Government and Political Roundup: Walker to give his State-of-the-State address next weekGovernor Scott Walker will present his third annual State-of-the-State address next week.
Governor Scott Walker will present his third annual State-of-the-State address next week. The speech is scheduled to begin at seven o’clock Tuesday night in the Assembly chamber. He’ll address the full Legislature, elected state officials, Supreme Court justices, and invited guests. The Republican Walker is expected to talk in general about the initiatives he plans to pursue during the new two-year session of the Legislature – including items that will appear in his proposed state budget. Walker has already said he would include tax cuts, more job creation measures, and more education reforms. The governor is expected to outline those proposals in a speech next month when he submits his budget to the Legislature.
The Wisconsin Assembly’s Republican and Democratic leaders say they’re negotiating on a way to avoid the all-night meetings which were a hallmark of the last session. Republican Speaker Robin Vos and Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca talked privately for three hours yesterday, spoke with reporters, and then resumed their talks. They’re not giving a lot of details yet. The full Assembly will act on the chamber’s rules tomorrow – and there’s talk that an overnight meeting will be needed to figure out how to end those overnight meetings. Barca said debates should end at nine p-m, but Vos said he doesn’t want a curfew. Both leaders say they’re not close to an agreement – but they’re committed to having one by tomorrow’s full Assembly meeting. In the last session, Democrats delayed voting on G-O-P measures as long as possible by holding private caucuses all day – causing full Assembly meetings to start late at night and drag on until the next day. That normally happens at budget deadlines and the ends of sessions. But even routine bills didn’t get debated until the wee hours in the last session, while the people those measures affected were sleeping. In 2001, the Assembly met for 61 straight hours as Democrats delayed passage of the G-O-P’s limits on public union bargaining.
Both challengers for the State Supreme Court signed last year’s petitions to recall Governor Scott Walker. Vince Megna and Ed Fallone say if they’re elected to the high court this spring, they might hear cases in which Walker is a plaintiff or defendant. Megna and Fallone are both running against incumbent Justice Pat Roggensack. The conservative Media Trackers’ group said both her challengers were among the 900-thousand-plus who signed petitions which forced Walker to stand for election last June. Megna, a Milwaukee Lemon Law attorney, has produced a series of anti-Walker videos. He said he was motivated to sign the recall petition because Walker had reduced consumer protections. Fallone’s campaign consultant, Melissa Mulliken, said he signed the petition because he thought the voters should have their say. Governors are often named in cases that go before the Supreme Court, and Mulliken says there’s no rule that requires judges to withdraw from such cases if they sign a recall petition. Megna says he would consider hearing Walker cases on an individual basis. Last spring, the state’s Judicial Commission was asked to investigate 29 circuit judges throughout Wisconsin who signed the Walker recall petitions. There was no word on how those matters turned out.
A Wisconsin senator says his colleagues have no business telling local governments how to run themselves. Middleton Democrat Jon Erpenbach had harsh words yesterday, after freshman Assembly Republican Joe Sanfelippo of West Allis said he would introduce a bill for a binding referendum on whether the Milwaukee County Board should be reduced to part-time. Sanfelippo was on the County Board last year when he tried and failed to get members to cut their own pay. Current board leaders accused Sanfelippo of carrying water for County Executive Chris Abele, whom they say has a “personal vendetta” against them. Abele has had a number of skirmishes with the County Board. Critics say it led him to push for a referendum to cut supervisors’ pay by 70-percent to around 15-thousand dollars a year, and to cut the board’s budget by 85-percent. Supervisor Theo Lipscomb says it would silence the board and give the executive much more power. Abele denies a vendetta, and says people should have the right to decide whether Milwaukee County should continue to have the state’s only full-time County Board. Erpenbach criticized Sanfelippo for trying to take the battle to the State Capitol. In Erpenbach’s words, “I wonder how the guy would feel if Congress came in, and said we’re going to cut your pay in half – and you’re not going to get any benefits, but you have to do the same amount of work.”