Tuesday October 15, 2019

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Remaking Politics By The Seat Of Our Pants

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
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on Tuesday, 14 April 2015
in Wisconsin

MADISON - bjn-left-rightAmerican democracy is caught on the horns of a dilemma. Most Americans are feeling fed up with the Republicans and let down by the Democrats – with good reason – as both major parties are failing the country. Yet a third party isn’t the answer. Like it or not, America has a two-party system.

Ours was not set up as a parliamentary democracy, where competing factions can join forces and form coalition governments. We don’t have fusion voting, or instant runoff voting, or proportional representation, or any of the mechanisms that would allow third parties or independent candidates to successfully compete in our elections and hold power in our government.

This is why third-party or independent bids for office – whether it’s Ross Perot one time or Ralph Nader another – regularly lead to dead ends.

So how do we get regular people back in the driver’s seat of our government when both major parties are catering to a privileged few at the expense of everyone else, but our system is structured to enforce a two-party arrangement?

We have to start with two articles of faith. First, it hasn’t always been like it is now, and doesn’t have to be like this. Second, there is a way out of the trap we’re in.

We need to make the major parties – or at least one of them for starters – better. They won’t change unless forced. It’s like the basic law of physics . . . an object at rest will remain at rest, unless some force makes it move. A corrupt political establishment will stay corrupt and failing parties will keep failing us, unless we make them change their ways.

When past generations freed themselves from similar traps, they started by shedding old labels and fashioning themselves a new identity. They attached that newly minted brand to breathtakingly ambitious agendas. They were not bashful in the least about stating their aspirations for the future.  And then they effectively forced those aspirations down the throats of the parties. When the smoke cleared, there were not three parties or four or five. There were two. But the parties were transformed. They were reconnected to the masses.

Current conditions dictate that this must be done again.

Given how messed up politics is at the moment, we cannot in good conscience call ourselves Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives. One party is scary and the other is scared. Labels like liberal and conservative no longer mean what the dictionary says they mean. Now they are little more than the political equivalent of ethnic slurs. We deserve better and need something new.

We are commoners and we are politically homeless. The royals of our political system made us so.

We aim to make a household for the politically homeless and in so doing transform parties that are failing us. And we are pulling together to make it happen. With an organizing committee of citizens from all of Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts and 19 different counties, we just formed Blue Jean Nation.

Blue Jean Nation is not a party. It is a community, and a movement in the making. We are neither elephant nor ass, but recognize that our country has a two-party system and plan to work within that system to get the parties truly working for all of us and not just a favored few who are well connected politically.

Our end goal is to make common sense in government and concern for the common good far less uncommon. To reach that goal, we will work every day against political privilege.

We will do it from the ground up, with plain people leading the way, by the seat of our pants. There’s no waiting for political messiahs to come along.

When faced with economic and political threats eerily similar to today’s conditions, past generations straightened things out on more than one occasion. I refuse to believe there is something so different about us or wrong with us that renders us less capable of making change than those who came before us. In so many ways, we have more going for us now than they did then.

Political reboots have happened before. Another one is desperately needed.

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Equal Pay Enforcement Bill Needed To Close Pay Discrimination Gap

Posted by Jennifer Shilling, State Senator 32nd District
Jennifer Shilling, State Senator 32nd District
Jennifer Shilling serves as the Senate Democratic Leader and represents the 32nd
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on Tuesday, 14 April 2015
in Wisconsin

womenMADISON – Democratic legislators led by Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and Rep. Chris Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) announced the introduction of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act today. The bill would reinstate commonsense legal protections for victims of workplace discrimination and help deter pay discrimination.

The introduction of the bill coincides with the upcoming National Equal Pay Day on April 14th. This date symbolizes how far into 2015 women must work to earn the same amount as men earned in 2014. It is estimated that Wisconsin families lose over $8 billion each year due to the pay discrimination wage gap.

All workers should be paid a fair wage for an honest day's work. I’m proud to be a co-author of this legislation to restore Wisconsin's Equal Pay Enforcement protections and create a more level playing field for women, veterans and minorities in our state. Rather than watching as family wages continue to decline, we need to end pay discrimination and ensure that everyone is paid a fair wage for their work.

