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Legislative Speed and Secrecy Undermines Deliberative Democracy PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District   
Tuesday, 08 March 2016 09:57

rtw-walkoutSen. Kathleen Vinehout writes about the frenetic pace at which bills are moving through the legislative process. Members of the public are working hard to get their voices heard on bills that have real impact on their lives, but this speed coupled with lack of information leads to poor legislative decisions.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 March 2016 17:29
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Sunshine Week 2016, Reflecting Back on the 2015 Budget Open Records Attack PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District   
Friday, 04 March 2016 16:15

joint-financeMADISON - The last day of the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) state budget work in the summer of 2015 was expected to be a day with some surprises. One surprise no one could have anticipated was the inclusion of page after page of open records changes. Limiting not only nearly every Legislative office record, the changes also would have closed state public agency records and the Governors records as well. Maybe that is why we celebrate “Sunshine Week” every year, to remind us all of the value of open government and the importance of transparency.

To close open records was monumental, epic and dangerous. As JFC Democrats we were given only 15 minutes to talk about the Republican motion that gutted open records. I spent every single second of my time talking about the mistake of the open records change. I remember saying that in the future when these Legislators left office and were looking back, this vote, to gut the open records law, would be their biggest regret because of the damage it would cause the people of Wisconsin.

Not one Republican vote was swayed by that argument and every single Republican on the Committee voted in favor of gutting Wisconsin open records law, including Representative Czaja and Senator Harsdorf. So of course it was a little disappointing that the Wisconsin Newspaper Association honored these two Legislators with awards.

Wisconsin had some of the first open records laws in the country. Decisions making sure records of the government were open for inspection in Wisconsin are almost as old as the state itself. As we are about to embark on Sunshine Week 2016 to celebrate open government, I hope we will all reflect on the 2015 budget open records crisis and remember how quickly the rules can change if we take them for granted.

I have always been a defender of a strong Wisconsin Open Records law, even when I was sued because I would not give out personally indefinable information of constituents who had contacted my office. The ability to make a decision as a custodian of public records and the counter balance of being able to bring suit when you disagree is central to the Wisconsin open records law and I hope it will be for years to come. Let’s celebrate Sunshine Week 2016 with extra vigilance given the summer of 2015 action.

For more information on Wisconsin’s Open Records law contact my office at 608-266-6670 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 888-549-0027.

Last Updated on Friday, 04 March 2016 16:27
 
Beating Back Walker's Counterrevolution PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Friday, 04 March 2016 15:44

scott-walker-MADISON - Last Friday night, I went over to Lake Mills to speak with a great local group called “Progressives Informed and Engaged.” (They’re acronym is PIE, and true to their name, they brought five delicious homemade pies, and I sampled each one!)

Here’s the text of the speech I gave. There’s a lot of hope in it, so please take a look:

Beating back the counterrevolution in Wisconsin

This week, our ace research director, Mike Buelow, dug out some information that no other media outlet has reported yet on some of Walker’s big donors who exceeded the legal limit in their donations to him. To see who’s on the naughty list, just click here:

Eleven contributors prompted $28K in penalties paid by Walker campaign

Meanwhile, back at the Capitol, Walker was rewarding some of his other donors, even as he assaulted Wisconsin’s great tradition of local control and home rule. Landlords and bill collectors were among the winners—and tenants and consumers among the losers:

Walker approves more laws to limit local control

On Tuesday, we unveiled our “Influence Peddler of the Month,” and it’s none other than Kurt Bauer, who heads Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), which is the most powerful outside group inside the Capitol. You can read all about him here:

Influence peddler of the month - Kurt Bauer

In the next few weeks, we’ll be releasing a comprehensive indictment of the anti-democratic and anti-good government laws passed in the last five years of this Walker counterrevolution, laws that were backed by WMC and other special interests.

Please send us a tax-deductible gift today to help cover our research and to support the urgent work that we’re doing to save democracy in Wisconsin: www.wisdc.org/donate

I look forward to hearing from you shortly.

***

P.S. You can make your tax-deductible gift simply by clicking here (www.wisdc.org/donate) or by mailing it in to us the old-fashioned way at 203 S. Peterson St, Suite 100, Madison, WI 53703. Either way, we really appreciate it!

Last Updated on Friday, 04 March 2016 16:02
 
"Bumper stickers and silos" - Blue Jean Nation PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Tuesday, 01 March 2016 10:24

dems-v-repubFor different reasons and in different ways, both the Democrats and Republicans are missing something. Both are convinced their own world view is superior, both are slaves to special interests, and both seem oblivious to the fact that most people embrace elements of both world views.


ALTOONA, WI - I’m not one of those who thinks you can’t tell apart the two major political parties in America. I don’t buy for a second that they are two wings of the same bird.

Today’s Republicans and Democrats have very real and very substantial differences. But both parties have been corrupted and each is failing the country in its own way.

On the surface, Republicans and Democrats talk and act differently. Their words and actions differ so much because below ground their core values conflict and they don’t see eye to eye on how the world works.

Republicans concentrate on the individual. They emphasize self-reliance. Successful people are self-made. Achievement comes from discipline and individual initiative. Failure is the fault of individual weakness or lack of effort, not a scarcity of opportunity or the absence of social justice.

Democrats focus on the community. They stress how interdependent we are. Those who succeed stand on the shoulders of countless others. Advancement depends on many helping hands. Creating opportunity for one — and helping up those who fall — is the responsibility of all.

For at least the last 30 or 40 years, just about every step Republicans take and every move they make has been justified on the grounds of four core principles that fit comfortably on a bumper sticker. Less governmentLower taxesIndividual liberty.Safety and security through strength.

Of course, today’s Republicans have an infidelity problem. There’s the dirty little secret that the biggest expansion of the federal government in the last half-century was largely the GOP’s doing. And it’s the richest who enjoy the lowest tax rates. Republicans used to be for local control but aren’t anymore. They no longer act on the belief that the best government is the one closest to the people.

Your average Democrat, on the other hand, does not summon an overarching principle or core value when explaining a stance or justifying an action. Democrats prefer facts, and have large collections of them. Problem is, when facts and values collide, most people will discard the facts and hold on tight to their values.

The Democratic Party is an amalgamation of a dizzying array of issues and causes and constituencies, the sum total of which does not add up to a governing majority in most parts of the country. Think of the group behavior of Democrats and you are reminded more of cats or rabbits than bees or geese. There’s even a metaphor commonly used to describe this trait that runs particularly strong in Democrats. They are said to each be in their own issue silo.

Having grown up on a farm, I can say from personal observation that silos are no fit place to live. They are cramped and cold and dirty. They work well for storing feed for cattle, not so well for storing the hopes and dreams of Democrats.

For different reasons and in different ways, both the Democrats and Republicans are missing something. Both are convinced their own world view is superior, and both seem oblivious to the fact that most people embrace elements of both world views. Most people put great value on discipline and personal responsibility, but also see the importance of lending a helping hand and making sure that everyone gets a fair shake. Few love paying taxes, but most see the sense of pooling our money to pay to do those things that need to be done together.

The future belongs to the party that figures out that, philosophically speaking, we’re mutts not purebreds. And reconciles itself to the unpleasant fact that we see how both parties are slaves to special interests. They favor different constituencies, but they both cater religiously to those constituencies. The future belongs to the party willing to truly dedicate itself to making the government and the economy work for all of us, not just a few of us.

Now there is a core principle — making the government and economy work for all of us, not just a few of us — that fits comfortably on a bumper sticker. Maybe it can be plastered on all the silos.

 
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