Morning State News Briefs: Wisconsin not a state in which people find out who gets permitsWisconsin News
-- Half of all states let people find out who gets permits to carry concealed weapons – but Wisconsin is not one of them.
Half of all states let people find out who gets permits to carry concealed weapons – but Wisconsin is not one of them.
The Green Bay Press-Gazette says the Badger State was among 20 that made the list of permit holders secret when the concealed carry law took effect last November. California and New York are among the states that let people find out who has weapons’ permits. Texas and Kentucky allow limited public releases. Ohio only allows records to be released if a journalist can provide a public interest. Jeri Bonavia of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort says releasing the permit holders’ names would prove that the folks are as law-abiding as politicians had promised. But the National Rifle Association says it’s law enforcement’s job – and not public’s – to make sure that only law-abiding citizens get concealed carry permits. Andrew Arulanandam of the NRA says releasing the permit holders’ names will violate their privacy – and people want to protect themselves and their homes in a low-profile manner. He said it would be harmful to gun-holders who are trying to escape domestic abuse. Tim Gary, chief-of-staff for Assembly Republican Jeff Mursau of Crivitz, said the law requires state auditors do regular checks of the Justice Department’s process in approving concealed carry permits. Gary calls it a balanced approach.
A judge in Madison is expected to announce today whether he’ll order a permanent shutdown to Wisconsin’s voter ID law. Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess will act on an injunction request from the League of Women Voters – which contends that the law disenfranchises the poor, elderly, and other groups. State attorneys say the law discourages no one from voting, and the measure has long been needed to fight voter fraud. There’s already a temporary injunction in place in another lawsuit against the voter ID law. Unless the state wins an appeal, the law is temporarily blocked and will not be used in the April third local elections and presidential primary.
Many of Wisconsin’s retired public employees have seen their pensions drop by 11-percent since 2008. They’ll go down another seven-percent this year. And State Retirement Fund officials say there could be a 12-to-16 percent benefit cut in 2013, even if the fund’s investments gain a seven-percent return this year. That’s because the benefits are based on returns for the past five years – and next year will be the final year the 2008 financial collapse will be figured in. But many retirees have stopped getting cut. That’s because Wisconsin guarantees that a worker’s pension benefit will never fall below the amount a person first received upon retirement. By next year, more than half of retirees in the state’s program will have hit their so-called “floors.” And that means those who have not hit their “floors” will get larger cuts. Officials say the hardest hit will be public workers who’ve collected pensions for years – and have been getting annual increases well above inflation until the Great Recession took hold in 2008. About 167,000 public retirees are now getting checks. They include state and local government workers and public school employees in all of Wisconsin except the city and county of Milwaukee, which run their own pension plans.
The state government has improved its efforts to oversee the quality of child care – and to let people know which centers commit and correct safety violations. But Wisconsin still ranks a relatively low 37th by the National Association of Child Care Resource-and-Referral Agencies, and that’s up from 47th in 2007. A state Web site still withholds details about the most severe violations at child care centers that can lead to fines. Parents have to call a state office to get that information. But Anneliese Sheahan of a child care providers’ union says the uneven approach can cause a distorted picture of which centers are really safe. She told the Wisconsin State Journal quote, “You get to see whether someone left bread crumbs on the kitchen counter, but not whether children were lost on a field trip.” She said the violations with fines are much more serious than the others – and they should be detailed on the Web site. State officials say they’ve made a lot of progress listing more comprehensive information. Two years ago, Wisconsin started a five-star rating system for child care centers called “Young Star.” Those getting tax funds from the Wisconsin Shares program must be rated – but centers can choose to bypass the evaluation process, and they automatically get two-star ratings. As a result, of the 36-hundred centers in Wisconsin shares, 27-hundred have two stars. But those centers will suffer financially as a result. Starting in July, the two-star centers would get their state reimbursements cut by five-percent – while the four-and-five star facilities will get 5-to-10 percent more state funding.