State Political and Government News: Bill introduced to end state's ban on margarineWisconsin News
-- A Wisconsin firm that makes a quarter of the nation’s butter is not happy about a bill to end the state’s requirement that restaurants, schools, and prisons serve butter. Freshman Assembly Republican Dale Kooyenga of Brookfield is the main sponsor of a bill which no longer makes it illegal for eateries and government facilities to substitute margarine unless a customer asks for it.
A Wisconsin firm that makes a quarter of the nation’s butter is not happy about a bill to end the state’s requirement that restaurants, schools, and prisons serve butter. Freshman Assembly Republican Dale Kooyenga of Brookfield is the main sponsor of a bill which no longer makes it illegal for eateries and government facilities to substitute margarine unless a customer asks for it.
A dozen lawmakers have signed onto the measure. Trevor Wuethrich – a co-owner of Grassland Dairy Products of Greenwood in Clark County – says the law gives diners a choice, and that’s the way it should be. The law has been on the books since 1967. And it’s a lot softer than an 1895 law which not only banned the sale of margarine in Wisconsin – it also made it a crime to consume it in America’s Dairyland. Kooyenga says the law’s not being enforced, and therefore it should be repealed. He also says it would save tax money for schools and prisons, claiming that butter is three times as expensive as oleo. Wuethrich says that’s wrong – it’s only twice as expensive. He agrees, though, that law’s not being enforced in restaurants. Wuethrich says he believes school kids should be served butter, saying dairy products are vital for children’s growth. And for prisoners, he says the law is quote, “one benefit of serving time in Wisconsin.”
U.S Senator Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh) is co-sponsoring a bill to require federal investigations into companies that go bankrupt after getting renewable energy funds. The Wisconsin lawmaker is teaming up with fellow Republican David Vitter of Louisiana – who’s critical of White House loan guarantees given to Solyndra Incorporated of Fremont California. Critics said the White House rushed the approval without enough oversight. The company filed for Chapter-11 bankruptcy earlier this month, and laid off all of its 11-hundred employees. In announcing the bill, Johnson and Vitter said quote, “We can’t afford any more crony capitalism where the federal government picks winners-and-losers, and then leaves taxpayers on the hook when everything falls apart.” But the Associated Press said Vitter tried seven times since 2009 to get money for his state from the same program he’s now criticizing. Vitter said he has always pushed for renewable energy as part of a comprehensive energy policy. But quote, “In the age of Solyndra, we need full transparency and accountability.” The Vitter-and-Johnson bill would also require federal agencies to conduct full audits of all renewable energy projects that received federal tax money since 2009. The audits would determine how many jobs were created by the funding – and any company that fails to meet the required objectives would go under an inspector general’s investigation.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court will decide later this month whether to hire an expert in group dynamics, who could help the justices be more civil amongst themselves. The idea came up last week during a conference in which the justices decided against opening its deliberations to the public. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson suggested both things, to try-and-restore people’s confidence in the court after two justices got into a physical spat in June. But UW-Green Bay professor Tim Dale says a group dynamics expert won’t be enough. He says the justices need to make a long-term commitment to being more civil. And if they want to improve their public image, Dale said they should go on tour around the state, answer questions about the law, and explain how they reach their decisions. The court has a sharp 4-3 conservative edge at the moment. The public sniping among the justices has gone on for some time – and it didn’t stop after the June altercation. At last week’s conference, Justice Pat Roggensack accused Abrahamson of trying to pick a fight. And Roggensack and Justice Michael Gableman said the chief needed to evaluate her leadership style.
A new plan has been unveiled to invest up to a half-billion state tax dollars for new homegrown companies in Wisconsin. It’s one of at least five ideas that a bi-partisan working group is considering to provide venture capital to high-tech firms, specialty food companies, and other new businesses. The goal is to create jobs for companies that will start in Wisconsin and stay there. The board of the state’s Economic Development Corporation was told yesterday that none of the plans involve the use certified capital companies – or CAPCOs -- to find the best candidates for the state money. Governor Scott Walker proposed a $400-million plan last spring in which CAPCOs and insurance companies would have been given millions to manage. They would not have had to pay back the principal, and taxpayers would have only gotten back 20-percent of the profits for their investment. Now, state Senate Finance Chairwoman Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) – a member of the working group set up by the governor – said there’s no way she’ll support CAPCOs. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says a similar program in 1999 still has $10-million in tax funds unaccounted for.
The newest members of the Wisconsin State Senate say they are willing to reach across the aisle to Republican Senators, to find solutions to the state’s stalled job growth. Jennifer Shilling and Jessica King are Democrats. King represents parts of Winnebago and Fond du Lac counties while Shilling is from La Crosse. King and Shilling both say bipartisanship needs to embrace civility to make progress. Shilling says trust and respect among lawmakers can be rebuilt by engaging in simple decencies while working together.
Former Governor Tommy Thompson can start raising money for a U.S. Senate campaign. The Republican Thompson told WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee this morning that he has filed the necessary paperwork to incorporate his Senate campaign committee. That means he can raise money and build his organization. Thompson told talk show host Charlie Sykes he’ll make a formal announcement of his candidacy soon. Thompson, a former health secretary under George W. Bush, has been criticized by the national conservative Club for Growth for supporting national health care. Thompson said he never endorsed anything close to what the Democrats approved – and he tackles conservative criticism by calling himself “the original conservative.” So far, former Congressman Mark Neumann is the only other Republican running for the Senate seat to be given up by Democrat Herb Kohl next year. Madison House Democrat Tammy Baldwin announced her bid earlier this month.