Statistics from the national census show that women earn 78 cents, on average, for every dollar men earn for similar full-time work. The majority of women in Wisconsin bring home at least a quarter of their family’s income and there are over 230,000 Wisconsin households where women are the primary source of income.

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People Speak Out About Consequences of Budget Decisions

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
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on Monday, 13 April 2015
in Wisconsin

public_hearingThis week, Senator Kathleen Vinehout writes about a recent Eau Claire listening session held regarding the State Budget proposal.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - “This is not my cup of tea,” the farmer said quietly as he moved up to the microphone at the Eau Claire budget hearing.

“I’m a UW grad. I’m a farmer. I’m a tech college grad. My kids went to public school. There’s a lot I could talk about today. But I’m here today for Craig, my son. He loves where he lives.”

“I don’t want to lose that,” said Craig sitting between his parents. Craig had surgery to remove brain tumors at 3 years old. His mind is quick and his words are heartfelt.

“IRIS gives Craig the opportunity to be as independent as he can be, to do the things he enjoys” said his dad. “It helps allow my wife and me to work and be taxpayers.” IRIS is a self-directed option under Medicaid.

Many others spoke about the long-term consequences of changing the health programs for the elderly and disabled.

“People like Judy cannot support themselves,” said Mort, of his disabled 41-year-old daughter, “cannot lobby and cannot speak for themselves…they certainly do not need their programs to be seriously damaged.”

“We take care of others. We take care of people less fortunate,” Glory told listening legislators. “That’s who we are.”

A Menomonie School Board member shared his concerns about cuts to local schools.

“I wasn’t going to speak... But I can’t stand by with what I see happening. Our teachers pay a lot for their health insurance. We’ve been using our ‘budget tools’ all along. The current proposal will cost the Menomonie School District $1 million. Can’t the governor figure out schools’ costs go up but we don’t get any additional money? No increase in the first year? Some back in the second year but it doesn’t make any sense to put it all in school levy credit. That doesn’t go to schools. How do we keep young people in Wisconsin if we keep cutting?”

He continued, “We need good news sources. WPR (Wisconsin Public Radio) offers people a choice they can’t get anywhere else. News is less balanced these days. We need a balanced source of news. And efficiencies? I’m all for that. But to put banking and credit unions into an agency that regulates tattoo parlors? I have nothing against tattoo parlors. It just doesn’t make sense. There’s a reason why we have careful regulations over banks and credit unions.”

During the presentation before the public testimony, I talked about refundable tax credits - state checks given to large businesses that owed nothing in taxes. “It’s like no state taxes taken out of your paycheck, but when you file taxes you get a check in the mail,” I told the group.

Chris, of the Eau Claire school board, did some quick math before she came forward. “You know those refundable tax credits you talked about?” she asked me. “They are the same dollar amount as the cuts to the Eau Claire School District over the last 16 years.” She handed me a three-page, double-sided list of 210 separate items reflecting the cuts made by the district.

“Even if the revenue limit is increased to $150 per student,” she continued. “We will still have a $3 million hole. Now it’s about $5 million.”

Many people spoke about the long-term consequences of cuts to the UW. One Eau Claire City Councilman said the city calculated the cuts would take $7.6 million out of Eau Claire’s economy. He talked about the budget process in Eau Claire and encouraged legislators to look at a more open, deliberative process at the state level to reflect the views of all the people.

“One of our goals on the City Council is to create a community that is enticing for people to come to Eau Claire.”

“Take the policy out of the budget. There is no way these things could ever be done on their own. No legislator would put their name on these proposals…. This is an entire state’s budget. It affects all the people… people need to have a bigger say.”

Thanks to all who came and shared concerns. Your advocacy is making a real difference.

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Budgets Are About Priorities

Posted by Jennifer Shilling, State Senator 32nd District
Jennifer Shilling, State Senator 32nd District
Jennifer Shilling serves as the Senate Democratic Leader and represents the 32nd
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on Friday, 10 April 2015
in Wisconsin

budget-hearing-2015MADISON - At listening sessions across Wisconsin this past month, thousands of residents testified in support of local schools, cost-saving health care programs and responsible environmental stewardship.

These are the investments that make Wisconsin the state we all love and value. So why are Republicans proposing cuts to all of these areas? Why, at a time of national economic growth and prosperity, is Wisconsin facing a $2.2 billion deficit?

