Government and Political Roundup: Mining hearing to be held in Ashland SaturdayWisconsin News
-- If Republicans won’t do it, Democrats will.
If Republicans won’t do it, Democrats will. Two Democratic lawmakers say they’ll hold a public hearing on Saturday in Ashland on the G-O-P’s bill that would make it easier for Gogebic Taconite to open a new iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. Senator Bob Jauch and Representative Janet Bewley represent the area where the new mine would go. And they say those living near the mine site have not been heard. Majority Republicans had said a public hearing in northern Wisconsin was not needed, because a hearing took place there two years ago on a similar package. And folks who wanted their say on the new package could have driven to Madison for the State Capitol hearing a couple weeks ago. Yesterday, mining committees in both the Senate and Assembly endorsed the G-O-P’s package – including 11 amendments aimed at improving environmental protections. But Democrats said the changes didn’t go far enough, and no Democrats voted in favor of the mining package in either committee. The Democrats were also turned away when they asked the Assembly panel to delay a vote for a month – and they asked the Senate panel to drop the G-O-P package altogether in favor of Janesville Democrat Tim Cullen’s alternative measure. The Cullen package would not reduce any environmental protections, and would let people keep challenging the D-N-R’s mining decisions – something the G-O-P wants to end.
The three candidates for a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat will debate each other only once – and that’s today in Milwaukee. Justice Pat Roggensack is trying to get re-elected to her second 10-year term. She’s opposed by Milwaukee Lemon Law attorney Vince Megna and Marquette law school professor Ed Fallone. The primary is a week from next Tuesday, and the top two vote-getters will advance to the April general election. Both challengers have mentioned excessive discord among the seven justices, but Roggensack insists that they’re getting along fine. Fallone has made it a bigger part of his campaign, while Megna says the court has divided itself along partisan political lines – and he wants the justices to make it official by giving themselves a party label. Roggensack is one of the court’s four conservative justices – and her campaign says she follows the rule of law in her rulings, and not the political winds.
Governor Scott Walker says the new mental health initiatives in his proposed state budget will improve public safety, after last year’s mass shootings in both Wisconsin and the nation. But the Republican Walker said his package goes beyond the criminal element – and he wants to end the social stigma of seeking help. The Republican Walker said yesterday he would include almost 29-million dollars in his two-year budget package for new and expanded mental health services. He said it would go to a variety of programs to help families and foster kids, deal with substance abuse, and provide more inpatient units at the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison, plus respite centers as alternatives to hospitalization. Walker said his package would also bring in just over seven-million more dollars from the federal government. Also yesterday, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he was creating a task force to make recommendations for improving mental health services. Vos said his group would work closely with the governor on his plans – and they plan issue their suggestions by the end of May.
Republican strategist Karl Rove says Wisconsin has two of the most remarkable political talents in the country. And he believes both Governor Scott Walker and Congressman Paul Ryan can be viable national candidates if they want to be. Rove spoke during a hour-long program yesterday at Ripon College and met with reporters. He said Democrats control the message from Washington, but the G-O-P still has at least some strength with its control of the House and a majority of state governorships. And Rove said it will have to be people like Walker and Ryan – the House Budget chairman from Janesville – who create the party’s policies going forward. Rove is currently working to recruit candidates for the U-S Senate in 2014. He said the party can do better than Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, both of whom lost key Senate races in November. Rove also said he’s confident that Wisconsin will soon carry a Republican to the White House, after Ronald Reagan was the last to win the state in 1984. Rove said both parties have strong bases, and it’s the independent voters who decide the major races. He said the G-O-P needs a candidate who can reach out to quote, “blue-collar Democrats and rural moderate conservative Democrats in the western part of the state.”
Majority Republicans have done a lot of things to keep Democrats under wraps – but cutting off their phone service is not one of them. The State Capitol and other buildings in downtown Madison have been wrestling with a major telephone and Internet outage since last Friday, when a construction mishap occurred. But the news has not reached every corner of the state. And some lawmakers fear that their constituents might think they’re ignoring them. Senate Democrat Julie Lassa of Stevens Point said her office is down to one working phone line – and it’s not the number in the state’s directory. A construction crew mistakenly broke an A-T-and-T phone line about a mile south of the Capitol. State office buildings were the ones most affected, and officials have been able to re-route lines to minimize the impact. But the phone problem has not gone totally away, and Lassa says it’s been hard all week to do business at the Capitol. A-T-and-T could not say how many customers were affected, or are still having problems. They say they’ve been working around the clock to get it fixed. Jeff Maurer, who owns a fresh food market near the U-W campus, tells W-I-S-C T-V it might be tomorrow night before he gets his Internet service back – and he calls that unacceptable. He does a lot of grocery business online, and he says the outage have cost him thousands-of-dollars.