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As recall elections loom in Wisconsin, Scott Bauer of the AP reports: "Republicans, in a rapid sequence of votes over the next eight weeks, plan to legalize concealed weapons, deregulate the telephone industry, require voters to show photo identification at the polls, expand school vouchers and undo an early release for prisoners."

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at a press conference in the Capitol, 03/07/11. (photo: Getty Images)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at a press conference in the Capitol, 03/07/11. (photo: Getty Images)



Wisconsin Republicans Rush Legislative Agenda Before Recall Elections

By Scott Bauer, Associated Press

08 May 11


RSN Special Coverage: GOP's War on American Labor

 

isconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker and GOP leaders have launched a push to ram several years' worth of conservative agenda items through the Legislature this spring before recall elections threaten to end the party's control of state government.

Republicans, in a rapid sequence of votes over the next eight weeks, plan to legalize concealed weapons, deregulate the telephone industry, require voters to show photo identification at the polls, expand school vouchers and undo an early release for prisoners.

Lawmakers may also act again on Walker's controversial plan stripping public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights. An earlier version, which led to massive protest demonstrations at the Capitol, has been left in limbo by legal challenges.

"Everything's been accelerated," said Republican Rep. Gary Tauchen, who is working on the photo ID bill. "We've got a lot of big bills we're trying to get done."

The speed-up is the latest move in a tumultuous legislative session that followed last fall's midterm elections in which Republicans won the governorship and control of both houses of the Legislature. In other states where conservatives won major victories, such as Ohio, Florida and Michigan, the GOP has moved more deliberatively.

Walker got off to a fast start in January, passing a slew of measures before he unveiled a two-year budget designed to plug a $3.6 billion shortfall. That legislation, involving deep cuts to a wide range of programs, was expected to consume months. Other measures were on tap for next year. But a three-week boycott by Democrats in the winter and recall efforts targeting nine legislators have changed the strategy.

"They know there's a very strong possibility their days of controlling every level of government are numbered," Democratic Assembly Leader Peter Barca said. "You're moving forward huge pieces of legislation that dramatically change the direction and traditions and values of this state. Generally, doing that takes much longer."

Recall campaigns likely will force six Republican senators to defend their seats this summer. Three Democrats may also be on recall ballots. A net victory of three seats would give the Democrats control of the Senate, which the GOP now controls 19-14. The first elections are scheduled for July 12.

At least publically, Wisconsin Republicans deny they're rushing legislation for fear of losing their majority.

"Right now, I don't foresee (losing the majority)," Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald said. "Obviously, I'm sure it will be in the back of your mind, but you'll have to see how that plays out later this summer."

But Rep. Robin Vos, co-chairman of the Legislature's budget-writing committee, which will attempt to handle two months of budget legislation in half the usual time, acknowledged, "It's a factor. For the budget, yeah, I want to get it done by June 30."

Four of the 12 Republicans on the committee are targets of the recall.

The blitz has created an almost frantic atmosphere in the Capitol.

Major bills, like the one to legalize concealed weapons, were introduced just days before public hearings. A major revision to the photo ID proposal was released late on a Friday afternoon, just four days before a committee passed it, prompting complaints from the nonpartisan board that oversees elections.

"There has been no time for the careful evaluation and vetting needed to ensure the best options for voters and election officials is enacted," wrote Kevin Kennedy, head of the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board.

Republican leaders scheduled a full Assembly vote on a bill deregulating the telecommunications industry only a week after a hearing, leaving little opportunity for public comment.

Walker said his plan to move his agenda is unchanged. "From our standpoint, it's really been about being aggressive from the beginning," he said in an interview.

At the same time lawmakers are pushing through conservative policies, they will be wrestling with Walker's budget proposal. Walker wants to cut roughly $1 billion from schools and local governments, split the Madison campus from the University of Wisconsin System and slow the growth of Medicaid by $500 million.

The Legislature also may try to quickly pass a redistricting plan, a politically charged process that would reshape congressional and legislative districts with new 2010 census data.

If the Legislature votes again on Walker's plan stripping public workers of their union negotiating rights, it can sidestep the legal challenges to the first vote, which came after 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois to deprive the Senate of a quorum. Unions and Democrats claim the original vote violated the open meetings law and the state constitution's quorum requirement. The case is pending before the state Supreme Court.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he and other leaders are just trying to make up the time lost during the earlier turmoil. "There is an expectation that some of these bills would be completed early on," he said.