After four years of special interest giveaways and tax breaks for the wealthy, Wisconsin has fallen further behind our neighboring states and the rest of the country.

While other states are investing in families, strengthening communities and growing their economies, Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans have created a massive $2.2 billion budget deficit and are moving our state backwards. Wisconsin has dropped nine spots to 40th in the nation for job growth and we are experiencing the worst middle-class decline in the country.

We need to turn our state around. Something needs to change.

If we want our next generation to succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy, we need to invest in our children’s future. Republicans have made the largest cuts to public schools in Wisconsin’s history to provide massive giveaways to special interests. Rather than diverting even more money to subsidize an unaccountable private school voucher program, we should strengthen and improve the public school system we already have.

In fact, nearly $375 million could be used for school funding and property tax relief if Republicans would simply accept federal dollars to strengthen BadgerCare. This move would free up millions that could be used to invest in our schools, improve health care access and create thousands of good paying jobs in Wisconsin.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin taxpayers have been forced to pay more and get less as a result of the misguided budget decisions made over the past four years. With a self-inflicted $2.2 billion budget deficit, stagnant family wages and a lagging economy, it’s time we get back to our core values and priorities.

What does it say about our state’s priorities when we have a Republican budget that spends more state taxpayer dollars on prison incarceration than UW education? What does it say about our priorities when Republicans reject federal BadgerCare funding and then propose health care fee increases for seniors? What does it say about our priorities when Republicans limit environmental conservation and then open the door to allow corporate naming of state parks?

These certainly aren’t the priorities or values that Wisconsin families have expressed over the past several months.

If legislative Republicans can afford to subsidize Gov. Walker’s international campaign trips with taxpayer funding, then surely we can find a way to protect our schools, working families and local communities from another round of devastating cuts.

After all, budgets are about priorities.

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Author and Government Watchdog Launches New Citizen Movement

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Wednesday, 08 April 2015
in Wisconsin

Blue Jean NationMike McCabe, popular author of 'Blue Jeans in High Places' and former director of the nonpartisan watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, starts Blue Jean Nation. ‘First-party’ effort addresses failing political system.


GREEN BAY - With the goal of getting regular people back in the driver’s seat of government at a time when democratic institutions are failing the country, a new citizen group called Blue Jean Nation announced its formation Tuesday.

“We aim to make a household for the politically homeless and in so doing transform parties that are failing us,” Blue Jean Nation founder Mike McCabe said. For 15 years McCabe headed the nonpartisan government watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign where he was among Wisconsin’s leading whistle blowers and the nation’s best political money trackers. Last year he authored the book Blue Jeans in High Places: The Coming Makeover of American Politics.

The new group starts with an organizing committee of citizens from all of Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts and 19 different counties. The website BlueJeanNation.com is now live, as are social media accounts for the group on Facebook and Twitter.

“We are not starting a third party. We are neither elephant nor ass, but we recognize that America has a two-party system and we plan to work within that system to get the parties truly working for all of us and not just a favored few who are well connected politically,” McCabe said, describing Blue Jean Nation as a first-party movement.

“Our end goal is to make concern for the common good far less uncommon,” he said. “To reach that goal, we will work every day against political privilege.”

To accomplish its aims, Blue Jean Nation will engage in community outreach, civic education and engagement, grassroots organizing, and public policy advocacy and social action.

Read Blue Jean Nation's creed.

Take a look at the group's five aims.

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Wisconsin Health Insurance Rates Still Dramatically Higher than Minnesota’s

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
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on Wednesday, 08 April 2015
in Wisconsin

healthcare-familyNew Citizen Action Report Reveals Wisconsin Health Insurance Costs 20-89% Higher than Minnesota's.


STATEWIDE - Citizen Action of Wisconsin released today the new report  Tale of Two States 2015 Report: Why Wisconsin's Health Insurance Costs Are Dramatically Higher Than Minnesota's.

The full report can be downloaded here.

In addition to providing statewide numbers, the report also compares health insurance individual marketplace rates for Wisconsin’s major metro areas, revealing major differentials in cost.

Key findings in report:

  • Statewide Wisconsin health insurance rates continue to be far above Minnesota rates. Silver plans are on average 60% more in Wisconsin and have a $600 higher deductible

  • For individual metro areas, the lowest cost silver plans range from 20-89% higher in Wisconsin, compared to the average cost in Minnesota.

