Posts Tagged ‘Marlin Schneider’

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.

Sam Clegg disses my boy Marlin Schneider

January 28, 2010

I now realize that what was meant to be playful kidding in this post came off as arrogant and judgmental. That is not the style I would like to be associated with, so I apologize.

Thanks Jim Arndt, for pointing this one out to me. Sometimes my friend Sam Clegg writes opinion pieces that have no point. Other times, he writes pieces that have a point that nobody reading can figure out. So it’s hard to determine which category his recent column on OWI laws (at least that I’m partially sure of) falls into. But one thing is sure: he dissed my boy Marlin Schneider.

“Any reasonable analysis of the voting tally, along with a consideration of the issue at hand, would conclude Schneider is either a Neanderthal or a frat boy who stumbled into the legislature by mistake.”

It would be hard for me to nail Sam on this one. If I told him that Schneider is actually the longest-serving member of the Wisconsin Assembly in history, he would feel vindicated on his point that Wisconsin politics is run by morons.

However, what I will say is that there is no member of the legislature is as open to questions as Schneider. Although I often do not agree with some of the reasoning he uses to justify his votes, I have at least had the privilege of an unrestricted version of it –– something very uncommon when talking to politicians.

Yesterday I emailed him about legislation that will restrict public access to certain court records and he responded literally within the minute. On the issue of OWI he sent me two very long emails with a very sincere discussion of alcohol in Wisconsin that I can’t imagine any politician who worries about re-election would want to have. Among other things he called alcoholism classes in technical schools “a joke,” said that almost all people drink before they turn 21, and expressed compassion for people stuck with criminal records who cannot find jobs.

Sam, you might not like the conclusions Schneider draws, but I assure you, he’s your kind of guy.

Jeff Wood’s expulsion hearing scheduled

January 14, 2010

It looks like Rep. Jeff Wood, who managed to drive safely to Madison and vote in favor of increasing penalties for OWI offenders (before trying to climb out a window to escape reporters), will finally face political justice next Wednesday, when the Assembly Special Committee on Ethics and Standards will vote on a resolution to expel the independent legislator from Bloomer.

Here’s a vote I’d keep my eye on: Marlin Schneider. Will the lone opponent of the OWI bill, who has decried the services offered for alcohol issues in the state, extend his compassion to Wood in the form of a vote against expulsion?

The lone nay: Why Marlin Schneider opposed OWI bill

January 7, 2010

In my most recent correspondence with Rep. Marlin Schneider, the Democrat from Wisconsin Rapids explained his opposition to the most recent bill that made fourth offense OWI a felony and made first offense OWI a misdemeanor if a child is in the car. The longest service member of the Wisconsin Assembly in history, Schneider was probably not concerned about re-election when he cast the lone vote against a bill that many in the press and the Capitol said did too little to curb drunk driving in the Badger State.

Drunk driving is a significant problem but not everyone who drives under the influence should be treated like a criminal.  College students and high school students, parents who attend a wedding dance, fans leaving tailgating events, etc. etc. will be swept into this net and have consequences for the rest of their lives because these records now go on CCAP, are data mined, and will haunt them forever.

Compassion for the people we all know who’ve messed up. But what would be the plan to reduce drunk driving?

I would support the ignition interlocks for repeat offenders, improving the quality of the drunk driving programs in our techincal schools, and other efforts like making alcohol less available.

This leads into the discussion of current alcohol programs in technical schools, which Schneider called “a joke.” His response to the patronizing tone of some alcohol counselors would ring true in the ears of the thousands of college students who trudge through such sessions after being caught doing what college kids do. Schneider did not miss that point.

I do not know how old you are but if you are a normal kind of young person you have probably had alcohol yourself or been at parties where your friends have had a drink when they weren’t suppose to.  Do you really want to make them all criminals?

Although I was impressed with Schneider’s willingness to speak candidly about alcohol, I responded that he was confusing the two issues of alcohol use and drunk driving. Moreover, did his Wisconsin-style tolerance of alcohol translate into progressive positions on prohibited drugs?

I had a former aide who went to prison for possession of marijuana when it was a felony so I do not condone some of the harsh sentences for small offenses.  But and this is a big but…….narcotics takes on a whole different dimension from alcohol abuse because narcotics traffickers and users by their demand are responsible for the problems with drug cartels in Mexico and elsewhere.

I don’t know what I find more surprising coming from a Midwestern state legislator: Association with a drug offender or compassion for those South of the border. Have I told you that I’m a Mexican citizen? I may not be since I turned 18 but my spirit still has dual-nationality. However, if we really wanted to end the drug wars for the sake of mi compatriotas we’d end prohibition of drugs, and I’m surprised he didn’t confront that point.

