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GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL ROUNDUP: GOP voters favors a minimum wage increase

While Republican officials and business leaders oppose a minimum wage increase, most of their Wisconsin brethren appear to be singing a different tune. According to U-W Milwaukee's quarterly economic scorecard, 52-percent of registered G-O-P voters favor some type of minimum wage hike. And so do 61-percent of voters with a business owner in their household. Just over 400 Wisconsin adults were surveyed on the minimum wage from March third through seventh. The margin of error is plus-or-minus four-point-nine percent. Just over three-fourths of everyone surveyed by U-W-M supported some type of minimum wage hike -- and 57-percent support the proposed by state Democrats for 10.10 at hour, phased in over two years. The Democrats' bill has gone nowhere, and Governor Scott Walker has criticized his fall election challenger Mary Burke for supporting it. Scott Manley of Wisconsin Manufacturers-and-Commerce re-iterated a national group's survey showing that Wisconsin would lose 27-thousand jobs with a 10.10-minimum wage -- much higher than the current minimum of seven-and-a-quarter.


A new Wisconsin bill would make it a crime for you to track other people in their vehicles, by secretly putting G-P-S devices on them. The Assembly's criminal justice committee will hold a public hearing on the measure, and then vote on it. Pewaukee Republican Adam Neylon is the bill's lead author. It has support from lawmakers of both parties. Under the bill, anyone who secretly puts a G-P-S tracking device on another person's vehicle -- or uses information from another vehicle through G-P-S -- could be guilty of a criminal misdemeanor. It's not certain whether the bill could pass both houses before the current session ends early next month.


A Wisconsin Senate committee is scheduled to vote today on a bill to let people smoke electronic cigarettes in buildings that are open to the public. The judiciary panel is scheduled to vote on exempting e-cigarettes from the state's three-and-a-half year old public indoor ban on tobacco smoking. West Bend Republican Glenn Grothman introduced the bill late last year, but it did not get a public hearing until last week. The bill's prospects appear to be dim as the current session is about to end in the next couple weeks. Supporters say e-cigarettes -- and the vapors inhaled -- are an effective way to help tobacco smokers kick the habit. Doctors have opposed the bill. They say the jury's still out on the potential environmental hazards of the products' vapors.


Small businesses in Wisconsin will soon get tax breaks for offering wellness programs to their employees. Governor Scott Walker plans to sign the measure into law this morning in the Eau Claire area. He'll visit the Group Health Cooperative in the district of the bill's lead author, Senate Republican Terry Moulton. Qualifying companies would get a 30-percent income-and-franchise tax break for offering approved health and fitness programs to workers. Lawmakers of both parties co-sponsored the legislation.


A bill to put more limits on early voting in Wisconsin appears to have an uncertain future, after the Senate passed it yesterday. The Assembly has not said whether it would take up the measure, and Senate G-O-P Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is not sure, either. Also, Governor Scott Walker is not saying whether he'd sign the bill. It would prohibit early absentee voting on weekends and after seven-at-night in the two weeks before election days. That's after Republicans reduced the early voting period in 2011 from three weeks to two. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett called it a "mean-spirited" attempt by Republicans to suppress the vote in heavily-Democratic Milwaukee and Madison. Senate Democrat Lena Taylor of Milwaukee called it "backward-thinking mentality" and said quote, "I feel like I'm in 1906, fighting the fights that people who came long before me had to fight." Fitzgerald repeated G-O-P concerns that voters in rural areas don't have as many early voting hours as the bigger cities due to a lack of resources. The Senate approved an amendment yesterday that would give about 200-thousand dollars in state funds to rural communities to help cover the costs of their early voting.


School officials in Wausau want to know who put campaign literature in the teachers' lounge of an elementary school. A package of materials urged teachers to support two Wausau School Board incumbents and a newcomer in next month's elections. Campaign literature is not allowed on school grounds under the school district's policy -- and the recent incident could violate state laws against political campaigning using tax-funded time and resources. W-S-A-W T-V said the materials told teachers in part quote, "Your working conditions and the quality of education for our students depend on your informed vote." The items said, "Keep in lounge." A Wausau school official says they've since been taken away. A similar incident happened in 2011, when teachers at Wausau West High School were encouraged to boycott businesses that supported Governor Scott Walker.  


Willie Hines resigned as the Milwaukee Common Council president so he could take a job with the city's public housing authority. Now, the federal housing agency says Hines must wait at least a year before taking that job. Hines chaired the board of the Milwaukee Housing Authority when he was on the Council. He stepped down from that post, but the U-S Department of Housing and Urban Development said there was a potential for a conflict-of-interest when Hines immediately became the authority's associate director. The city asked for a waiver of the one-year waiting period, but HUD turned down the request. That leaves Hines unemployed for now. He made 83-thousand dollars a year running Milwaukee's city council. His Housing Authority salary was to be 120-thousand per year.