  • These percentage differences translate into $480 - $2,125 more per person per year in Wisconsin for a 40 year old before Affordable Care Act tax credits.

  • If the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the pending King v. Burwell case takes away tax subsidies, Wisconsin consumers just over the poverty line would see rates as much as 2,400% higher than their Minnesota counterparts.

The report also shows that the U.S. Supreme Court Case of  King v. Burwell Court could make the rate disparity between Wisconsin and Minnesota much worse. The case, that will be decided in May or June, could strip health insurance subsidies in states like Wisconsin which did not set up their own Affordable Care Act marketplaces. This could increase premiums on average over 300%. If Wisconsin were to create its own health insurance marketplace, there would be no threat to health coverage.

“The fact that Minnesota is doing so much better than Wisconsin in controlling health insurance costs should be a wakeup call to state leaders in Madison,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “This report documents that states like Wisconsin that refuse to use the tools made available by national health care reform are undermining the fundamental freedom of their own residents to access quality affordable health coverage.”

“The decisions that are made here at the State Capitol have big impacts the cost of healthcare for our citizens”, said State Representative Melissa Sargent. “This high cost hurts our families, our businesses and our state. Families will have less spending money and businesses have less money to give raises.”

“A very significant factor in the cost of health insurance is the rejection of federal funds for BadgerCare, said Jon Peacock, Research Director for the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. “The high cost of coverage for those denied BadgerCare will mean only those that know they need the insurance will scrape together the money to purchase coverage. As a result, adverse selection in the market leads to higher rates for everyone.”

Causes:

The report finds that state policy has a quantifiable impact on the premium disparities between Minnesota and Wisconsin. To see all the public policy drivers documented in the report click here.

1. Medicaid: Wisconsin’s rejection of federal funds for BadgerCare pushes more expensive consumers onto private insurance, driving up rates.

2. Rate Review: Wisconsin has not used it’s insurance rate review power to publicly challenge rate increases to block excessive rate increases and reduce wasteful spending.

3. Substandard Plans: Wisconsin continues to allow the sale of substandard insurance plans that are not compliant with the Affordable Care Act, damaging insurance risk pools.

4. Public Leverage: Wisconsin has not taken advantage of its purchasing power leverage to reduce costs outside of Madison.

For a full list of health insurance cost disparity causes, as well as other policy proposals, download the full research report.

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Uber vs. Taxi Cabs - Is Statewide Preemption of Local Laws a Good Idea?

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
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on Monday, 06 April 2015
in Wisconsin

taxi-womanThis week, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout writes about a bill pending in committee that would preempt local control of computer app-driven ride share Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). Companies like ‘Uber’, a San Francisco based company that provides services in Wisconsin, are behind the bill to prohibit local governments from setting rules related to TNCs.

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Campaign on State Supreme Court Amendment a Distortion of Democracy

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
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on Friday, 03 April 2015
in Wisconsin

shirley_abrahamsonPhone Calls on Wisconsin’s business lobby effort to pass a constitutional amendment aimed at stripping Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson of her position turn up Massive Voter Confusion.


WISCONSIN - The campaign by Wisconsin’s business lobby to pass a constitutional amendment aimed at stripping Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson of her position is a distortion of the democratic process.

The well-funded campaign by Wisconsin Manufactures and Commerce, under the brand of Vote Yes for Democracy, claims in Orwellian fashion that the amendment is about democracy.  In fact, there was no public demand for it, and most voters have no idea why it is on the ballot and what its implications are. As the Center on Media and Democracy has reported, the amendment is a thinly veiled effort to cement right-wing domination of the Wisconsin’s highest court.

Because of our grave concern that voters are being misled and manipulated by powerful special interests, Citizen Action of Wisconsin launched a phone campaign which has talked so far to 48,909 voters about the amendment. In our phone campaign we have found that voters lack the basic facts needed to make an informed decision about the amendment, so much so that many keep callers on the line trying to get more information. This is highly unusual, because the public does not generally crave unsolicited phone calls. Our program also found that even after receiving information, over one-third of voters are still undecided.

One serious problem with Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment process revealed in this campaign is that the ballot does not give voters basic information, such as what is current law and what is the rationale for each side of the question. This differs sharply with states that have the initiative (or direct legislation) process.

