A Flurry of New Policy Slipped in by Budget Committee

Kathleen Vinehout
A Flurry of New Policy Slipped in by Budget Committee
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
I didn’t expect to look up telephone laws reading the state budget.
 
Snuck in the end of the Joint Finance Committee’s work is a law change that could affect the safety of rural residents. It had me asking, “What if you picked up the phone to call 911 and heard no dial tone?”
 
Rural residents rely on small legal protections to keep a dial tone on their landline phones. Thousands of rural residents live in an area where cell phones do not work and cable services do not exist.
 
We rely on landlines for business, neighborliness, family communication, and emergencies and safety.

Weasel Words

Walker

A weasel word (also, anonymous authority) is an informal term for words and phrases aimed at creating an impression that a specific and/or meaningful statement has been made, when only a vague or ambiguous claim has been communicated, enabling the specific meaning to be denied if the statement is challenged.

Example 1: Walker and Republican joint statement

Motion 999 - the devil made me do it - Part 1

Devil in a suit

For those of you who did not take time out from your July 4 holiday weekend to read budget documents (and yes, I AM that much of a nerd, thank you) I wanted to point out that the much-ballyhooed issue with the Leg devastating open records in the state was only part of the last minute Motion 999 surprise. Over the next week or so I'll be bringing up some of the other actions that the Legislature has been taking to make life in Wisconsin less sustainable. But there's way too much to fit in one article, so I'll be dragging this out. 

First off, let's mention that the crazed recanting of the transparency provisions in the motion is a sham. Despite Walker and the other responsible parties saying "nope, didn't mean what you thought, we're all for transparency, nothing to see here", any reasonable reading of the motion makes it clear that what was intended was to gut the transparency laws for the legislature.  Either the English language is a mystery to the authors of this bill, or what we're really seeing here is another example of the Walker camp trying to slip something in, getting caught, and then trying to explain it away by telling us all that we cannot read. I will accept the fact that this is a group of people who have a limited grasp of our language, but still, it's pretty clear it's a matter of getting their hand caught in the cookie jar and acting like a 3-year-old.  "Cookies?  Jar?  Not me mommy.  I was putting cookies IN". 

Action Alert on Legislature's Attack on Open Records Law

From The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council:

The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council is issuing an emergency action alert in response to the Joint Finance Committee’s shocking assault on the state’s long and proud tradition of open government.

This cowardly action, passed by the Committee on July 2 just hours after its introduction, is part of an omnibus motion stuck into the state budget. The committee chairs have refused to say which lawmakers asked for these changes, which will effectively free the state Legislature from the state’s Open Records Law.

The changes would exempt legislative communications from the law; shield from release all “deliberative materials” created for the purpose of making law or public policy (including opinions, analyses and briefings prepared at public expense); shut down public access to all records created in the process of drafting legislation; and specify that the Legislature can freely exempt any record from disclosure simply by passing a rule or policy.

Jorgensen: Final Budget Motion Adds Fuel to the Republicans’ Dumpster Fire Budget

For Immediate Release: July 2, 2015
Contact: Rebekah Sweeney, (608) 266-3790
 
Jorgensen: Final Budget Motion Adds Fuel to the Republicans’ Dumpster Fire Budget
 
MADISON – Assembly Democratic Caucus Chair and Representative Andy Jorgensen (D-Milton) today shared this statement in reaction to the Republicans’ final budget motion in the Joint Finance Committee:
 
“The Republicans just added fuel to their dumpster fire of a budget, releasing a wave of proposals that will pay off payday lenders with a sweetheart deal, threaten your right to a weekend, and devastate public records laws meant to ensure open, transparent government.

Wis. Republicans - what you don't know will let us hurt you

Freedom of Information

At the end of every budgetary session the JFC usually passes a sort of grab bag of "stuff" that they want to throw into the bill at the last minute. This year is no exception, as they tossed in a pile of wishes and hopes. Worry about those wishes and hopes, particularly with the current legislature. 

Some things in the final motion are not unexpected, like removing the "anybody graduating from the school of hard knocks can be a teacher" provisions - for which the JFC was skewered widely. But some new stuff slipped in out of the blue, as seems to be happening with regularity during this legislative session. Particularly disturbing is a collection of measures intended to remove a lot of documents from public disclosure, including blocking access to almost all communications during the work of making laws. As always,  none of the legislators seem to have any idea where the proposal came from - it apparently just got there on its own.

These documents have been crucial to understanding what is going on in the legislature, and restricting access to them could make it very difficult to prove wrongdoing or illegal acts. Additionally all drafting documents for bills would no longer be retained by the Legislative Reference Bureau. Perhaps this is an attempt to stave off any future John-Doe-Like investigations, or just to save embarrassment. In any case, it's a terrible step in the wrong direction. If we have learned anything in the last few years it's that the public deserves to know more about what is going on in government, not less. 

The text of the motion is attached.

Bernie Sanders in Madison last night

Despite what everyone seems to be saying is a "long shot" campaign, Bernie Sanders managed to fill (and then some) the Coliseum in Madison last night. Reports go as high as 13,000 people in attendance. I could not get there for any number of reasons, but if you missed it as I did, here's video of the event. If we can convince the media that money is not the only thing that matters in dogfight politics, maybe they'll pay more attention to candidates like Bernie more than they pay attention to people like Donald Trump.

Why do we devote so much of our air time, web space, and newspaper space to the gazillion Republican candidates (because they're entertaining? ) and so little to someone like Bernie Sanders, who represents a real choice to the electorate? Because Sanders is frightening to the powers that be, I think.

Bernie Sanders Rally in Madison, Wisconsin

At Wisconsin's top newspaper, just a slight sense of political disproportion

A business-as-usual juxtaposition in today's political coverage at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Bernie Sanders fills up the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, capacity 10,000, and while the paper covers that Wednesday event, the story runs on page 3. Aside from a crowd photo there's only a sidelong mention of the turnout: "thousands." That's in keeping with the paper's previously announced policy of avoiding hard-number crowd estimates, coincidentally imposed just when mass progressive moments were becoming more frequent in Wisconsin.  

Assembly Majority Leader from Kaukauna blames Milwaukee for Republicans' destroying Wisconsin's State Budget and Economy

Jim Steineke

The Assembly Republican Majority Leader, Jim Steineke from Kaukauna (pictured at the left) tweeted that,

“MN doesn’t have a first class city that is a drain on the rest of the state."  

This illustrates again how the Republicans are incapable of understanding anything about economy, demographics, cultural geography and society in general.

The recent article in the American Prospect that compares Minnesota’s “high road” to Wisconsin’s “low road” summarizes the difference in the two state’s major metropolitan areas below.

Why I think Charles Dickens named WEDC

Dickens

One of the most fascinating things about the work of Charles Dickens is the unique and colorfully appropriate names for the characters in his work: Names like Mr. Sloppy, Wopsle, Sweedlepipe, Bumble and Scrooge, were purely the product of Dickens' unique imagination, and the names described the characters.

For example;

Scrooge: a mean, selfish person who put money ahead of people. 

Toodle: the word sounds friendly and kind, and the character is exactly that.

Pumblechook: a puffed up, important-sounding word for a man full of self-importance.

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