Don’t be fooled by Scott Walker’s latest act where he’s trying to be seen as a “moderate” so he can soften his political image in time for a spin as a Presidential candidate in 2016. Granted, the continuing John Doe investigation is still boiling with the real possibility that his indictment for improper illegal activities while Milwaukee County Executive and beyond could bring his career as derailed as his promises to try to unite Wisconsin after his protracted extremism with the willing Fitzwalkerstan Cult of 2011-12.
With the Legislature now with slightly different Republican leadership, Walker has promised tax cuts for everybody, education “reform”, job creation, workforce development including a “new and improved” mining bill, venture capital legislation and maybe free brats on every corner. Don’t kid yourself.
The Wisconsin 101st Legislature’s 2013-14 legislative session begins on January 7, 2013 with the Senate having 18 Republicans and 15 Democrats and the Assembly having 60 Republicans and 39 Democrats. There are new Assembly committee assignments and Senate committee assignments. Here is how it looks:
The Senate. The Republicans took control of the Senate by winning an open seat in the 12th district. Republican Rick Gudex will replace incumbent Democrat Jessica King in the 18th District. King was the only incumbent senator to lose a seat in the November election.
The Assembly. The Republicans will retain a similar margin of control to that held in the 2011-12 session. Four incumbents were defeated on November 6. Two, John Steinbrink (D) and Evan Wynn (R) were paired with other incumbents by redistricting. Two others, Joe Knilans (R) and Roger Rivard (R) were defeated by newcomers.
Organizing Caucuses. The Senate majority has elected the following officers:
- Majority Leader: Scott Fitzgerald
- President: Michael Ellis
- President Pro Tempore: Joe Leibham
- Assistant Majority Leader: Glenn Grothman
- Caucus Chair: Frank Lasee
- Caucus Vice Chair: Sheila Harsdorf
The Senate minority has also selected its leadership as follows:
- Minority Leader: Chris Larson
- Assistant Minority Leader: Dave Hansen
- Caucus Chair: Julie Lassa
- Caucus Vice Chair: Kathleen Vinehout
- Caucus Sergeant at Arms: Nikiya Harris.
The Assembly majority elected the following officers:
- Majority Leader: Scott Suder
- Speaker: Robin Vos
- Speaker Pro Tempore: Bill Kramer
- Assistant Majority Leader: Jim Steineke
- Caucus Chair: Joan Ballweg
- Caucus Vice Chair: John Murtha
- Caucus Secretary: Mary Williams
- Caucus Sergeant at Arms: Samantha Kerkman
The Assembly minority elected the following officers:
- Minority Leader: Peter Barca
- Assistant Minority Leader: Sandy Pasch
- Caucus Chair: Andy Jorgensen
- Caucus Vice Chair: JoCasta Zamarripa
According to the fantastic resource Sourcewatch, the Republican members with their name bolded are also members of the Koch brothers and Koch Industries-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Who do you think they are listening to? Let’s guess what their agenda will be.
Walker was grinning when he stated at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on November 11, 2012 that he wanted to get rid of Wisconsin’s same-day voter registration due to his “sincere” concern trolling that seniors working the polls are just too tired to handle the job:
“States across the country that have same-day registration have real problems because the vast majority of their states have poll workers who are wonderful volunteers, who work 13 hour days, who in most cases are retirees. It’s difficult for them to handle the volume [that] comes on that day.”
Of course, he was lying through his teeth. And perhaps he forgot that his own son registered to vote on Election Day so he could vote. After much ado about how that was basically more Walker distortion than reality, he walked it back a little saying it won’t be a focus in upcoming years. So we should fully expect the Republicans to try to disenfranchise voters during this legislative session and have Walker giggling as he signs that legislation.
