the ones to pay. The Constitution says lawmakers can be compelled to attend legislative sessions – but it does not say how it should be done. A day after Troupis was hired, Fitzgerald found the Democrats in contempt of the Senate and ordered law enforcement to find them. But officers never picked up any senators, and their arrest powers were called into question. Meanwhile, Republicans have also paid $200,000 to attorneys for their re-districting work so far. New legislative districts must be drawn up every 10 years to reflect the population from each Census. Each party generally comes up with districts with the largest possible numbers of their own voters. A federal court has stepped in to draw the final maps in recent decades.
A state legislative panel will decide tomorrow whether the State Treasurer’s office should be dramatically scaled back. Governor Scott Walker’s budget for the next two years would give Treasurer Kurt Schuller only one duty – getting Wisconsin’s unclaimed property back to its rightful owners. The Joint Finance Committee will decide whether to include Walker’s plan in its version of the budget. Schuller has said the treasurer’s office should be eliminated – but only if voters agree to it by changing the state Constitution. He says politicians shouldn’t be the only ones to decide the treasurer’s fate – and therefore, Schuller is against Walker’s budget measure.
A public hearing will be held Thursday on a bill to virtually end the two-year-old early release program for Wisconsin prisoners. The Assembly and Senate criminal justice committees will hear the testimony. Republican Governor Scott Walker’s next budget would also put an end to early releases, which former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle put into the current budget two years ago to relieve crowded prisons. But Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder says he doesn’t want to wait to scale it back. So the Abbotsford Republican led an effort for a separate bill. Doyle and his corrections’ officials had argued that the prospects of early release would give non-violent criminals the incentive to behave behind bars. Suder and other Republicans said dangerous criminals, including drug convicts, were among those being let go early.