State Government and Political News: State Supreme Court primary tomorrowWisconsin News
-- Three candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court are wrapping up their primary campaigns. Justice Pat Roggensack is challenged tomorrow by Marquette law professor Ed Fallone and Milwaukee Lemon Law attorney Vince Megna. The top-two vote getters will move on to the April 2nd general election.
Three candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court are wrapping up their primary campaigns. Justice Pat Roggensack is challenged tomorrow by Marquette law professor Ed Fallone and Milwaukee Lemon Law attorney Vince Megna. The top-two vote getters will move on to the April 2nd general election.
Roggensack has raised about three times as much money as Fallone, and Megna has collected relatively little. The two challengers have accused Roggensack of trying to downplay the Supreme Court’s internal bickering of the last few years – which was highlighted again last week in a court filing from Justice Ann Walsh Bradley. She said a security plan was drafted in March of 2011 to protect her and Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson from conservative Justice David Prosser, three months before Prosser allegedly put Bradley in a chokehold during an argument. The administration department and Capitol Police said they had no record of a special security plan. But former Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs has since confirmed that a plan was indeed put into place. State officials say about 10-percent of eligible voters are expected to cast ballots tomorrow.
Madison political and school leaders say they will fight efforts to create a private school voucher program in their city. Governor Scott Walker announced this morning that his proposed state budget would expand the long-running voucher program beyond Milwaukee County and Racine. It would include school districts with at least four-thousand students, and at least two buildings getting the two lowest-grades in the state’s report cards given out to schools last year. Madison, the state’s second-largest city, had nine schools with grades of “D,” and none flunked. Madison School Board member Ed Hughes said most people reject the notion that Wisconsin’s capital has failing schools. Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said the voucher plan does not get at the root cause of the problems in Madison schools – which they said is poverty. Soglin said the Republican governor never talked to him about letting low-income kids leave the public schools to get tax money to attend private schools. The mayor said that if somebody wants to improve education, they should ask the people for their advice. Two key Republicans in the Legislature have said they won’t vote to expand school vouchers unless the affected communities approve it in referendums. Madison is one of nine districts that could possibly get voucher programs. The others are West Allis-West Milwaukee, Green Bay, Fond du Lac, Beloit, Kenosha, Superior, Waukesha, and Sheboygan.
If the governor has his way, up to nine more Wisconsin school districts could have low-income students going to private schools at taxpayers’ expense. Republican Scott Walker gave details of his school voucher plans to the Associated Press yesterday, before he planned to make a full public announcement today. Under the governor’s proposed budget, the voucher program would be allowed in districts with over four-thousand students. And at least two buildings in those districts must have grades of “D” or “F” in the state report cards that began last year. For years, the voucher program operated only in Milwaukee. Two years ago, it expanded to the Milwaukee County suburbs and Racine. Now, under Walker’s plan, the Green Bay and Madison districts could qualify – along with Fond du Lac, Beloit, Kenosha, Sheboygan, Superior, West-Allis-West Milwaukee, and Waukesha. Not all of Walker’s fellow Republicans in the Legislature support such an expansion. Senate President Mike Ellis of Neenah says it’s wrong for an entire school district to qualify for private school vouchers if it has just a couple of failing schools. He said it’s possible that students from non-failing schools could take slots intended for low-income youngsters. And both Ellis and GOP Senate Education chair Luther Olsen of Berlin said they would oppose any expansion, unless residents in the affected districts agree to it in a referendum. Many in the public schools say the voucher program takes away too many students and their state aid – while Republicans say it gives poor children a better chance to succeed in life.
It would cost $14.5 million dollars for Wisconsin to end its long-running policy of letting voters register at the polls on Election Day. The state Government Accountability Board spelled out the extra costs in a report issued this morning. Because Wisconsin has same-day registration, it does not have to comply with the federal “motor voter” law, in which people can register-to-vote when they renew driver’s licenses or apply for government benefits. Last fall, the Accountability Board said it would cost that agency alone an extra $5.2 million to mail out various notices to comply with the federal law. And while Republican Governor Scott Walker supported dumping same-day registration, he was against having to spend the five-million. Now, the cost estimate is almost three times that much, after costs from the DOT, the Health Services Department, and other state agencies were added in. At last word, at least one state Assembly lawmaker was still ready to press ahead to dump same-day voter registration, even with the extra costs. Some Republicans in the past have said that same-day registration helps Democrats. In Milwaukee, over 50,000 people registered on Election Day last November – and both the city and the state helped Democratic President Barack Obama get re-elected.
