State Political and Government News: Support growing for recall reformWisconsin News
-- There seems to be growing support for the idea of limiting recall elections in Wisconsin. The state has had 15 recall votes over the last year – all because of the way the targets supported-or-opposed new limits on most public union bargaining.
There seems to be growing support for the idea of limiting recall elections in Wisconsin. The state has had 15 recall votes over the last year – all because of the way the targets supported-or-opposed new limits on most public union bargaining.
According to exit polls on Tuesday, six-of-every-10 Wisconsin voters agreed that recalls should be limited to those who are not doing their jobs due to things like bad health – or those charged with crimes during their terms. Assembly Republican Robin Vos of Burlington proposed a constitutional amendment a few months ago to limit recalls to reasons of malfeasance. And after the recent campaigns, some Democrats are at least willing to consider Vos’s measure – which he promises to bring up again next year. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha said he would be at least willing to consider it – but he advises against a knee-jerk reaction. Senate Democratic Leader Mark Miller of Monona says he favors limits on much money recall targets can raise. Watchdog groups recently endorsed an end to the unlimited fund-raising by recall targets to cover their expenses before an election is scheduled. Governor Scott Walker used the exemption to raise $31-million for his recall fight – most of it from out-of-state. Vos said the latest round of recalls would cost at least $18-million just to operate – and he calls that a waste. Walker stops short of favoring a particular plan, but he agrees ending what he calls “the permanent election cycle.” He said it would create more certainty for business, and would help create jobs.
Not all business leaders and economists are buying Governor Scott Walker’s claim that job creation will explode in Wisconsin, now that he survived his recall challenge. Abdol Soofi of UW-Platteville says the Badger State is not immune from the slowness of the national economic recovery. And by providing tax incentives for businesses, Soofi tells the Madison Capital Times that Republicans have adopted “reverse Robin Hood policies” that cut into the middle class’s buying power. Doug Kupczyk of the Ashland Area Development Corporation says businesses will expand only if there’s a new demand for their services-and-products. Kupczyk said the real problem is that people need to make a living wage to buy what people make. Also, Kupczyk said he’s heard no confirmation about recent reports that Walker’s people are still talking to Gogebic Taconite about an iron ore mine near his home community. He said he’s not sure that the whole project hasn’t been dropped. Still, Wisconsin’s largest business and real estate groups say the Walker victory will encourage job growth – because executives won’t have to worry about a sudden change in state leadership and tax policy.
Governor Scott Walker can thank voters in the northern half of Wisconsin for his recall election victory on Tuesday. That’s according Milwaukee Journal Sentinel voter analyst Craig Gilbert. He found that much of Walker’s large base in southeast Wisconsin either gave him up two-percent more or two-percent fewer votes than they gave him in 2010, when the Republican first won the governor’s office. But in most counties in central and northern Wisconsin, Walker’s share of the vote grew by at least four-percent – and in a dozen counties, it grew by six-percent or more. Meanwhile, Democrat Tom Barrett carried the counties with Milwaukee and Madison by larger margins than he did 17 months ago – but his support did not increase out-state. And despite the intense polarization, exit polls from Tuesday showed that independent swing voters still matter in state elections – and this time, they generally went for Walker. The exit polls showed that 37-percent of Walker’s voters were moderates. Twenty-percent supported Walker even though they had a favorable opinion of the public unions whose power was virtually stripped by the governor. And nine-percent of Walker voters did not approve of his collective bargaining changes but still voted for him anyway. Walker carried five-of-every-six Wisconsin counties on Tuesday, with an overall victory margin of seven-percent.
Governor Scott Walker will visit a factory in Sturgeon Bay and a construction firm in Chippewa Falls today, as part of his focus on creating jobs. The Republican Walker told his Cabinet yesterday they’ll spend the rest of his term “focused like a laser beam” on jobs. His department heads gave Walker and Lieutenant Governor a three-minute standing ovation, after both won their recall elections on Tuesday. Walker said it was like a “Badgers’ pep rally,” as he and Kleefisch walked around the governor’s conference table and gave each Cabinet member a hug. Walker said he would not gloat about his seven-point win over Democrat Tom Barrett. But instead, the governor said he would move on. Walker said he spoke yesterday with Democratic legislative leaders and state school Superintendent Tony Evers – and he said they’re all open to working with him.
Two leaders of the state’s largest teachers’ union say they’re not sure whether Governor Scott Walker would be open to a fresh dialogue about public education. WEAC president Mary Bell says there needs to be a better way to have a civil discussion. Bell and union executive director Dan Burkhalter told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel the group spent about four-million dollars on the effort to recall Walker. Most of it was on Kathleen Falk’s unsuccessful primary bid, which she lost to Tom Barrett last month. Burkhalter said the union had all its “chips in,” because they had nothing to lose after Walker and his fellow Republicans cut state school aid and virtually ended collective bargaining for school unions. Walker and his supporters said many schools were able to save money by finding more cost-effective health insurance, and making employees pay more for toward their health care and pensions. WEAC has lost about 20,000 members since the union limits took effect. They now have around 70,000 – and the union plans a series of membership drives this summer.
A group that was trying to recall Michigan’s Republican governor has given up, saying that Tuesday’s results in Wisconsin showed how hard it would be. The group Michigan Rising also said it’s been short of its goals for collecting recall signatures against Governor Rick Snyder. So instead, the group plans to make a long-term effort to create a progressive think tank, and develop progressive leaders, and support the ones they have. Officials in Snyder’s administration say people are focusing more on recent budget and economic improvements, than on a recall campaign.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says he will not press charges against a woman who slapped him in the face after he conceded defeat in Tuesday’s recall election for governor. A TV news video of the incident went viral on the Internet yesterday. The woman confronted Barrett right after he gave his concession speech after 10 p-m. She said the Democrat should not have conceded while people were still waiting in line to vote in Milwaukee. But city officials said the final ballots were actually cast at 9:35 – a good half-hour before Barrett spoke. The woman asked to slap Barrett in the face – but when he offered to hug her instead, she slapped him anyway. Yesterday, the mayor said that’s “life in the big city.” With all the passion in the recall effort, Barrett said he understood that people were frustrated. He said he was surprised about getting slapped but quote, “You move on.”
Democrats say they’ll move ahead with some things but not others, as they plan to assume the majority in the state Senate for at least the next seven months. The Democrats needed to win one-of-four recall contests on Tuesday to take control at least until November, when half the Senate’s up for election. They appear to have defeated Racine Republican Van Wanggaard. But he has not conceded, after losing by just over one-percent to Democrat John Lehman. Wanggaard said his election was rife with voting irregularities and uncounted absentee ballots. And he’ll consider a recount after an official canvass which starts next Tuesday. But Senate GOP leader Scott Fitzgerald says Wanggaard’s 779-vote margin is a lot to overcome. He’ll wait and see what happens. But if Lehman wins, Fitzgerald promised full cooperation in handing control to the Democrats. Yesterday, Monona Democrat Mark Miller proclaimed himself as the new majority leader. He said one of his goals is to force a GOP minority to disclose records showing how they secretly drafted the new legislative districts to be used for the next decade. Technically, Democrats could claim committee chairmanships, larger offices, bigger staffs, and higher pay for aides with their newfound majority. But Madison Democrat Fred Risser, who could become the Senate’s president, said those things will probably wait until after November. Neenah Republican Mike Ellis is still the Senate’s president until the body’s next meeting – which might not be held until after the fall elections. Ellis said he’s confident the GOP will win back control then.