State Government and Political News: "Castle Protection Law" up for vote in state Assembly todayWisconsin News
-- Wisconsinites would get more legal protections if they shoot burglars in their homes, under a bill that's up for a vote in the state Assembly today.
MADISON - Wisconsinites would get more legal protections if they shoot burglars in their homes, under a bill that's up for a vote in the state Assembly today.
The National Rifle Association is among the groups supporting the Republican measure, which they call the "Castle Protection Law." Homeowners would no longer have to prove their lives were in danger if they shoot intruders in their homes, businesses, and vehicles. The bill assumes that deadly force is reasonable whether an intruder is armed or not -- and regardless of whether the criminal was threatening the victim at the time. Neenah Republican Dean Kaufert is the chief sponsor of the bill in the Assembly. He says people a right to be safe on their own property. Racine Republican Van Wangaard is the main sponsor in the Senate, which would take up the bill as early as tomorrow if the Assembly passes it. Advocates for domestic violence are among those against the bill. They say it allows abusers to use force against spouses behind closed doors. Tony Gibart of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence could not give specific examples of where it's happened in other states with similar laws. But he asked supporters to give examples of why the "Castle Protection Law" is needed. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm says property invasions by armed intruders are extremely rare. He says current laws protect homeowners well -- and the new bill creates ambiguity that decreases public safety, not increases it. The Republican who heads the Justice Department, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, has not taken a position on the bill.
At least one Democrat accuses the Walker administration of not doing enough to try-and-stop thousands of Wisconsinites from losing their Medicaid health coverage. But state Health Services spokeswoman Stephanie Smiley is confident that Washington will not cut off any Medicaid recipients -- because they wouldn't want to see it happen. State Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith wants a federal waiver that would let 215,000 Wisconsinites get lesser and cheaper Medicaid coverage for programs like Badger-Care. Otherwise, he says 53,000 recipients would lose their care at the end of the year, as the state tries to wipe out a $554-million-dollar Medicaid deficit. Smith's plan must be approved by the state Legislature's Joint Finance Committee next week, giving federal officials less than two months to consider the waiver. Assembly Democrat Jon Richards says that's not enough time. And he wonders if Smith planned to cut off people all along, while making the waiver request a quote, "political sideshow." Jon Peacock of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families says he also wonders why the state health agency waited so long to move its plans forward. Smith said yesterday a couple technical changes were made in response to comments made at recent public meetings about the proposals.
A Milwaukee Hispanic group has asked a federal court to throw out the state's new Assembly and Senate districts that were drafted and approved by Republicans. Voces de la Frontera and four individuals said the new maps do not reflect the growth in Milwaukee's Hispanic population over the last decade. And as a result, they said Latinos do not get proper representation in the Legislature. Voces director Christine Neumann-Ortiz said the Hispanic population grew by 44-percent on Milwaukee's south side since 2000 -- and the growth was large enough to support an Assembly district with a majority of voting age Latinos. The lawsuit is the second to filed in federal court against the GOP's redistricting. The first was filed by former Democratic lawmakers Judy Robson and Al Baldus and 13 others. They say the districts are meant to give Republicans an easier time controlling the Legislature until the next Census in 2020. The state tried but failed recently to throw out the Democrats' lawsuit.
The Wisconsin State Assembly will vote today on a bill to let public schools discipline-or-fire teachers whose students don't score high enough on state tests. Two years ago, Democrats voted to let teachers be evaluated on the basis of their students' performance. But they couldn't be disciplined for it -- and critics said it was one reason Wisconsin was rejected in a request for millions of federal stimulus dollars for public schools. Now, Republicans are pushing the measure to try and make teachers more accountable. GOP senators got the bill passed in that house last week. If it passes in the Assembly, it goes to Governor Scott Walker for his signature. Also today, the Assembly is scheduled to vote on a bill to revoke the state licenses of teachers who look at pornography on their work computers. The bill comes after Jeff Nelson was quietly allowed to leave a school post in Madison for looking at porn at work -- only to be arrested a few years later for seeking sex with a teen he met online while serving as New Holstein's superintendent. He got five years in prison for that.
You'll have another poll to chew over next year, just in time for the presidential contest. The Marquette Law School in Milwaukee says it will launch the largest independent polling project in Wisconsin history, when it begins monthly polls on the attitudes of state voters. One of Wisconsin's most quoted political scientists -- Charles Franklin -- is moving over from UW-Madison to run the new project. He says the poll will be completely transparent, all questions-and-results will be posted online for all to see. He says the Marquette Law School project should give voters "an extraordinary level of understanding" about the many views of Wisconsin's electorate.