 

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+12 # JimYoung 2011-05-08 09:28
$6 million dollar man? Ok some are women and the total per individual is $6, 521,000, more or less for the 690 "conservative" seats picked up in State legislatures, Governorships, and the Federal Government, all for a measly $4.5 billion or so.

Frank Rich pointed out that the oddest thing was that billionaires (Meg Whitman at $163 million) that ran for office couldn't buy their way in, but those that funded other candidates got what they still consider bargains, when you consider the 2010 election and the ways they can now warp our districting for the next 10 years (excepting Tom DeLay and his mid decade redistricting in Texas). It may take another decade or two to undo the damage.
 
 
+3 # Pancho 2011-05-08 10:27
Thanks for your comment, Jim.

What was the source for your per-officeholde r figure, $6,521,000?
 
 
0 # JimYoung 2011-05-09 05:57
Quoting Pancho:
...What was the source for your per-officeholder figure, $6,521,000?


It was the best I could do gathering data from different sources like http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/11/03/republicans-score-big-in-the-states-and-win-leg-up-on-redistrict/ and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1327814/Mid-term-Elections-2010-Politicians-spent-4-2bn-adverts.html (though I can't find the later source that upped it to $4.5 billion) Even using the daily mail figure (for tv ads only?) it comes out to $6,086,956 per seat changed to a "conservative." I'll try to find the source of the later $4.5 billion figure, again.

I only know the number of seats changed, not the total number of candidates, but think the cost per seat changed is still an indication of how much money is coming into politics. I do believe in free speech and no spending limits, but only if all sources are disclosed. I'm more concerned with things like anonymous political donations that have quintupled the spending this cycle, with 2/3rds of it from anonymous donors.

Side note. In a discussion before the 2010 election an Argentine pilot laughed at me, describing up coming "elections", he said they looked more like rigged auctions. I think they're buying up the cheap seats while we're watching the box seats.
 
 
+11 # robert Zweben 2011-05-08 10:32
You have to hand it to the Republicans. They go for what they want. No shyness, no fuss. If only the other party had the same spinal cord makeup.

We in America should have a guaranteed, constitutional right to vote without these modern day forms of Jim Crow laws and without barriers. The biggest fraud in our elections are the 'bought' candidates; not the voters.
 
 
+12 # kalpal 2011-05-08 12:01
No shame for being intensely evil also.
 
 
+16 # jlohman 2011-05-08 10:32
Now watch the cash flow from the NRA and gun dealers (legalize concealed weapons,) AT&T (deregulate the telephone industry,) private schools (expand school vouchers) and private prison operators (undo an early release for prisoners.)

Our politicians know who feeds their kitty.
 
 
+9 # in deo veritas 2011-05-08 10:40
Hopefully the backlash against the shills backed by the Koches will be so overwhelming that the lieele fascists will be literally run out of the state if not tarred and feathered. The great state of Wisconsin will be able to show its good and proud face again after that.
 
 
+17 # Terrapin 2011-05-08 10:46
Wisconsin has no one to blame but themselves.
Who voted for these GOP swines?
And WHAT part of the GOP agenda didn't you understand? It's only been coming at you for 30+ years.

But then again ... they're Christians aren't they ...
 
 
+15 # in deo veritas 2011-05-08 10:46
Just as in Congress none of these greedy bastards are considering cutting their own exorbitant salaries and/or benefits. They are paid enough by the Koches for their dirty work that they should not get a penny from the people they are trying to ruin-the taxpayers. Maybe those recalled will get a job with their benefactors in one of their palaces.
 
 
+12 # msfrost 2011-05-08 11:22
The ID requirement, violates the Voting rights Act of 1964.
 
 
+6 # Ken Hall 2011-05-08 19:31
msfrost: I hear you loud and clear, but the R's are probably counting on it being in effect for the next election cycle before it works its way up to the SC. And we should remember that the R's have packed the SC with jurists...no, I won't dignify them with that name...partisan s who seem to be actively working to subvert the Constitution. As someone above has lamented, why don't the D's get down to it like the R's do. We really need a third party to give voters a hope for change they can believe in.
 
 
0 # Consuelo Hannan 2011-05-10 05:12
it seems that the democrats in WI are fighting the repugs. can these bills be changed if the senate and house and gov are changed or are these criminal laws enforced till they expire?
 

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