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Wisconsin Recalls Are Heating Up

Recent protests at WI capitol

Recall elections loom on the horizon as petitions against nine Wisconsin state senators were recently submitted to the Government Accountability Board (GAB). Each successful petition must include 25 percent of the total number of votes cast in that senate district in the last election.

The recall efforts of Republican senators who supported Gov. Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill, and the Democratic senators who left the state to delay voting on the bill, are a result of the political firestorm that quickly flared up over the bill that sought to eliminate almost all collective bargaining rights for public workers.

Currently, the Republican senators who are facing a recall election are Alberta Darling, Robert Cowles, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen, Randy Hopper and Dan Kapanke. Democrats are facing recall efforts are — Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin and Robert Wirch.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that there have also been petitions that didn’t have enough signatures on them to spark a recall. Democratic senators Lena Taylor and Spencer Coggs (both from Milwaukee), Senate Minority Mark Miller (Monona) and Fred Risser (Madison) all have all survived the recall attempts against them. Recall efforts against Republicans Glenn Grothman (West Bend) and Mary Lazich (New Berlin) also failed to garner sufficient support.

Circulators hired by the state Republican Party have submitted “hundreds if not thousands of invalid signatures” in recall drives targeting three Democratic state senators. Volunteers have been working overtime to enter each name into a data base and cross-check it with the phone book and other record. One man who signed a recall petition was Bill Pocan, the deceased father of State Representative Marc Pocan. The Wisconsin Democratic Party (DPW) is formally challenging  all three of the recall petitions filed against Democrat senators.

Republicans have filed challenges against “all petitions targeting GOP senators. In addition to their individual signature challenges, they claim the GAB should throw out the petitions because the recall organizers did not properly register with the state.” The elections for recalled legislators with completed petitions will likely be held July 12, 2011.

By: Jennifer Page, Center for Media and Democracy, May 6, 2011

May 6, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Democracy, Elections, Gov Scott Walker, Politics, Public Employees, State Legislatures, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Justice Delayed: Wisconsin Recall Elections To Be Held July 12

A Dane County, WI judge has approved a request by the state Government Accountability Board (GAB), which oversees elections in the state, to delay some state Senate recall elections and consolidate them into one day on July 12. In the course of making that decision, the judge turned back Democratic objections that some of their recalls should proceed as quickly as possible in June.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

Signatures were filed against senators starting April 1, and under tight timelines in the statutes, the first election could have been scheduled in mid-June. But Dane County Judge John W. Markson agreed to give the accountability board more time to evaluate the petitions and schedule the elections.

He agreed the board needed more time because of the unprecedented demands on evaluating tens of thousands of signatures for each recall attempt. He also noted the board is bogged down by a statewide recount in the April 5 election for state Supreme Court.

The GAB had sought the extension primarily on the grounds that the extraordinary number of recalls was straining their capacity to review signatures. On the other hand, as WisPolitics reported on Thursday, Democratic Party attorney Jeremy Levinson had argued in a court filing that delaying any of the recalls would do damage to the Dems, and create political space for the Republicans to do mischief with the extra time:

Levinson argues delaying the matter would give the incumbents an “extra-statutory” fundraising advantage, and leave representation of those districts “an open and pending question.”

In addition, Levinson argues that delaying the recall elections may result in laws being enacted that would not be if the recalls are held in the time frame permitted by statute.

“The rush to put ‘Voter ID’ and the concealed carry of firearms before the legislature — to say nothing of the pending budget — confirm that this is an entirely concrete concern,” Levinson writes.

In addition, as Jessica Arp from the local CBS affiliate reported from Judge Markson’s court hearing, Levinson also argued that the earliest petitions, against state Sen. Dan Kapanke and state Sen. Randy Hopper, were filed so quickly as a deliberate decision on the Dems’ part, in order to have the recalls move forward quickly while the issues are still fresh in the public mind.

Ultimately, though, Markson declared that it had become difficult or impossible for the GAB to meet the statutory deadline, and that the public would be better served by having the recalls held on a single day.

The state Senate currently has a 19-14 Republican majority, with Democrats hoping to pick up three seats in recall elections and win a majority, in a backlash against Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation. In order to initiate a recall, signatures of at least 25 percent of the number of voters in the previous gubernatorial election, within the targeted district, must be collected in a 60-day window.

Democrats have filed recall signatures against six Republicans: Dan Kapanke, Randy Hopper, Luther Olsen, Sheila Harsdorf, Alberta Darling and Rob Cowles. Republicans have filed recall signatures against three Democrats: Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin and Robert Wirch.

Under Wisconsin’s recall law, elected officials must have served at least one year of their term before being recalled — thus exempting the half of the Senate that was just elected in 2010. In addition, Dems have also declared their intention to recall Walker himself next year, when the one-year exemption runs out.