“It is shameful right-wing interests are manipulating the democratic process to gain further control the Wisconsin Supreme Court,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “It is sham democracy when voters don’t know what they are voting on, and are given highly misleading information by wealthy special interests who have no intention of educating the public.”

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Wisconsinites Speak Out to Save SeniorCare

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 02 April 2015
in Wisconsin

kathleen-vinehout-dave-hansenSenator Kathleen Vinehout joined her legislative colleagues at a press conference today announcing the 13,500 petition signatures gathered to Save SeniorCare. Governor Walker wants to cut SeniorCare funding and force participants to sign-up for MediCare part D. She turned in over 1,000 signatures gathered by her office alone. The petitions were delivered to the Governor and legislative leaders.


MADISON - Today, I was happy to join several of my legislative colleagues, including Assembly Democratic Caucus Chair Andy Jorgensen (D- Milton) and Senate Democratic Assistant Leader Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), at a press conference announcing the number of petition signatures gathered calling on the Legislature to Save SeniorCare.

Governor Walker included a provision in his budget to cut SeniorCare funding by $15 million and require all SeniorCare participants to sign up for Medicare Part D. Thousands of Wisconsinites are united in opposing the governor’s proposed changes to SeniorCare.

I added over 1,000 signatures gathered by my office from people in the 31st Senate District and surrounding communities to the more than 13,500 petitions calling on the Republican majority to save SeniorCare. The petition signatures were delivered to the offices of the governor, legislative leaders and the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee.

The people of Wisconsin told us in no uncertain terms, Save SeniorCare! People all over the state are calling on the legislature to preserve SeniorCare just as it is with no fee increase or limitations on enrollment.

SeniorCare is a cost effective Wisconsin invention that helps seniors of modest income afford prescription drug coverage. Swapping out SeniorCare for expensive, confusing Medicare Part D makes no sense.

I want to thank the office of the people of the 31st Senate District who turned in over 1,000 signatures on petitions to Save SeniorCare. Thank you to everyone who circulated and signed the petitions. Your citizen advocacy makes a real difference.

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Details Buried Deep in Budget Affect Students and Voters

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
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on Monday, 30 March 2015
in Wisconsin

schoolyardThis week, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout writes about details in Governor Walkers’s budget bill that include Wisconsin-Minnesota Tuition Reciprocity, the Educational Approval Board and the Government Accountability Board. She believes these provisions should be removed from the budget bill and deliberated publicly on their merits.


MADISON - “I didn’t know that was a part of the state budget,” the parent told me.

That was the reciprocity agreement between Wisconsin and Minnesota to allow students from across state lines to attend public universities at in-state tuition costs. This arrangement saves students and parents out-of-state tuition costs.

The governor’s budget removes state funds to pay for the tuition reciprocity program and tells University officials the program is optional.

Tuition costs vary at universities. Non-residents can pay as much as triple the tuition of in-state students. Generally the UW system is less expensive for in-state tuition so the program does cost Wisconsin.

Without funds in the state budget to pay for the program and in the face of $300 million in state cuts, it is unlikely officials will continue the agreement between the two states.

Eliminating the tuition reciprocity program will significantly increase tuition over a four-year degree for more than 20,000 students in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Also affecting certain college students and their families is the governor’s proposal to abolish the Educational Approval Board (EAB). This board sets standards for, and examines details of curriculum and facilities of, the for-profit colleges operating in Wisconsin.

Operating much in the background, the EAB currently inspects for-profit higher education schools, examines such areas as curriculum, professor qualifications, facilities, equipment. The board enforces rules to prevent fraud, misrepresentation and false advertising. The EAB sets standards for information schools must provide to students.

The board also protects students from schools that would take tuition payments and not deliver the promised education. Many of these schools exist on-line in other states. Students participate in classes on-line and communicate with professors and students thousands of miles away.

Eliminating the EAB also changes laws related to enforcement of words that protect the University of Wisconsin and the state Technical Colleges. One of the board’s functions is to stop the unscrupulous for-profit school operator from appropriating the words “Wisconsin”, “state”, “college” or “university”.

The governor’s proposal would move a few of the EAB functions to a new state agency called the Department of Financial Institutions and Professional Standards. Under the governor’s plan complaints about for-profit colleges would be handled by the Department of Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).

