Government and Political Roundup: Debate over Act 10 continuesWisconsin News
-- The state-and-federal courts still don’t agree on whether Wisconsin’s Act-10 is totally in place.
The state-and-federal courts still don’t agree on whether Wisconsin’s Act-10 is totally in place. Yesterday, a state appeals court in Madison refused to re-instate the entire limits on public union bargaining, before it decides whether the law applies to local government and public school employees. The state says it will consider appealing that decision. Meanwhile, a federal appeals court in January upheld all of Act-10 for all units of government in Wisconsin. It’s the state courts where the law is in limbo. Last September, Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas said the bargaining limits violated the employees’ right to free speech and association – and it was illegal to limit pay raises for only union workers. The state’s Fourth District Appellate Court has not ruled on the issues yet – only on whether the law should stay in place until then. Governor Scott Walker expects the state courts to uphold all of Act-10, after a federal appeals court did the same in January when it threw out lawsuits from seven Wisconsin unions. The law lets most public unions bargain only for wages at-or-below inflation. After Judge Colas struck part of it down, some unions in Madison and elsewhere scrambled to get new contracts in place. Some observers still wonder if the Colas ruling applies to local and school workers statewide – or just those in Madison and Milwaukee who filed that case.
A Republican state lawmaker says he’ll try again to legalize raw milk in Wisconsin. West Bend Senator Glenn Grothman says he’ll introduce a new bill in the next few weeks. And the governor’s office says Scott Walker is open to approving the measure – but only if it has safeguards to protect public health and the integrity of the state’s dairy industry. Grothman tried passing a bill in 2011 that would have allowed farmers to sell raw-milk and related products, but it never got out of a committee. In 2010, raw milk legislation made it all the way to the governor’s desk. But Democrat Jim Doyle vetoed it after a last-minute lobbying push by the state’s dairy industry, which said that even one outbreak of illness from raw milk would tarnish Wisconsin’s world-wide reputation. The Wisconsin Safe Milk Coalition says it’s still impossible to make unpasteurized milk safe. Raw milk’s supporters say it has healthy nutrients that are ruined in the pasteurization process – and consumers should be able to decide for themselves if they want to drink it.
Janesville House leader Paul Ryan defends proposing a federal budget with many of the ideas that voters rejected when he and Mitt Romney ran on last year’s White House ticket. Ryan – who chairs the House Budget Committee – said he knows what it means to lose a national election, but it does not mean that Republicans should surrender their principles. With a divided Congress – a Republican House and a Democratic Senate – Ryan says the G-O-P needs to put up its vision. The budget blueprint that Ryan proposed yesterday would eliminate federal deficits in 10 years – sooner than his two previous budgets. The House could approve Ryan’s budget next week. It’s been several years since the Senate has approved any budget. Ryan’s new plan dramatically cuts health care spending for the poor and elderly, by turning Medicaid into a state block grant program and Medicare into a voucher program. It also includes slight new limits on defense spending with no major cuts. It would lower tax rates but would not scale back the 600-million dollar income tax hike for the wealthy adopted in early January. Ryan says his package would save four-point-six trillion dollars, with spending increases that are one-point-six percent less than what’s authorized. His budget would also eliminate the Obama health care reform act. Ryan said quote, “People are really going to sour on this law when all the gory details unfold.” But freshman House Democrat Mark Pocan of Madison says Ryan’s budget shows a lack of realism.
15-hundred people die each year because of a “problematic alcohol culture” in Wisconsin. That’s according to Paul Krupski of the Health First Coalition. His group released a U-W Madison study yesterday showing that excessive alcohol consumption costs Wisconsinites six-point-eight billion dollars a year. At news conferences around the state, health and law enforcement experts cited the high cost of continuing Wisconsin’s long-and-deep traditions with alcohol. Some officials said a lot would be solved if people would just consider binge drinking to be a problem, which many of us don’t. They offered concrete proposals as well – a higher alcohol tax, sobriety checkpoints on the highways, alcohol screenings by doctors, and an end to letting teens drink with their parents in restaurants-and-bars. But some of those measures would face uphill battles in the state Legislature, where lawmakers have refused to raise Wisconsin’s beer tax since 1969. Recently, one Democrat said he’d favor sobriety checkpoints, while a Republican called it an infringement on civil liberties. Experts say some positive things are taking place, though. Almost two dozen Wisconsin communities now have social-host laws in which adults are liable if they provide-or-host teenage parties with alcohol.