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Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive

Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive

Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive. Before moving to Green Bay in 2008, he was the Assistant Director of Human Resources for Milwaukee County. A graduate of UWM in 1971, he moved to Madison, where he was Executive Personnel Officer and Technology Manager for the State Department of Employment Relations. He is a former Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of Brown County, Director at the Human Resources Management Association of S.E. Wisconsin (now SHRM), and Technology Commission Chair for the City of Franklin. Bob is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force (1965-1971).

Corrections Reform Measures Proposed To Improve Public Safety

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 06 January 2016
in Wisconsin

boy-in-docA high-profile investigation into claims of child abuse at the Lincoln Hills Juvenile Detention Center and serious assaults on correctional officers this year at Green Bay, Racine, Columbia and other correctional facilities across Wisconsin have prompted Democratic legislators to take action.


MADISON - Amid growing concerns with the rise in assaults at Wisconsin’s correctional facilities, Democratic legislators here are urging immediate action to strengthen worker protections and improve public safety.

A high-profile investigation is currently looking into claims of child abuse and assaults at the Lincoln Hills Juvenile Detention Center. In addition, serious assaults on correctional officers have been documented this year at Green Bay, Racine, Columbia and other correctional facilities across Wisconsin.

While Republican leaders have known about these serious safety concerns for more than a year, conditions have deteriorated as a result of additional state budget cuts and worsening staff shortages.

In an effort to improve safety in correctional facilities, Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and several Assembly Democrats are putting forward a package of legislative proposals. The bills aim to improve worker training, limit the use of forced overtime, increase workplace safety, strengthen reporting requirements and ensure appropriate staffing levels for first responders.

jon-erpenbach“Safety in our Department of Corrections institutions in not a new issue. The staffing shortages that were a direct result of Governor Walker’s Act 10 have never been resolved by the administration or the DOC. The burden for staffing shortages continues to fall solely on the backs of officers working in our institutions. They are the ones who have to live with more consecutive days of overtime because of inadequate staffing levels,” said Senator Erpenbach in a statement released this morning.

dave_hansen“Safety within our corrections institutions should be a top priority in light of the growing number of incidents we have seen take place, in large part due to the inability of Corrections officials to recruit, properly train and retain staff,” said Senator Hansen, noting that 500 positions are currently unfilled in the department putting public safety at risk. “As a result we are asking fewer officers to take on more shifts and more responsibility to the point that it is putting their safety at risk.”

Hansen has announced he will join Senator Erpenbach and corrections officers at a press conference at the Brown County Courthouse at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, January 7th to discuss the growing crisis in Corrections and to announce his support for the package of bills.

Currently seeking co-sponsors, Erpenbach and other authors of the proposals expect introduction of the bills next week. To receive a copy of the draft legislation, contact Senator Erpenbach's  office at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 608-266-6670.

jennifer-shillingAs part of the Corrections Reform package, Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) and Rep. Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) are introducing the Correctional Officer Workplace Safety Bill (LRB 4225). The proposal will restore the right of correctional officers to collectively bargain over workplace safety issues.

“The lack of urgency by Gov. Walker’s administration and the Republican majority to address complaints of child abuse and assaults in our correctional facilities is appalling,” said Sen. Shilling. “In the past two months, serious assaults and nearly-fatal suicide attempts have shocked families and communities who had been told not to worry about safety concerns in our correctional facilities. Wisconsin children, families and public safety officers can’t afford to continue waiting for action. It’s time to address the serious safety issues in our correctional facilities before this dangerous situation spirals further out of control.”

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Feds Extend SeniorCare Through 2018

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 24 December 2015
in Wisconsin

elderlyThe federal government has notified the state Department of Health Services that Wisconsin’s waiver to renew SeniorCare through December 31, 2018 has been approved. Green Bay's Sen. Dave Hansen gives credit for bi-partisan support to thousands who signed petitions to save SeniorCare.


MADISON - The federal government recently notified the state Department of Health Services here that Wisconsin’s waiver to renew SeniorCare through December 31, 2018 has been approved. The approval is good news for the more than 85,000 people who are currently enrolled in the popular prescription drug savings program.