Above all, I think Schneider displays the cultural reluctance of Wisconsinites to treat drunk driving like a serious epidemic. He rightly cited the underfunding of the new laws, and to a lesser extent, that the “costs would be immense.” But immense costs match an immense problem. Fighting OWI is a much worthier expense than the vast majority of $1.1 billion of prison costs that this state incurs every year, largely by incarcerating offenders who have never posed a bodily risk to anybody.

Treating alcoholism in Wisconsin

January 5, 2010

I recently had a correspondence with Rep. Marlin Schneider (D-Wisconsin Rapids), the lone opponent of the most recent OWI legislation. A long with his belief that stiff penalties are in many cases unfair and vindictive, which I will explore in a later post (I’m waiting on some more feedback), Schneider called for more effective treatment of alcoholism.

I would support the ignition interlocks for repeat offenders, improving the quality of the drunk driving programs in our technical schools, and other efforts like making alcohol less available.  I attended the drunk driving program with a friend and I can tell you it is a joke.  My friend and the others in the class had to answer questions and fill out forms and literally make stuff up to satisfy the instructor.

Interestingly, the Daily Page just ran a story on a new kind of alcohol treatment philosophy that is gaining ground in the Badger State called Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT).

SBIRT gives patients a questionnaire when they check in for an appointment, asking about drug and alcohol use. Professionals like Lightbourn review these responses for red flags that may indicate problems. They also check to see if there is a family history of substance abuse and any medical conditions like hypertension, high cholesterol or diabetes that might be exacerbated by drug or alcohol use.

Armed with this knowledge, Lightbourn [SBIRT doctor] initiates a discussion with the patient. She asks open-ended questions to help place the patients’ use of substances into one of four categories: low risk, at risk, harmful use and likely dependent.

Advice is given sparingly, and patients are not told what to do. As Lightbourn puts it, “The patient is driving the bus, and the decision is up to them to decide if they would like to make a change in their alcohol and drug use.”

At first glance, the technique strikes me as definitely more appropriate for certain personality types. Most adults don’t like being treated as children, and don’t like to be demeaned by being force-fed therapeutic dogma.

While plenty of people who have combatted alcoholism will likely tell you that they needed an aggressive, radical approach to get on the wagon, there are others, including many people who suffered from more mild alcoholism, that would benefit from a more frank, personalized discussion of their drinking habits. These people often resent being grouped with hardcore drug and alcohol addicts.

What the music industry can teach newspapers

October 8, 2009

Hat tip to the Dean for guiding me to an article at Mashable, which has a run-down of all the things newspapers can do to avoid extinction, in the same way that the music industry has. Some of it is obvious but there are some points I haven’t heard – and I’ve heard quite a bit of talk about the decline of print media.


Reports of downfall will be grossly exaggerated.

Do not get sue-happy with bitter lawsuits against piraters (bloggers, social media etc.).

Embrace the digital age – look for internet equivalents to the jobs of yore.

Nothing is said about seeking tax breaks from local government.

Save WI newspapers, but what’s a newspaper?

September 30, 2009

Rep. Marlin Schneider is either a strong believer in the free press or he is desperate to get newspapers off his back. Either way, the outcome of this idealism/cynicism may very well be a solid measure to keep local newspapers afloat in Wisconsin:

A Wisconsin state lawmaker known for his rocky relationship with the press wants to save newspapers even though he admits to sometimes hating reporters.

“It’s hard for me because you guys jerk me around all the time,” said Democratic state Rep. Marlin Schneider, a 39-year veteran from Wisconsin Rapids, at a Tuesday news conference. “Some days I hate your guts.”

Schneider said his volatile relationship with the press will protect him from accusations that he’s doing favors for the industry. In recent years Schneider, a privacy advocate, has often clashed with media groups over how much information should be made public through the state’s online court system.

The plan announced by Schneider on Tuesday would make any building associated with newspaper production exempt from property taxes. Currently, printing presses only are exempt. Because it has yet to be formally introduced, there is no cost estimate.

This is a good plan. If passed, there have to be strong protections built in that prevent future lawmakers from using the tax-exempt status to blackmail nosey papers. There are many forms of government media participation which are wrongheaded and run against the tenants of free speech, such as the Fairness Doctrine, which far too many liberals tout as the answer to the cable news catastrophe. We don’t need government regulation, we need government investment. In addition to Schneider’s proposal, there needs to be a serious movement to push for more public media outlets, such as PBS. It would cost so little but do so much.

The inevitable question, however, is what constitutes a newspaper? Can anybody who puts out a newsletter make an attempt at tax-exempt status? There were surely be definitions in the legislation – let’s hope they put up walls to prevent non-news corporations from exploiting the loophole by claiming that they too “put out news.”