Government and Political Roundup: Majority of State House members voted in favor to avoid fiscal cliffWisconsin News
-- Wisconsin House members voted 5-to-3 in favor of the compromise that avoids the national fiscal cliff of massive federal spending cuts, and tax hikes on the middle class.
Wisconsin House members voted 5-to-3 in favor of the compromise that avoids the national fiscal cliff of massive federal spending cuts, and tax hikes on the middle class. The measure passed 257-to-167 just before 10 last night. It was the same bill passed by the Senate on New Year’s Eve – although conservatives talked about adding more spending cuts before retreating. Republicans Jim Sensenbrenner, Tom Petri, and Sean Duffy were the state’s only lawmakers to vote no. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville said he voted yes to protect as many Americans as possible from a large tax increase. All employees will still get a Social Security tax hike that averages around 60-dollars a month. That’s because a two-percent temporary tax cut will end, after it was passed two years ago to stimulate the economy. Sherwood Republican Reid Ribble said basic tax rates will stay the same for 99-percent of all Americans. Ribble also said he was glad that the compromise avoids a large hike in consumer milk prices – and it also prevents a cut in payments for doctors who treat Medicare patients. Milwaukee Democrat Gwen Moore said she was happy that the deal continues the extended unemployment benefits, and higher taxes for couples making 450-thousand dollars a year. But she said spending cuts would again dominate the House discussion in two months, when an increase in the debt ceiling comes up again.
State-and-local election officials are expected to be busy throughout Wisconsin today. Candidates for the spring elections have until the end of the day to file their nomination papers. There are two statewide contests on the ballot this spring. State Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack has filed her papers for a second 10-year term – and she’s opposed by Marquette professor Ed Fallone and Milwaukee Lemon Law attorney Vince Megna. State Public School Superintendent Tony Evers is running for a second four-year term against Assembly Republican Don Pridemore of Hartford. There are also numerous local government and school board posts on the spring ballots. Contests with three-or-more candidates will have primaries on February 19th – and the top-two vote-getters in each contest will square off in the general election on April second.
Governor Scott Walker will use the first business day of the New Year to rally support from industries for more relaxed mining laws in Wisconsin. The Republican Walker will speak at businesses in Green Bay, Schofield, and Milwaukee today to discuss what he calls his “Mining for Jobs” agenda. Walker plans to have area lawmakers at his side, as he makes a pitch to create mining jobs. A bill that would have sped up the state’s approval process for new mines was defeated in the last session, because moderates and Democrats opposed the relaxing of environmental rules and the elimination of public challenges to parts of the approval process. Democrats used a short-lived majority in the final months of last year to produce their own package for the new session which begins next week. It calls for a two-year time limit for the D-N-R to approve new mines while preserving environmental protections, and still letting opponents challenge various items in contested-case hearings. Gogebic Taconite says it’s against the Democratic bill – and the state’s largest business group says it doesn’t go far enough to provide much-needed jobs. Gogebic Taconite scrapped plans to build an iron ore mine near Hurley last year, after a Republican package was defeated. Walker recently said he wants a bill that both creates jobs, and protects the environment.
Governor Scott Walker has not granted a single pardon after two years in office – and he has failed to set up a Pardon Advisory Board which normally reviews such requests. Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie confirms that the Republican Walker has suspended the pardon system, but would not say why. He tells the A-P that Walker has received quote, “a bunch” of requests for pardons. He did not say exactly how many. Pardons do not overturn felony convictions – but they give those who’ve served their time a better chance for a new life, and less of a chance of being denied jobs. It also restores the rights to own firearms, hold public licenses, and serve in public office. Incoming state Senate Democratic leader Chris Larson says Walker is shirking his duties by not considering pardons. He calls it a quote, “important fail-safe to an imperfect judicial system.” Normally, governors appoint people to a Pardon Advisory Board. But Walker has not appointed anyone, and the panel has not met during his two years in office. Former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle granted about 300 pardons during his eight years in office, most coming in the last three-and-a-half months. His Republican predecessor Scott McCallum granted around 25 pardons in two years. And Republican Tommy Thompson granted 62 pardons in his final seven years in office, ending in 2000.