The fate of SeniorCare was in doubt when Governor Scott Walker released his budget this year that included plans to eliminate the popular plan. Green Bay area state Senator Dave Hansen, other Democrats and SeniorCare advocates collected more than 13,000 signatures in a petition drive that helped create bi-partisan opposition to the Governor’s attempt to eliminate it.

dave-hansen“This is good news for everyone who depends on SeniorCare to afford their needed medications,” said Hansen who voted to create SeniorCare. "And it’s good for taxpayers too who save $90 million per year as a result of SeniorCare’s ability to negotiate for lower prices directly with drug companies."

Over 4,300 people from Northeast Wisconsin signed the petition that helped save SeniorCare. As a result, Democrats and Republicans opposed the planned elimination and the program was restored in the state budget. It just goes to show that when people get involved legislators will listen.

More than 85,000 people are currently enrolled in SeniorCare, and benefit from the program's simple enrollment process, $30 annual fee, income-based deductibles, and $5 co-pays for generic drugs. Most participants save hundreds of dollars each year, over what their costs would be on Medicare Part D, and taxpayers save $90 million per year through SeniorCare’s direct negotiation with drug companies.

"SeniorCare saves money and SeniorCare saves lives, and that's why so many people were willing to sign their names and share their stories, in support of the program," said Hansen. "Thanks to their efforts SeniorCare will be here to continue helping Wisconsin seniors save money on their prescription drugs.”

***

Legislative staffer Jay Wadd contributed to this story.

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Latest Walker Open Record Scandal

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 22 December 2015
in Wisconsin

walkerMADISON - News reports last Friday exposed that top Walker aides have encouraged communicating official state business through private channels to limit public access. By doing so, it appears that Gov. Scott Walker is continuing the "secret email network" policy he pursued at Milwaukee County. The Milwaukee County network was uncovered during the John Doe 1 investigation in 2011 that led to the indictment and conviction of several Walker aides.

jenshilling“Gov. Walker is either deliberately misleading the public and press or he’s woefully out of touch with what his top cabinet officials are doing", said Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) and Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) in a joint statement on Friday. "Either excuse is unacceptable."

peter_barca“This latest scandal to limit public records is a gross abuse of political power that follows the typical pattern of Republican secrecy we’ve come to expect", the statement continues. "Simply put, Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans can’t be trusted to do the right thing for our state."

“Legislative Republicans have been laser-focused on covering up Gov. Walker’s political scandals. In doing so, they have undermined Wisconsin's tradition of good government and opened our state to fraud and corruption. Instead, Democrats believe we should be helping working families, investing in our communities and creating economic prosperity”, Shilling and Barca conclude.

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Walker Has Not Repaid Taxpayers for Campaign Debt

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Friday, 11 December 2015
in Wisconsin

scottwalker-dreamThree months have passed since Governor Scott Walker said he would repay taxpayers for bills run up while he was running for President. Has he given himself a no-interest loan?


MADISON - Nearly three months have passed since Governor Walker ended his presidential campaign and the day he promised to repay state taxpayers for costs incurred during his presidential campaign. As homeowners and small businesses begin receiving their property tax bills, the outstanding debt racked up by Governor Walker’s presidential campaign has largely gone unpaid.

The most recent news accounts suggest he still owes Wisconsin taxpayers nearly $70,000 for expenses he charged to taxpayers during the first 6 months of 2015.

dave-hansen-gb“Millions of Wisconsin homeowners and small business owners are in the process of paying their property tax bills while Governor Walker continues to ignore his responsibility to repay taxpayers for the costs they incurred for his presidential campaign,” said Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay). “Essentially he is receiving a no interest loan from state taxpayers. It’s a sweetheart deal that he’s giving himself and it really does seem to straddle--if not cross--an ethical line.”

katrina-shanklandHansen and State Representative Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) introduced the Taxpayer Protection Act earlier this year that would require state elected officials running for federal office to report and swiftly reimburse taxpayers for campaign related travel expenses.

Said Hansen, “His lack of concern for taxpayers makes our case for why we need to pass the Taxpayer Protection Act, so this never happens again.”

“So far he hasn’t even repaid taxpayers what he owes for the first part of the year. And we don’t even know how much he owes from the remainder of his campaign. Given his million dollars of campaign debt who knows if taxpayers will ever see a full accounting of what he owes them much less receive full payment from him,” Hansen said.