Walker has been doing very controlled “public” events in Wisconsin with his “Mining for Jobs” agenda. It’s another attempt in what will probably end up in the United States Supreme Court over government land uses on tribal nation land, but here’s where it stands now:
A bill that would have streamlined Wisconsin’s approval process for mining proposals was defeated in the last session of the legislature, after one Republican state Senator joined with Democrats who opposed the relaxation of environmental standards, and the elimination of public challenges to parts of the approval process. Democrats used a short-lived majority in the final months of last year to produce their own package for the new session which begins next week. That proposal calls for a two-year time limit for the state Department of Natural Resources to approve new mines while preserving environmental protections, and allowing opponents to challenge the proposals through what are known as in contested-case hearings.
Gogebic Taconite – the firm which last year scrapped plans to construct a massive iron ore mine near Hurley – is against the Democratic bill, as is Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business lobby. Governor Walker recently said he wants a bill that both creates jobs, and protects the environment.
To continue the ALEC agenda to corporatize education and attack public schools through school-choice options with independent charters and private schools, which can operate independently from community school boards and essentially frontally attack control or input from parents. As they always say, follow the money:
Between mid-October 2011 and mid-January 2012, at the same time the debate over the voucher expansion was going on, 15 wealthy contributors who support expanding school choice gave $443,550 to Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reported.
School-choice groups have become huge players in state politics, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s Mike McCabe points out.
“They may not be the proverbial 800-pound gorilla, but they’re big — 500 or 600 pounds at least,” McCabe says.
In the recall race, American Federation for Children was Walker’s third-biggest PAC supporter, at $555,000, behind Right Direction Wisconsin at $700,000 and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce at $660,000.
National school-privatization groups are part of “a small constellation of interest groups” that include anti-abortion groups and the National Rifle Association, and have a major influence on state races, McCabe says.
McCabe sees school-choice groups as a classic example of what has happened to campaign finance in general: It has gone national.
“In-state interests have almost become bystanders,” he says. “What you’ve got is national movements coming in and hijacking state campaigns.”
Despite Wisconsin choosing President Barack Obama for President in 2012, those who were disappointed with the results still see so-called “pro-life” Governor Walker as a willing War On Women kind of Republican that can deliver extremist abortion laws like the other Republican governors have. Adding to additional costs, attempting to shame women who want (or need) an abortion with a vaginal probe, making them watch their fetus in an ultrasound or banning abortions altogether because fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks is just what will be introduced by Republicans and who knows whether the laws will get signed.
The state’s largest anti-abortion group sees opportunities to place further regulations on abortion, including requiring women seeking the procedure to view an ultrasound of her fetus.
Wisconsin Right to Life is also proposing banning abortions that would cause pain to the fetus, barring abortions that are sought based on the sex of the fetus and prohibiting the ability of state employees to use their state health care plans to access abortions.
“I support all those measures and would gladly be a lead or co-sponsor on any of them,” said Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc). “Any measure to protect life is of the utmost highest priority.”
Requiring ultrasounds and banning certain abortions based on fetal pain follow a wave of legislation around the country. Backers of abortion say if put into law in Wisconsin, they could prompt lawsuits.
“These bills represent much of what we’re seeing across the country,” said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group that supports abortion rights.
While Walker is on record stating he would not sign Right-To-Work legislation or want to pursue it for Wisconsin, his word has proven to mean nothing but political gamesmanship in the past. ALEC loves Right-To-Work legislation and proved they could get it passed in Michigan in a couple of days in 2012. We remember Republican Governor Snyder saying he would never, ever, ever, ever sign Right-To-Work laws. OK, he signed the laws happily. Walker says Right-To-Work legislation would be a “distraction” as if he actually cared. Coming from someone who wants to be a Republican Rock Star who forgets how Wisconsin is sinking, underperforming and sagging from Act 10 cuts and other mishaps like the WEDC scandal and the John Doe investigation, Walker apparently loves distractions.
Of course, we trust Scott Walker won’t want to “divide and conquer”.
Much more will unfold as the new Legislature begins and it’s no time to sit back and let more damage happen to Wisconsin thanks to one of the worst governors this state has ever had to be burdened with.