Archive for the ‘State Politics’ Category

Why do we like the Spaniards so much?

February 15, 2010

First we give the Spanish a highly-coveted high speed rail contract, and now Tom Barrett is announcing a Spanish company’s successful bid for a wind turbine project in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett today announced Spanish manufacturer Ingeteam will build a wind-turbine parts plant in Milwaukee, as he touted the city’s successes on the jobs front in his annual State of the City speech.

Barrett, who is running for governor, invited WE Energies CEO Gale Klappa to make the announcement about Ingeteam. Klappa said the Spain-based firm chose Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley for its first-ever American manufacturing plant and said it would bring hundreds of jobs to the valley.

Klappa described the company as heavily involved in renewable energy and the making of generators, converters and other essential components for wind turbines. Ingeteam’s Web site lists among its products converters, generators and control electronics for wind-generators, electric pitch, telecontrol of wind parks, integral maintenance of parks.

Is there a local version of Lou Dobbs who will make the prediction that the company will only hire illegal immigrants with whom their executives can communicate.

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Ouch –– Herald messes up on legal jargon

February 15, 2010

My favorite law blogger comments on this Herald headline: “Supreme Court Justice cleared to hear case; conflict of interest claim dismissed.”

Not true. The “claim” in this instance was presented in the form of a written motion requesting that one justice be disqualified from hearing the merits (the substance of the legal arguments) of a criminal appeal, State v. Allen, that the motion is related to.

Motions generally end up being either granted or denied. Here, the result was neither: by effect of the 3-3 split on the court, the motion was not granted, but nor was it denied. Because the motion was not granted, the judge at whom it was directed may presumably participate in deciding the merits of State v. Allen.

Otherwise Amelia Vorpahl’s report is accurate enough,* but the headline is brutal. She needs to file a motion against her editor.

No, that’s not what Tommy Thompson said

February 12, 2010

Terrence Wall’s first TV ad displays the aspiring politician’s willingness to get chin-deep in the mud to beat Russ Feingold. Although Feingold has yet to respond in-kind, his party and his campaign have responded with partisan venom, and in doing so have strayed far from the truth.

For instance, the most recent meme has centered on a comment Tommy Thompson made to reporters about a possible run against Feingold:

“This election…it’s going to be decided on things that aren’t that particular to Wisconsin.”

According to the Democrats, that means Thompson said “the election won’t be about Wisconsin.” The conclusion to that train of logic is that Thompson doesn’t believe Wisconsin issues are important enough to discuss.

This is even more disingenuous than the recent attacks against Terrence Wall for avoiding state income taxes in 12 of the last 15 years. At least the latter case is based on a fact. The Thompson quote is a cynical misrepresentation of what the former governor (notice the Democrats refer to him as “former Bush administration official,” and not “former governor”) said.

It’s unfortunate that a campaign waged on behalf of a candidate known for his honesty and integrity is so dishonest and lacking in intellectual integrity.

Will auto titles be a part of payday loan reform?

February 4, 2010

I was looking over financial legislation in the Assembly and came across this bill authored by Rep. Josh Zepnick (D – Milwaukee), which would ban the use of auto titles as collateral by payday lenders.

This bill prohibits a licensed lender from making or offering a motor vehicle title loan.  The bill defines “motor vehicle title loan” as a loan of $25,000 or less to a borrower that is, or is to be, secured by a nonpurchase money security interest in the borrower’s motor vehicle and that has an original term of not more than three months.

As I’m sure many of you have noticed, “auto titles” are one of the chief marketing tools used by payday lenders.

Proposed 911 call restrictions

February 3, 2010

This is what a bill proposed by Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink will do:

Under the bill, subject to the exceptions under current law, a requester has the right to inspect and copy a transcript of a 911 call, but does not have the right to inspect or copy an audio recording of a 911 call.

This would be a change from current law, in which one can request an audio recording of any 911 call, except when it is determined that “substantial public interests,” are at risk with its release.

Assembly committee to hold hearing on 911 calls

February 2, 2010

The Assembly Committee on Personal Privacy will hold a hearing relating to public access to 911 calls on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

I don’t have to tell anybody from Madison why this issue might be of interest to UW students.

