State Government and Political News Briefs: Wisconsinites to be a part of new immigration bill ceremonyWisconsin News
-- The head of a Milwaukee Hispanic group and a striking Wisconsin pizza worker will be on hand today, when President Obama announces his immigration reform plan in Las Vegas.
LAS VEGAS - The head of a Milwaukee Hispanic group and a striking Wisconsin pizza worker will be on hand today, when President Obama announces his immigration reform plan in Las Vegas.
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, founder of Voces de la Frontera, was invited to the event by the AFL-CIO – and the union asked her to bring a striking worker from Palermo’s Pizza of Milwaukee. Stephanie Oramirez has been among those trying to organize a union.
Yesterday, a bi-partisan group of U.S. senators proposed a comprehensive immigration plan of their own. It calls for securing the borders, and then creating a path to citizenship for the 11-million illegal immigrants now in the country. It would also deal with those who overstay their visas, strengthen the system for employers to verify workers’ immigration status, and let more low-skilled workers into the U.S. And the Senate package creates a new program for agricultural workers. The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation is among those trying to allow immigrants to work year-round on dairy farms, and Paul Zimmermann said it’s positive that something has been proposed.
Two Wisconsin House Republicans said everything hinges on the details. Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls – who once proposed making it a felony just to be in the U.S. illegally – said any amnesty is quote, “dangerous waters.” Janesville’s Paul Ryan said immigration reform can be done this year, but he says it should be in smaller pieces instead of big package that might quote, “collapse of its own weight.”
Governor Scott Walker was hoping for a much quieter state legislative session as he plots his re-election in 21 months. Instead, state senators have brought back an issue from the 2011 battle over the near-elimination of public union bargaining. Secretary-of-State Douglas La Follette held up the adoption of that law by imposing a 10-day delay in getting it published. Yesterday, the Senate Organization Committee voted 3-2 – with Democrats voting no and Republicans voting yes – to take La Follette’s office out of the process and eliminate the 10-day delay option. The full Senate will vote on the change today, and GOP Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau says it would add clarity to the lawmaking process. But La Follette is furious over the change. He said it’s clear that those in power quote, “think they can rush everything through.” And he called it “one more thing in diminishing the people’s ability to learn what’s going on.” La Follette said the union law was the only time the publication delay was ever controversial. Under the change, the Legislative Reference Bureau would publish bills the day after they’re signed. And the new laws would immediately take effect, unless designated otherwise. It’s similar to what Republicans tried using in 2011 to do an end run around La Follette, and speed up the start of the union law.
Ten of Wisconsin’s 132 legislators each claimed over $10,000 in expense reimbursements for the time they spent in Madison last year. As you might expect, the leaders of each house received the most, since they were among the busiest. Senate Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau claimed the most in per-diem payments with $14,600 dollars, and Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder of Abbotsford was next at just over $13,000. Former Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald of Horicon and Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha also made the Top-10 – along with Senate Republican Neal Kedzie of Elkhorn, Senate Democrats Jon Erpenbach of Middleton and Tim Cullen of Janesville, Assembly Democrats Elizabeth Coggs and Leon Young of Milwaukee, and Assembly Republican Andy Jorgenson of Fort Atkinson. Assembly leaders recently considered an increase in their daily allowances for their food-and-lodging in the Capital City – but they later decided against it. Suder had said it was logical to increase the per-diems, since they had not gone up in over a decade. Lawmakers can claim $88 a day for expenses, except for nearby Dane County lawmakers who get $44. Erpenbach made the Top-10 despite getting the smaller reimbursement. Assembly Independent Bob Ziegelbauer of Manitowoc claimed the least in per-diems with $1,360. He’s also the Manitowoc County executive, which he’s doing full-time since he did not seek re-election to his Assembly post.
Governor Scott Walker is starting to express concerns about changing the way Wisconsin casts its electoral votes. He now says it might make the Badger State irrelevant in future presidential campaigns. Some Republicans want Wisconsin to stop giving all its electoral votes to the statewide winner of the popular vote. Instead, they want a vote to go to the winner in each congressional district, with the goal of having the GOP carry Wisconsin in the presidential race for the first time since 1984. Walker initially said he found the idea intriguing – but he never took a stand either way, and he’s still neutral about the change. Walker said it could make Wisconsin irrelevant to the White House candidates, and they would stop making high-profile visits at election time. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus from Kenosha favors the change, saying it would force the candidates to focus on local issues in congressional districts. But Walker says most House districts are tilted to one party or the other – so the candidates wouldn’t find it worth their while to campaign there. Last fall, President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney focused on just nine swing states – including Wisconsin – and they conceded the others to one candidate or the other.
Mining committees in both the state Assembly and the state Senate plan to vote a week from tomorrow on the Republican package which would make it easier to open new mines. Majority Republicans say the bill would create much-needed jobs throughout the Badger State – and the early committee votes are a sign of that urgency. The votes are expected to pave the way for negotiations on possible changes which could address criticisms about reduced environmental protections. The key Republican sponsors have already said there would be changes – but it remains to be seen what they’ll be. The bill would also set a 480-day time limit for approving mining applications – and it’s geared toward Gogebic Taconite’s plan to open an iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. The state Senate’s president, Sen. Michael Ellis (R-Neenah) has said he wants elements of a Democratic alternative placed into the GOP package. Among other things, the bill from Janesville Senate Democrat Tim Cullen would preserve environmental protections. And it would not take away people’s rights to challenge DNR mining decisions both before-and-after mining permits are issued.