State Government and Political Roundup: Gov. Walker to sign mining incentive bill todayWisconsin News
-- Governor Scott Walker will sign Wisconsin’s mining incentive bill this afternoon at two factories that could end up supplying equipment for the proposed Gogebic Taconite iron ore mine.
RHINELANDER - Governor Scott Walker will sign Wisconsin’s mining incentive bill this afternoon at two factories that could end up supplying equipment for the proposed Gogebic Taconite iron ore mine.
The Republican Walker plans to sign the package at the Oldenburg Group in Rhinelander. He’ll then fly to Milwaukee, where he’ll have a ceremonial bill-signing at the P & H mining equipment shop. It appears that Walker chose the two locations to emphasize his contention that a mine would provide thousands of support jobs throughout Wisconsin – and not just the 700 to operate the Gogebic Taconite facility in Ashland and Iron counties. The bill got final legislative approval last week. Democrats, environmentalists, and a nearby Indian tribe say the mine would pollute the far north – but Republicans and many local government leaders say it would provide work to a region that badly needs it. Gogebic and other mining projects would still have to meet federal guidelines. Critics say they plan to tie up the measure in court for years. Republicans expect the legal action, but some still believe the Gogebic mine would open in about 3-to-4 years.
Two state lawmakers have been waging an e-mail feud – and a couple of their colleagues were so upset about getting copied, they filed complaints with the Government Accountability Board. Assembly Democrat Andy Jorgensen of Fort Atkinson sponsored a bill to give a million-dollars to a trade group to help small-and-medium-sized factories market themselves. The bill easily passed the Assembly by a 90-8 vote. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jorgensen then sent a news release about it to his colleagues – and one of the opponents, Whitewater Republican Steve Nass, called that a quote, “in-my-face” move. So Nass sent all his Assembly colleagues a video showing Jorgensen leading chants of “kill the bill” during the massive 2011 protests against the public union bargaining limits. And they traded other e-mail barbs as well, for all their colleagues to see. Some lawmakers, especially newcomers, were taken aback. Assembly Freshman Dianne Hesselbein said lawmakers are not supposed to e-mail campaign material to-and-from official addresses – to which Nass replied, “It’s no longer a campaign matter – this is history.” Nass told the Journal-Sentinel he had no regrets about sending the protest video. Jorgensen said quote, “Everybody hates this kind of stuff – It’s unfortunate in every way.”
A Wisconsin farm leader says agriculture needs to be represented, as immigration reform is discussed in Washington. It’s among the top concerns of the Wisconsin Potato-and-Vegetable Growers’ Association. The group’s director, Duane Maatz, says there needs to be an open and transparent system which lets immigrant workers answer questions honestly, and lets farmers employ them legally. Maatz tells the Brownfield Ag News Service quote, “We’ve historically not been in favor of amnesty for people who are in our country illegally, but we also don’t want to have our workforce deported only to have them stand in line to get back to work.” He said the process could take years. Wisconsin potato-and-vegetable growers discussed that issue and others, when they met with their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill recently. Congress has been working on a possible bi-partisan compromise, as President Obama seeks his own package which includes a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11-million illegal immigrants. Wisconsin dairy groups have urged Congress to let foreign workers stay on farms for at least 11 months a year if not 12.
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville says a compromise is possible on federal taxes-and-spending – even though Democrats are sure to reject the new budget he’ll submit tomorrow. The Republican Ryan said on “Fox News Sunday” that the two parties might be able to agree on less dramatic steps to narrow the budget deficits in the coming years. He said quote, “There are things we can do that don’t offend either party’s philosophy, that doesn’t require someone to surrender their principles, that make a good down-payment on getting this debt under control.” For now, though Ryan plans to submit a 2014 budget blue-print to his Republican House majority with the same types of measures rejected by President Obama and Senate Democrats the past two years. They include a repeal of the Obama health reform package, and cuts in Medicare benefits by converting to a voucher system for seniors who are now 54-and-younger. The G-O-P-controlled House is expected to endorse Ryan’s plan for a third straight year. The Democratic majority in the Senate okays its own budget blue-print to reduce tax breaks for the wealthy, and keep spending on safety-net programs unchanged.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving has tried for years to get Wisconsin lawmakers to approve sobriety checkpoints. Now, a Democratic senator is floating the idea. Tim Carpenter of Milwaukee tells the Appleton Post-Crescent that he’s philosophically moving toward setting up roadblocks to see if drivers are impaired. He says only a fraction of drunk drivers get caught and quote, “I don’t want them to get into a car and use it as a weapon.” But Assembly Republican Dean Kaufert of Neenah, who’s a tavern owner, has long fought sobriety checkpoints. He says they’re not the answer to solving the problems associated with drunk driving and quote, “I worry about the infringement on civil liberties.” Thirty-eight states have some type of sobriety checkpoints. Carpenter says Wisconsin could ease into them by running them only on days when drinking is most popular – like New Year’s Eve and Saint Patrick’s Day. Two GOP lawmakers have introduced a half-dozen other new measures to further crack down on driving drunk.
The state government and all 72 counties have detailed plans on what to do if a tornado or other disaster strikes. But Gannett’s Wisconsin newspapers say it’s hard to get a hold of most counties’ response plans. The state only requires that counties put out an annual notice that an emergency plan is available, and where it can be found. Some counties like Fond du Lac and Outagamie put their plans online, but most don’t. And Gannett said it took months for some counties to make their emergency plans available to reporters. Marinette County Emergency Management Director Eric Burmeister says no county residents have ever asked to see their plans. In Merrill, businessman Mike Gruenenwald told Gannett that local agencies did not seem equipped to deal with a 2011 tornado that destroyed 22 homes and damaged 130 others. He said public agencies did focus on the most acute needs but quote, “The government has too many hoops to jump through, too many requirements that you have to have a board meeting before you can act.” Gannett said it took a private Facebook page to connect Merrill’s tornado victims with others who could help.