Government and Political News: Gov. Walker's staff released its own job figures showing a net gain last yearWisconsin News
-- Governor Scott Walker’s administration released its own figures yesterday showing that Wisconsin gained 23-thousand public-and-private jobs during 2011.
Governor Scott Walker’s administration released its own figures yesterday showing that Wisconsin gained 23-thousand public-and-private jobs during 2011. Democrat Tom Barrett’s campaign immediately slammed the report. They said the Republican Walker is highlighting normally-obscure data so he can look good to the voters just 20 days before Walker’s recall election. The numbers come from actual employer surveys. And state officials say they’re more accurate than the normal monthly short-term job figures which will come out tomorrow. That report will say Wisconsin lost 34-thousand jobs last year. The state Workforce Development agency was planning to release its survey results tomorrow, along with the rest of the monthly jobs’ report. But department secretary Reggie Newson gave the positive numbers yesterday to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He said employers need the data to make more informed decisions about hiring. The federal government uses it to make long-term adjustments to each state’s monthly numbers. And the Journal Sentinel says it’s highly unusual for a state to publicize the raw quarterly figures in advance of a final federal report that’s not due out until the end of June. Phil Walzak of the Barrett campaign says Walker’s people are trying to fix months of public relations damage caused by poor job reports. And Walzak says the governor is now slamming monthly figures which he doesn’t hesitate to highlight when those numbers are positive – which they were for the first couple months of this year.
A waste hauler whose violation triggered a controversy in the state D-N-R denies that his company over-spread human waste on farm fields. Todd Stair of Herr Environmental in Oconomowoc told a town board in Jefferson County this week that his firm made a paperwork mistake – and it was not an over-application problem that resulted in five citations and a 43-hundred-dollar fine. The case became controversial after it was learned that top D-N-R official Scott Gunderson asked local district attorneys to fine Herr Environmental last year, instead of referring the case to the Justice Department. Investigators said the over-spreading almost contaminated neighboring water wells – and had the case gone to the attorney general, the penalty could have been 10 times as high. Yesterday, the D-N-R’s Laurel Steffes disputed Herr Environmental’s claim of a paperwork error. She told the Wisconsin State Journal there was a clear violation of waste spreading laws – and local D-A’s upheld all five citations. Democratic legislators have jumped on the case, saying the D-N-R should make Herr Environmental pay to check neighboring water wells for contamination. Concord Town Board chairman Bill Ingersoll said concerned residents should pay for well testing, and the board will then determine a course of action if the water is polluted. Democrats have asked the Assembly and Senate natural resources’ panels to investigate. A clerk says the Assembly committee is considering it.
A state attorney said the elections’ agency did the right thing by not throwing out recall signatures based on a computerized review of the petitions by Tea Party groups. A project called “Verify the Recall” created searchable databases of all one-point-seven million signatures, and it asked the Government Accountability Board to throw out signers based on that project. But Mike Haas told the board yesterday that the Tea Party groups were overly strict in determining which signatures should be rejected. For example, they flagged persons who signed their names with a middle initial, and then printed their full middle names to the side. Also, Haas said the groups’ software did not recognize some Wisconsin communities – so the computers assumed that signers from those places were from out-of-state. The two Tea Party groups – the Grand-Sons of Liberty and We-the-People of the Republic – said their work was not perfect, but it was generally accurate. And they said their project ended up raising new integrity issues. Newspapers used the groups’ data-base to report that 29 circuit judges throughout Wisconsin signed the petitions for the recall election against Governor Scott Walker. Some media outlets also discovered that their own editors and reporters signed the petitions, which raised concerns about their objectivity.
There will be a three-day delay in mailing out absentee ballots for the June fifth recall elections. Under normal circumstances, local clerks would have mailed out ballots yesterday to those who requested them. But due to a conflict, Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy says the absentee ballots cannot be mailed out until Friday at the earliest. One state law says the ballots can start being sent three weeks before Election Day. But another law says they cannot go out until after the period for seeking recounts from the primaries – and that deadline’s not until Friday. Normally, there’s a month-and-a-half between the primaries and a general election. But for recall elections, the state Constitution calls for a gap of four weeks. And Kennedy says local clerks must do some maneuvering with the shorter time frame. Kennedy says it would have been nice to let clerks e-mail absentee ballots, like they used to do before Republicans halted the practice in the recent legislative session. New Berlin senator Mary Lazich said she wanted to make things uniform around the state, because not all clerks can e-mail ballots. Also, she said have to manually transfer votes from the e-mailed ballots to other cards that can be read by scanning machines – and that causes more work on Election Night.
Hundreds of Wisconsin high school seniors will get a first-hand look at how state-and-local governments operate, when the annual Badger Boys State program begins June ninth in Ripon. The boys will hold a number of mock government positions during the eight-day event. They’ll campaign for offices, create party platforms, act on laws, and create their own State Patrol and judicial system. And some will learn the media’s role by writing for the Badger Boys State official newspaper. And they can participate in a band and a choir. Over 62-thousand boys have taken part in Badger Boys State since the program started in 1939. Governor Scott Walker is scheduled to speak at this year’s event, along with Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley and Attorney General J-B Van Hollen.