[img_assist|nid=91834|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=192|height=300]The Republican laser focus on jobs continues in the Assembly. Last night's session may constitute a new low for the Wisconsin legislature. I recently said to someone that I cannot keep track any more of what to be incensed about on any given day, and last night was a prime example of why that is true.
This is a two-ring circus. As the legislature continues to consider bills that continue our state's race to the bottom, arrests in the gallery continue on grounds that would be somehow amusing if the issues were not so serious. Eighteen people were arrested last night for the crimes of having a camera or a sign. Matt Rothschild, editor of The Progressive, was apparently arrested for taking a picture of someone else being arrested. People were also removed or talked to by the police for such horrific behavior as carrying a tiny American flag. Ultimately I suppose the solution to this, in the GOP eye, is that the people up in the gallery who are packing heat will do in the really dangerous folk who are carrying pieces of paper and cameras. The continuing mocking of democracy in our capitol needs to stop, and the upcoming recall elections are a great opportunity to at least slow it down.
But on to the main ring, the Assembly floor. The Assembly last night considered and voted on a number of bills, ranging from the perfectly reasonable (allowing a checkoff on state tax forms for Special Olympics) to the truly outrageous. Let's look at some of the more interesting ones, and the peculiar circumstances that lead to an all-night session.
The Castle Doctrine bill was passed last night, despite a complaint from the Wisconsin Bar that the law can possibly end up supporting murderers, and the fact that nobody actually can cite a case where a homeowner has been found guilty while defending his/her home. Representative Chris Taylor (D, Madison) was exasperated that the bill “makes it easier for us to kill each other” and doesn't help the jobs issue in the state. These are the sort of laws that chase nonexistent problems that we have come to expect.
The primary was moved to August in another bill (intended to allow the state to be in compliance with federal law on mailing ballots to members of the armed forces). In the process, however, there was the ever-present desire to restrict voting rights by only allowing absentee ballots to be sent electronically to those in the services, and not any plain ol' citizens.
More egregiously, the Assembly voted to not allow local municipalities to have any laws that protect tenant rights more strongly than the provisions in state law. This is another one of those bills that would seem bewildering on the surface --- the GOP seems really concerned that any local governments should be not dragged down in their state-wide race to the bottom. It becomes clearer if you realize how many of the assemblymen own rental properties, or have campaign donors who own rental properties.
This all continued on, but finally hit a complete roadblock. Peggy Krusick (D, Milwaukee) introduced an amendment to an already-odd bill on the talent incentive grants, and expanded it to not allow the Higher Educational Aids Board consider minority status as a criterion for awarding the grants. These grants are intended to aid non-traditional students. The amendment would only allow the grants to be awarded to ex-prisoners, or first-time college attendees from a family. Minorities need not apply. This is a revolting first attack on affirmative rights in the University system. We all saw it coming, but I honestly did not expect to see it introduced in the dead of night, and particularly not by a Democrat. Even Peggy Krusick.
All I can say about this is that you're going to be seeing more of it, as the Republicans bravely stand up to change the complexion of the UW Campuses. Honestly, I'm tired of not seeing any white faces among the rabble of people of color, gays, and anarchists who make up the entire student body. Some of them even carry cameras.
The introduction of the amendment set off a chain of filibusters and Democratic caucuses that kept the session going all night. The bill was objected to on the third reading, and will be taken up again on Thursday when the Assembly re-convenes (apparently they want to get in a little sleep before they go at it again.) Some video from last night's session will appear here later in the day. In the meantime, you can watch the whole mess on Wisconsin Eye.
In the meantime, the Senate convenes today. The most controversial bill in the hopper in the other house regards re-introducing abstinence-only sex education in the schools.
I continue to ask -- where are the jobs bills?