The effect of this agency shuffling and the elimination of the EAB are to rubber stamp at the state level any “accredited” for-profit “college” or “university.” Placing enforcement for fraud on the already overworked staff at the Consumer Protection Division of DATCP is a way to keep the appearance of consumer protection without the real teeth that exist in current law.

Another function of state government that protects people – this time from unscrupulous public officials – is the Government Accountability Board (GAB).

Created in bipartisan action in 2007, the GAB oversees elections, lobbying, ethics of public officials and campaign finance. The agency has come under scrutiny by leaders of both parties, which to me indicates the board is doing its job.

Recently the Legislative Audit Bureau released an audit showing among other findings, the GAB had embarked on setting up a new computer system to upgrade its many technological functions. The governor’s budget would centralize all these information technology (IT) functions in the Department of Administration (DOA).

The DOA, often called by insiders the Department of ALL, is the right hand of the governor; his political appointee oversees all of its functions.

At risk is the integrity of the state’s voter file including new voter registrations, provisional and absentee votes, updated poll lists and the canvas reporting system used by clerks to report election returns. Also at risk is the reporting system for disclosing campaign donations, lobbying activity and the financial relationships of elected or appointed officials.

Moving the computer functions of the nonpartisan GAB into the DOA is tantamount to setting the fox to guard the henhouse.

Many governors slip major changes into the budget bill to avoid public scrutiny. It’s the job of the people’s representatives –the legislature - to act now and get rid of these changes.

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Plan to Eliminate SeniorCare is a Giveaway to Big Pharma

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Thursday, 26 March 2015
in Wisconsin

dave-hansen-listeningGovernor Walker’s scheme would save big drug companies over $44 million dollars says Green Bay Senator Dave Hansen.


GREEN BAY - State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) today called Governor Scott Walker’s plan to eliminate the popular SeniorCare prescription drug plan a $44 million giveaway to the big drug companies at the expense of seniors’ health.

Over 80,000 Wisconsin citizens depend upon SeniorCare to help them afford their needed, and in many cases lifesaving, medication. The ability of the state to negotiate lower drug prices provides significant savings to both SeniorCare participants and taxpayers.

SeniorCare is able to provide needed prescription drugs at lower prices than the federal Medicare Part D plan because the state is able to use its buying power to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs. As a result, people who qualify for SeniorCare pay a small annual fee and low deductibles and co-pays compared to Medicare Part D which charges a monthly premium as well as deductibles and co-pays.

According to Hansen:

“SeniorCare is one of the most successful, bi-partisan plans approved in our state in recent history because it does exactly what it was intended to do: Help low income seniors afford their needed medication by negotiating the best deals with the drug companies."

However, thanks to Governor Walker and his desire to help his corporate friends SeniorCare is once again targeted for elimination.

“Because Governor Walker is more concerned with helping the pharmaceutical industry than doing what’s best for Wisconsin residents ... seniors could be forced to pay higher prices than they can afford,” said Hansen who voted to create SeniorCare.

The pharmaceutical industry has been a major source of support for Governor Walker and legislative Republicans. According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Eli Lilly alone has donated over $20,000 directly to Governor Walker and fellow Republicans not including any dark money contributions made to outside groups to support them.

Senator Hansen has said that despite support for the program voiced by some Republicans he remains concerned for the future of the program. Hansen said “Anything less than full restoration of SeniorCare in its present form is not acceptable.”

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Give Voice to the Voiceless - Families Support Family Care and IRIS

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Monday, 23 March 2015
in Wisconsin

caregiver-elderlyThis week Senator Kathleen Vinehout writes about the advocacy of hundreds of Wisconsin citizens in support of Family Care and the IRIS programs. Gov. Walker’s budget proposes significant changes to these programs and the adverse impacts of the changes were shared in personal stories from people all over the state.


MADISON - I remember when I first met a man I’ll call ‘Ron’. He came to my office with his caregiver. He couldn’t speak but used a speech synthesizer and an iPad to introduce himself. He was joined by several friends – all in wheelchairs – who told me their inspiring stories of independence.

Ron passionately detailed how his caregiver assisted him with everyday activities we take for granted. He wanted me to work for funding so he could pay his caregiver a living wage. Wages for care workers are very low and have been for years.