Governor Scott Walker says he’ll budget an additional $25-million to help emerging businesses get off the ground. Walker said he would include a venture capital fund in the state budget proposal he’ll give to the Legislature on Wednesday. There was talk earlier that it might be a separate proposal. Walker told the Wisconsin State Journal that the venture capital would create more jobs and boost the state’s economy. The fund would include both state and private investments – and it’s on top of millions-of-dollars in tax credits for start-up companies that Walker had outlined earlier this month. Venture capital legislation died in the last session because it would have had certified capital companies handle the funding. Wisconsin used a similar mechanism a decade earlier – and media reports said millions of tax dollars were lost. This time, there’s been no talk of the capital firms getting involved.
House Republican Paul Ryan of Janesville says the White House is looking for quote, “a partisan advantage” to immigration reform instead of a bi-partisan solution. Lawmakers of both parties went on the national TV talk shows yesterday, after word leaked out Saturday that President Obama was getting ready to send an immigration bill to Congress. Senate Republican John McCain of Arizona said the administration would come up short if it tries to force the issue on Capitol Hill. New York Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said his White House allies should wait to see what an eight-member congressional group of both parties comes up with. Ryan, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” said that when Obama pushes his own legislation, it makes it harder for Congress to reach its own bi-partisan compromise. Florida Senate Republican Marco Rubio said the president’s bill would be quote, “dead on arrival in Congress, leaving us with unsecured borders and a broken immigration system for years to come.” Many details of the new proposal are in line with the general goals Obama has stated – more funding for border security, helping businesses determine the immigration status of those they hire, and creating a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11-million illegal immigrants.
Wisconsin’s Bad River Indians could have more power than a lot of people might think, in imposing regulations for a proposed mine upstream from their reservation. Two years ago, the federal EPA agreed to let the Bad River tribe near Ashland set up its own water quality standards. And it gives the tribe the authority to order pollution limits on anything outside the reservation that could come in and harm tribal waters. UW Law School specialist Richard Monette says the Bad River’s authority could be a “substantial obstacle” for the proposed mine. But both the EPA and the state DNR say it’s too early to tell. The tribal water authority is nothing new – the Lac du Flambeau and Mole Lake tribes have long had the same powers. But they’ve been discussed very little in the state Legislature’s debate over a proposed mining package, which would help Gogebic Taconite get approval for a new iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. Tribal chairman Mike Wiggins tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel his tribe will be quote, “testing all over the place.” And Gogebic Taconite agrees it will have to comply. Tribal president Bill Williams said almost two weeks ago that the firm is studying its options, to guarantee that any water leaving the site will meet tribal limits – some of which are more stringent than what the state as a whole enforces. Also, the Bad River is seeking authority to regulate air pollution in-and-around its reservation.
Governor Walker plans to increase state aid to public schools by one-percent in the next two-year budget that he’ll submit to lawmakers on Wednesday. It would give schools an additional $276-million, after a major cut of $834-million two years ago. Walker said yesterday that he would not raise the schools’ state-mandated revenue limits, in order to avoid hikes in local property taxes. But he proposed a series of aid increases – including incentives for schools and teachers based on the districts’ new report cards which the state put out for the first time last year. Democrats and teachers’ union leaders said Walker’s increases are not nearly enough. Mary Bell of the state’s largest teachers’ union said the governor quote, “has no intention of supporting neighborhood schools.” Republican Senate Education Committee chair Luther Olsen said he wished Walker would have offered more money – but it’s better than no increase or another reduction. Walker proposed an extra $73-million-dollars for private schools that teach low-income kids with tax-funded vouchers. One report said he would expand the program for up to nine new districts. The governor also wants 23-million more for charter schools – and 21-million for special-needs kids to get private-school vouchers for the first time. Lisa Pugh of Disability Rights Wisconsin said all public school kids with special needs should get more money, not just a select few. Pugh said Walker’s plan would cause a major change in how special needs’ youngsters are treated. She said it’s an issue that should be debated separately, and not buried in the massive state budget.