Rep. Kelda Roys explains court records bill

February 2, 2010

In an interview with The Sconz, Rep. Kelda Roys explained the reasoning behind a bill she co-authored with Reps. Marlin Schneider and Fred Kessler to restrict public access to certain court records. The bill, which recently passed the Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Homeland Security, would prohibit the Consolidated Court Automations Programs website from displaying pending cases and dismissed cases. The website would only be allowed to put up information relating to convictions.

Roys, a freshman representative and UW-Law alum, used to work for the Innocence Project, a non-profit org which uses DNA evidence to exonerate convicts, and says that the cause of the wrongly accused has remained close to her heart. “Working there, I learned how innocent people can have their lives gone in an instant. But even people who are just accused of a crime can also have their lives ruined.”

Roys worries that CCAP allows employers and landlords, who are prohibited by law to discriminate against tenants or employees based on arrest record, to do so anyways. “The landlords who run background checks say it ‘provides us with context,'” Roys said.

Nevertheless, anybody will still be allowed to access the records that will be taken off of CCAP by contacting the police department and requesting them. Roys quipped that it will “make the cost of breaking the law a little bit higher.”

The most puzzling aspect of the law, which has been criticized by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, is the exception it grants “journalists,” who will continue to have unrestricted access to all court records. What is a journalist? Am I a journalist? Unsurprisingly, this law comes courtesy of the same legislator –– Marlin Schneider –– who wanted to grant certain tax exemptions to newspapers. Again, what is a newspaper in this day and age? Roys did not have a clear answer. She admitted that many mainstream reporters have an agenda, and are more interested in dirt than real news.

In response to similar questions, Rep. Marlin Schneider sent me an enormous testimonial from a constituent who has had his record compromised by a misunderstanding relating to unemployment benefits.

Wood no wanna go

February 1, 2010

It’s not that Rep. Jeff Wood doesn’t want to resign. He just respects precedent.

Wood, an independent from Chippewa Falls who has been arrested three time since late 2008, faces a Feb. 17 committee hearing on his expulsion from the Legislature. But he argues kicking him out of the chamber “would really set an unusual precedent.”

Wood, in an interview on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” said no lawmakers have been kicked out in more than 90 years despite a series of felonies in office — including corruption and sexual assault. He said courts have traditionally handled lawmakers’ legal issues, while voters have been allowed to handle recalls or elections.

“I think it’s up to the constituents who represents them, not necessarily one person from Whitewater,” Wood said, a reference to GOP Rep. Steve Nass, who authored the resolution to expel him.

What trick does Wood have up his sleeve? My guess –– Rep. Marlin Schneider. The longest-serving member of the Assembly in state history and the only opponent of recent OWI legislation, will burst into the committee room, point at Nass and shout “HAVE YOU NO DECENCY SIR? Let us not assassinate this lad further!”

Who’s been working?

February 1, 2010

The Wheeler Report has the per diem standings for every Wisconsin legislator. Every member of the Assembly and Senate gets paid up to $88 for every day they spend working or traveling for the state. As the numbers show however, some members get (or demand) more money for their work than others.

Madison-area legislators, such as Reps. Spencer Black and Therese Berceau, worked more days than anybody else but only received $6,732, whereas Rep. Marlin Schneider (he’s become a staple here) worked the same number of days and received $13,464. That makes sense because of the travel expenses.

I highly suggest everybody check it out. The disparity in work loads is surprising. Here’s the list for the Senate.

Democrats unite behind Sheridan, blame lobbyists

January 29, 2010

Had Madison seen its last coup when Badger Herald partisans took over the Daily Cardinal board of directors back in the 80’s? That’s the question political observers were asking themselves as rumors circulate that Assembly Democrats were seeking to oust Speaker Mike Sheridan from the lower chamber’s throne.

According to Wispolitics (whose almanac I just received in the mail!), Sheridan denied the rumors, blaming them on payday loan lobbyists. It was a surprising accusation at first because most of the controversy surrounding payday loans took place last summer, when Democrats in the legislature first attempted to craft a bill that would impose stricter regulations  on interest rates for payday lenders.

In a phone interview, Rep. Kelda Roys (D-Madison) reiterated Sheridan’s message. Roys said lobbyists likely assumed they had defeated the legislation and were taken by surprise when it turned out that legislators had hammered out a bill. “They’re saying, wait, we just spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to kill this and it won’t go away.”

When I asked her how a lobbyist might go about spreading such a rumor, she suggested that he/she would probably talk to other lobbyists at the bar. Where’s the best bar to find lobbyists? Madisons. the Local Tavern, Genna’s.