Fast-forward a few years. Ron and his friends joined hundreds of citizens in the Capitol to advocate for critical long-term care programs. Many of the visitors had never been the Capitol and never met with a legislator. These citizen lobbyists were advocating for programs that provide them or their family member with health and independence.

The governor’s budget proposal would likely turn Wisconsin’s Family Care system over to a large for-profit insurance company in a no-bid contract. Wisconsin’s IRIS program would be eliminated. Opponents are concerned the insurance company would deny services and eliminate caregivers.

Parents, family members, caregivers, neighbors and participants in the Family Care and IRIS programs called on legislators to stop the governor’s proposed changes. These people gave a strong voice to the often voiceless participants in the long-term care portion of the state’s Medicaid program.

Family Care is organized around regional non-profit Medical Care Organizations (MCOs) that oversee services for over 40,000 frail elderly, developmentally and physically disabled. In 2011 the Legislative Audit Bureau reported that nearly 60% of Family Care participants were able to stay in their own homes. IRIS is a fee-for-service option that establishes a small budget participants can self-direct to certain services and caregivers. Another 11,000 people use this option. Without these services most people would be forced to reside in expensive institutions.

Instead many individuals live more independently in Group Homes. An owner of a Black River Falls group home recently contacted me. She was forced to close one home because of previous budget cuts. She now worries about the other home she and her dairy farm family operates.

“I am scared for our disabled and mentally ill people, and I don't want to see the MCO's go away. They provide such wonderful care for these people! The teams I work with are amazing people, and they sincerely care about these clients, it's not just a job. Several of the team members have given me their cell phone numbers in case of issues outside of business hours, they do not get paid for this. Please help keep these MCO's intact: the people need them.”

Family situations are all unique. The self-directed IRIS program allows flexibility in services based on those unique circumstances. I was contacted by an Eau Claire County couple who maintain their independence with the help of IRIS. The husband is a Gulf War vet; his wife of 16 years has severe disabilities because of a brain tumor.

“If IRIS loses funding, Karen and I will be separated, her to a nursing home and me out of a job and homeless. Can you help us please?”

Tammy McKelvie recently shared with me how IRIS changed her son Noah’s life and “gave him a voice.” IRIS allowed her son to live independently despite the fact he needs constant care.

“Noah may never reach the level of independence most people strive for but at least let him have choices over the parts of his life he can control. Let him be the architect to design blueprints to create a life of meaning."

“As human beings, none of us are totally independent. In some ways we are all interdependent upon each other and that is how it should be because we all live in society together."

Indeed. As Hubert Humphrey so eloquently said, “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

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Affordable Care Act a Huge Advance for Wisconsin

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
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on Monday, 23 March 2015
in Wisconsin

citizenaction_healthcareFive years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act the law is guaranteeing Wisconsinites more freedom to control their own health decisions. But benefits are at risk due to inaction on Supreme Court threat. Reform more important in Wisconsin due to higher insurance costs.


STATEWIDE - Five years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act the law is guaranteeing, more than any time in American history, the freedom of Wisconsinites to control their own health decisions. Before the Affordable Care Act passed, Americans faced shocking health insurance discrimination based on age, preexisting medical conditions, gender, and other factors. Today over 207,000 Wisconsinites have quality health coverage that can never be taken away by insurance companies.

There are substantial tax subsidies to make health coverage affordable which have an especially important benefit in a high cost state like Wisconsin. Because Wisconsin health insurance premiums are higher than surrounding states, Wisconsin health consumers gain substantially more. Local numbers and comparison charts are below.

As significant as these advances are, Governor Scott Walker’s refusal to prepare for the potential adverse decision in the U.S. Supreme Court decision of King v. Burwell threatens to take health coverage away from over 183,000 Wisconsinites who receive tax subsidies and have nowhere else to go. Many of these consumers have pre-existing conditions and faced shocking discrimination from insurance companies before the passage of health reform. Others were forced on the marketplace by Governor Walker’s ill-conceived decision to reject hundreds of millions of federal dollars for BadgerCare provided by the Affordable Care Act.

“The advance in freedom provided by health reform is at risk in Wisconsin due to Governor Walker’s actions,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “It is political malpractice for Governor Walker not to prepare for a predictable disaster which could strip affordable health coverage from over 183,000 Wisconsinites. By failing to prepare a Wisconsin health insurance marketplace in the event the Supreme Court makes a damaging decision, Walker is putting at risk the lives and fundamental freedoms of people in every corner of Wisconsin.”