Earlier this month Wisconsin homeowners and small businesses began receiving their property tax bills, many of them containing an increase. As they begin to pay those bills many might be wondering if it’s time for the Governor to pay his as well.

“At this point I think they should go back and add on interest and penalties to his entire bill", says Hansen. "Most taxpayers don’t get no-interest, sweetheart loans like he’s getting."

"If he is looking for guidance he could consult the state tax code and pay the interest rate and penalties that are added on to the bills of those people who fall behind on paying their taxes", concludes Hansen. "Perhaps that would provide some incentive for him to make good on his promise to repay taxpayers.”

***

Legislative Staffer Jay Wadd contributed to this story.

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Public Hearing to Gut Civil Service Just Another Show

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 06 October 2015
in Wisconsin

workersMembers of Gov. Scott Walker's administration joined with the bill's sponsor as the only testifiers in support of the measure that is moving quickly through the Legislature. Proposal would eliminate objective civil service exams, replacing them with a review of "qualifications" by administration appointees, and cripple workplace protections for our state workers.


MADISON - Today, the Senate Labor and Government Reform Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 285 to change the state’s civil service system. It must have seemed like deja vu, from French literally "already seen", to state workers still smarting from Act 10 in 2011.

The bill comes four years after the Legislature passed Gov. Scott Walker's proposal, known as Act 10, that effectively eliminated collective bargaining for most public workers, including state employees. Walker said then that he wasn't interested in making changes to the civil service system.

Today's public hearing was nothing more than a parade of Walker’s political appointees pushing for gutting civil service protections and doubling down on politicizing our state workforce.

The proposal would eliminate objective civil service exams, replacing them with a subjective review of "qualifications" by administration appointees, and cripple workplace protections for our state’s civil servants. These changes open the door to hiring partisan political hacks and making party loyalty a qualification for a state job, the very hiring practices that civil service was established 110 years ago to root out.

A parade of State workers testified the Republican-backed bill that would make it easier to hire and fire public employees, saying the proposed overhaul of Wisconsin's 110-year-old civil service system would lead to political patronage and cronyism.

Members of Gov. Scott Walker's administration joined with the bill's sponsor as the only testifiers in support of the measure that is moving quickly through the Legislature. The Senate Labor and Government Reform Committee hearing came just one week after the bill was publicly released.

"The legislation's not needed and does not address problems that are alleged to exist," said Jim Thiel, a former 40-year state employee representing the Association of Career Employees, which advocates for maintaining the civil service system. "This will lead to a patronage system."

An appeal that fell upon deaf ears from the Republican majority.

chris_larsonDemocratic Sen. Chris Larson, of Milwaukee, said the bill would gut the current system and lead to buddies of politicians in power getting jobs whether they're qualified or not.

"What's to prevent patronage? What's the check? Right now we have a neutral exam to make sure that doesn't happen," said Larson, a member of the committee that held the hearing. "This is the elimination of good government. This is just another step in that."

In a statement released after the hearing, Sen. Larson went on to say:

“Make no mistake, Wisconsinites are not fooled by what Walker and the GOP are trying to do in our state – consolidate power and fast-track corruption. In fact, we already have proof of what happens when we throw out strong hiring standards and replace them with subjective evaluations by looking at the failed Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). The quasi-private state agency does not use the same civil service standards as other state agencies. As a result, corruption and high turnover has run rampant within WEDC since its creation.

“Walker’s Wisconsin already has the fastest shrinking middle class in the U.S., is last in the nation for new business startups, and lags in job creation. Wisconsin families face real challenges every day and are tired of the cronyism and political power grabs by Republican leaders who are focused on undermining our open records laws, eliminating government accountability, and shielding themselves from criminal investigations.

“My Democratic colleagues and I are listening to the hardworking neighbors in our communities. Rather than looking for ways to tear down Wisconsin workers, Democrats are focused on strengthening our middle class, boosting family wages, and ensuring greater retirement security.

“Unfortunately, this bill is more political Snake Oil being pushed at Walker’s carnival of corruption; it fails to remedy the employment problems created by this administration, and poisons our heritage of good government.”

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