Government and Political Roundup: Property tax bills on average slightly less than 2011Wisconsin News
-- The property tax bills that Wisconsinites are getting this month average less than one-percent higher than a year ago.
The property tax bills that Wisconsinites are getting this month average less than one-percent higher than a year ago. The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance said local net taxes throughout the state are about seven-tenths-of-a-percent more than last year. And the increase is smaller than the previous two years, when they came in a two-point-eight percent and four-point-two. Tax Alliance president Todd Berry credits state-imposed tax levy limits by local governments. But the group also notes that an increase-or-decrease varies widely among each individual community. Property taxes are generally used for funding municipal and county governments, public schools, and technical colleges.
If three Milwaukee Democrats have their way, all Wisconsinites who apply to carry concealed weapons would undergo psychological exams. It’s one of three measures proposed yesterday in response to last Friday’s Connecticut school massacre. Assembly Democrat Fred Kessler and two incoming representatives – Evan Goyke and Mandela Barnes – also want to ban purchases of military-style assault rifles and hollow-point bullets. Current owners of assault rifles would have to register them. Goyke said the psychological tests could be part of the classes that permit applicants must take on handling concealed weapons. He said those people already undergo background checks, and Kessler said it would be hard for a lawmaker to vote against requiring a mental health exam. But Kessler admitted all three measures would run into opposition in the Republican-controlled Legislature. James Fendry of the Wisconsin Pro-Gun Movement is against all three bills. Fendry said the criminally-insane can always get firearms, and the exams would only cause delays for law-abiding citizens who apply for concealed carry permits. He also said assault rifles are used in shooting competitions – and it would be too expensive to ban the guns and certain types of bullets. Earlier yesterday, Attorney General J-B Van Hollen said he was against “knee-jerk” reactions by politicians to the Newtown tragedy. But in a statement late in the day, Van Hollen said he’ll stay open to quote, “any and all measures that might protect the innocent” if they protect the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.
U-W President Kevin Reilly is asking legislators to reconsider parts of a law that forces campuses to buy commercial Internet service, instead of using a cheaper tax-funded cooperative. Reilly says students and taxpayers would be left with higher bills unless something’s done. Majority Republicans said the government should not compete with the private sector. So starting in July, U-W schools will have to stop getting their high-speed Web service from Wisc-Net, a non-profit cooperative that also sends the Web to most public schools and libraries in Wisconsin. Reilly says it costs each institution about 500-dollars a month for the Internet – and he says private operators charge around 11-hundred a month for the same service. Yesterday, state auditors told the U-W to clarify where it will get its Internet service once the new law takes effect. Republican Legislative Audit Committee co-chair Samantha Kerkman says it’s important to offer high-speed Web service to public institutions, but not at the expense of private firms. But Democratic co-chair Kathleen Vinehout sides with the U-W – and she says lawmakers must consider whether the Internet is a vehicle for public good, or a commodity that’s only offered to make a profit. Also, auditors said the U-W might have broken state law by making over two-million dollars in pre-payments for future service. Laws generally prohibit state agencies from using current appropriations to pay for future services. Reilly says the U-W will recover the payments by the end of next June.
State Supreme Court candidate Vince Megna – who has declared himself a Democrat – wants others in the race to declare their political ideologies. The Milwaukee attorney says the only way to have a fair-and-truthful election is for candidates to put “R” or “D” behind their names. Supreme Court races are supposed to be non-partisan, since judges are expected to rule on the merits of cases, regardless of where they fall politically. But in recent years, conservative jurists on the court have aligned themselves with Republicans, and liberals with Democrats. Incumbent Pat Roggensack – one of four members of the court’s conservative majority – has a former director of the state G-O-P managing her campaign. Brandon Scholz says he has not seen Megna’s latest request, and would not comment on it. The only other candidate at the moment, Marquette law professor Ed Fallone, has not commented on Megna’s idea, either. Megna made his name winning Lemon Law cases for buyers of defective new vehicles. He has stated his opposition to the photo I-D law for voting – which is now tied up in the courts. The judicial code says judges and candidates are not supposed to take sides in matters that could come before the court. Megna says he has not stated how he’d vote on a voter I-D lawsuit – but he says voters ask him where he stands on issues generally, and he answers them.
It seems that all of us will be losing something if the federal government goes over the fiscal cliff at the end of the year. And that could include about 40-thousand Wisconsinites with new or current claims for unemployment benefits. Almost four dozen Democratic state lawmakers have asked their representatives in Washington to act fast, and extend federal emergency jobless benefits which are set to expire on December 29th. Racine Assembly Democrat Cory Mason says he hopes federal negotiators do not quote, “throw people off the cliff to try to reach an agreement.”