State Government and Political News: Walker gives optimistic State of State AddressWisconsin News
-- Governor Scott Walker said last night that Wisconsin is moving forward with quote, “bold vision and bright hope for the future.”
MADISON - Governor Scott Walker said last night that Wisconsin is moving forward with quote, “bold vision and bright hope for the future.”
In his annual State-of-the-State address, the Republican governor said unemployment is down and the economy is improving. He also made general comments about a less divisive agenda he’s seeking for the next two years which highlights tax cuts, job creation, more options for education, and fewer state rules on businesses – including miners. Walker brought a group of unemployed private union contractors to the podium, to help punctuate his desire for what he called “safe, environmentally-sensitive mining” legislation. Majority Republicans are expected to unveil their mining proposal today. Walker’s gesture was a stark contrast from two years ago, when he and public unions were at odds over his bill to virtually eliminate their collective bargaining privileges – and thousands protested.
A few dozen protestors shouted in the Capitol Rotunda during last night’s address, but they could hardly be heard in the chamber. State Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson called Walker’s speech “high on theatrics but low on substance.” State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha said Walker needs to start working with Democrats on bills to create jobs and train more workers. Barca said the GOP must quote, “stop spending large amounts of time on polarizing, less-pressing partisan issues.”
This afternoon, Walker will highlight his State-of-the-State remarks during visits to Hartford and Green Bay.
Milwaukee voters will be asked whether they support Wisconsin’s long-time practice of letting voters register at the polls on Election Day. The Common Council voted 11-4 yesterday to put the question on the April second ballot in an advisory referendum. Supporters believe that Milwaukeeans will heavily endorse same-day registration – and they hope it will send a message to Republican state lawmakers to leave the system alone. But Alderman Bob Bauman noted that spring elections generally have lower turnouts, and he told supporters quote, “You may not get the results you’re looking for.” All of the aldermen said they supported same-day registration in general – but they said a referendum might not be the best way to show that support. Last November, over 54-thousand Milwaukeeans – or one-in-every-five city voters – registered at the polls, as President Obama easily carried both the city and Wisconsin. Some Republicans have said the same-day registration favors Democrats. Governor Scott Walker says he’d like to get rid of it. But he won’t push it, because it would cost millions-of-dollars to follow federal election laws from which the state is now exempt due to its same-day registration system.
Governor Scott Walker has joined the list of speakers at the nation’s top annual conservative gathering. Walker has been placed on the agenda for the Conservative Political Action Conference to be held March 14-16 just outside of Washington. CNN calls it a “popular cattle call for Republicans considering bids for the White House.” And so far, there are at least two speakers who’ve been mentioned as possible White House candidates for 2016 – House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville, and U-S Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Ryan – the GOP vice-presidential candidate last year – has been named as a featured speaker for the conservative conference. Rand Paul is the son of former Texas Congressman and White House candidate Ron Paul. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is also on the event’s agenda, along with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
We should know today what Republicans have in mind for shortening the state’s time period for approving new mines, while loosening regulations to attract developers. Senate Republican Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst said the GOP would release its proposed new mining package today. Last night, Governor Scott Walker said in his State-of-the-State address that he wants “safe and environmentally-sensitive mining” to provide jobs in far northern Wisconsin, where Iron County has a jobless rate of almost 12-percent. That assumes Gogebic Taconite or some other developer would be interested in building a new mine in Iron and Ashland counties – which Gogebic was planning to build until the Senate rejected a mining package a year ago by one moderate vote. That bill would have loosened environmental rules, and limited bureaucratic challenges by mining opponents. Walker had unemployed private union contractors join him at the podium last night, with a Wisconsin flag that depicts a miner. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said the workers were from one of the few unions that supported Walker in 2010, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local-139. Assembly Democrat Brett Hulsey of Madison said he doubted that those people would get jobs from a new mine. He said most of the jobs would probably go to unemployed miners from nearby Michigan and Minnesota.
All five Wisconsin U.S. House Republicans voted no, when the House approved over $50-billion in relief for the victims of Superstorm Sandy. Paul Ryan of Janesville, Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls, Tom Petri of Fond du Lac, Reid Ribble of Sherwood, and Sean Duffy of Ashland joined 174 other GOP House members and one Democrat in voting no last night. Conservatives tried but failed to off-set part of the disaster aid with across-the-board cuts in other federal spending. Critics said the cuts would put a crimp into the military and other domestic programs. Appropriations chairman Hal Rogers said there are times when a disaster quote, “simply goes beyond our ability to budget.” And he said Sandy was one of those times. Wisconsin’s three Democrats all voted in favor of the package – Ron Kind of La Crosse, Gwen Moore of Milwaukee, and Madison House freshman Mark Pocan. It was sent to the Senate on a vote of 241-to-180, after the House decided earlier to triple the original aid of 17-billion dollars. The revised package includes 16-billion to fix transit systems in New York and New Jersey – and a similar amount for housing and other needs in the Northeast.