By: Eric Kleefeld, Talking Points Memo, April 29, 2011

April 30, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Elections, Gov Scott Walker, Politics, Public Employees, State Legislatures, Unions, Voters, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Few Heard At Wisconsin Budget “Hearing” In Milwaukee, But School Choice Advocate Denounces Walker’s Subsidy For Rich

At Monday’s public hearing in Milwaukee on Governor Walker’s budget, Wisconsin Republicans once again resorted to anti-participatory tactics to avoid criticism of their far-right agenda. Despite these efforts, strong criticisms were squeezed-in by longtime Milwaukee school choice advocate Howard Fuller, calling GOP efforts to lift income limits on school vouchers an “outrageous” program “that subsidizes rich people.”

Republicans Regulate Milwaukee Hearing

Milwaukee’s hearing at State Fair Park was the third of four statewide sessions on Walker’s proposed budget by the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee, and controversy arose well before the hearing began. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, two of Milwaukee’s congresswomen, Rep. Tamara Grigsby and Sen. Lena Taylor, were concerned that many working people would be excluded because the hearing was scheduled to end at 6pm. The two arranged to hold informal sessions until 9pm to allow people to voice their opinion, then notified Joint Finance co-chairs Rep. Robin Vos (R-Burlington) and Sen. Alberta Darling (R- River Falls) about their plans.

Sen. Darling reportedly approved the Grigsby-Taylor informal hearing and Rep. Vos “said he would think about it.” However, Taylor soon received notice from State Fair Park that Vos had reserved the facility until midnight, meaning the Dems’ hearing could not take place, and Milwaukee’s working population could not have their voices heard.

According to Taylor, “This isn’t open government. This is not democracy. This is shameful.”

Beer City Blockage the Latest in a Series

Vos and Darling were unabashed about their intention to suppress opposition, with Darling telling the Journal-Sentinel “we had to take precautions so that what happened at the Capitol wouldn’t happen at State Fair Park.”

“The hearings are going to be done when we say they’re done,” Vos said.

This is only the latest in a series of Wisconsin GOP efforts to limit scrutiny and stifle dissent. On February 11, Governor Walker sought to limit deliberation on his budget repair bill by introducing it on a Friday and ordering a vote on a Tuesday (Senate Democrats thwarted these plans by leaving the state). The Walker Administration violated the constitutionally-guaranteed right of public access to the state capitol in late February, and a judge ordered it re-opened; the administration violated that order in March and a hearing on that violation is pending. On March 11, Republicans forced the union-busting budget repair bill through the Senate with minimal notice, breaking state Open Meetings laws and possibly violating the constitution’s public access guarantees.

Hearing Limits Input from Milwaukee’s Particularly-Affected Populations of Color

This latest step towards suppression is especially egregious considering Milwaukee is not only the state’s largest city, but has the most people of color, a population that will be particularly affected by Walker’s budget and budget repair bill. The plans eliminate funding for a new program to track and remedy racial profiling (the first step towards confronting Wisconsin’s atrocious record of racial disparities in incarceration); will limit eligibility for medical assistance; kicks legal immigrants off food assistance; and eliminates funding for a program that provided civil legal services to low income residents. Walker is also expected to cut $300 million from Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), severely limiting education quality for the district teaching the greatest number of students (and students of color) in the state.

With Republican legislators keeping the Milwaukee hearing short, only speakers who signed up before 12:30pm had their voices heard. Hundreds of people were denied the ability to speak, and as the hearing ended at 6:30pm, there were shouts of “let us speak” and the now-familiar “shame” directed at those lawmakers.

Howard Fuller Heard on Education

While many Milwaukee residents were not heard on Monday, at least one prominent voice spoke strongly against Walker’s plans for Milwaukee schools.

In addition to cutting $300 million from Milwaukee’s public schools (and eliminating teacher’s unions), Walker’s budget reinforces existing inequalities by expanding the “school choice” program, which allows students to opt-out of public schools and use a taxpayer-funded voucher for private school tuition. The voucher program has been criticized not only because it directs money away from public schools, but because private schools can pick-and-choose their students, often selecting those who come from an advantaged background and leaving the rest to suffer in under-funded public schools.

Milwaukee became the country’s first publicly-funded school voucher program in 1990, and it grew under the tenure of MPS Superintendent Howard Fuller. He currently directs an institute at Marquette University that authorizes schools trying to get into Milwaukee’s choice program. Howard has collaborated with Republican lawmakers in the past, many of whom support so-called “school choice” out of belief in free market principles of competition and privatization. While many on the left fear defunding public education, some urban advocates like Fuller have supported vouchers to give promising low-income students a better chance at long-term success by providing education options that would not otherwise be available.

But Fuller, who is now regarded as the nation’s most influential African-American spokesman for “school choice,” strongly criticized Walker’s plans to remove income eligibility caps for the private school voucher program. “Please don’t make it true that you were using the poor just to eventually make this available to the rich,” Fuller said. “If [lifting income eligibility] is done, I will become an opponent of this.”

“I never got into this to give someone like me $6,500 to send their kid to Marquette High School (tuition $15,000 per year). . . This is where I get off the train, I’m not going to go anywhere in America and fight for a program that subsidizes rich people.”

By: Brenda Fischer, Center for Media and Democracy, April 12, 2011

April 13, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Democracy, Economy, Education, Government, Governors, Health Care, Ideology, Immigrants, Jobs, Labor, Middle Class, Politics, Public Employees, Teachers, Uncategorized, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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