Table 1: Affordable Care Act’s Tax Credits Very Effective At Making Private Insurance More Affordable

(Click here to see data for more Metropolitan areas)

Metro

Lowest Cost Silver, 40 year old, before tax credits

After tax credits, 200% FPL

Annual savings from credits

Milwaukee, WI

$301 per month

$94 per month

$2,484

Madison, WI

$238

$109

$1,548

Minneapolis, MN

$181

$121

$720

Chicago, IL

$212

$123

$1,068

Detroit. MI

$219

$116

$1,236

Des Moines, IA

$195

$116

$948

Data collected from Healthcare.gov and MNSure.org for 40 year old single applicant, non-smoking. Tax credits estimated for 40 year old single applicant making 200% of the federal poverty line, or $23,541 a year

Table 2: Affordable Care Act’s Outlawing of Pre-existing Condition Discrimination Protects Thousands

(Click here to see data for more Wisconsin localities)

 

Est. Number of Consumers With Diagnosed Pre-existing Conditions

Milwaukee County

214,600 people

Dane County

114,000

La Crosse County

26,800

Eau Claire/Chippewa County

38,200

Marathon County

31,000

Brown County

59,000

Fox Valley

93,300

Waukesha

90,600

Racine County

46,000

Sheboygan County

26,800

Kenosha County

38,500

Rock County

37,900

Estimates from Families USA analysis of consumers in Wisconsin of non-institutionalized, non-Medicare-eligible population

Table 3: Citizens Around Wisconsin Have Signed Up for Health Coverage

(Click here to see data for more Wisconsin counties)

 

Est. County Enrollment

Est. Qualified for Tax Credits

Est. Total Tax Credits Annually

Brown County

8,127

7,233

$27,687,415.69

Dane County

11,662

11,747

$44,642,245

Douglas County

1,760

1,566

$5,995,934.74

Eau Claire County

3,998

3,558

$13,619,632.63

Fond du Lac County

2,955

2,629

$10,065,341.07

Kenosha County

5,370

4,780

$18,296,874.51

La Crosse County

3,974

3,537

$13,537,214.83

Manitowoc County

3,066

2,729

$10,446,526.17

Marathon County

6,376

5,674

$21,722,386.87

Milwaukee County

34,468

30,677

$117,430,699.37

Oneida County

2,557

2,276

$8,710,589.80

Outagamie County

5,658

5,036

$19,275,592.18

Portage County

3,344

2,977

$11,394,336.91

Racine County

5,828

5,188

$19,857,672.30

Rock County

4,843

4,310

$16,499,124.28

Sheboygan County

1,744

1,551

$5,939,272.38

Waukesha County

9,906

8,817

$33,750,315.78

Winnebago County

5,083

4,524

$17,318,155.83

Wood County

3,845

3,422

$13,099,367.37

STATEWIDE

207,349

184,540

$706,418,001.86

Source - County enrollment distribution based on Dept of Health Services June 2014 enrollment report adjusted for most recent February Healthcare.gov state enrollment numbers. Total tax credits are based on local enrollment and HHS reported average Wisconsin tax credit, annualized.

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New Poll Shows Wisconsin Public Wants Major Changes to Budget on Health Care

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
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on Tuesday, 17 March 2015
in Wisconsin

peoplePoll shows massive public support for Wisconsin to take the enhanced federal funding for BadgerCare rejected in the Governor’s budget and for Governor Walker and the Legislature to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court could yank health insurance subsidies from over 183,000 Wisconsinites.


STATEWIDE - This morning Citizen Action of Wisconsin joined Public Policy Polling and members of the Legislature’s powerful Joint Finance Committee to release new poll results on key health care issues.

Audio of the release can be accessed here.

The polling shows massive public support for Wisconsin to take the enhanced federal funding for BadgerCare rejected in the Governor’s budget. It also shows overwhelming support for Governor Walker and the Legislature to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court could yank health insurance subsidies from over 183,000 Wisconsinites. Both are closely related budget issues. The polling results can be accessed here.

On taking the BadgerCare dollars currently being left on the table by Governor Walker, the public supports taking the money by an overwhelming 31 point margin (58% to 27%).

On the question of taking precautions against a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could endanger health insurance subsidies for over 183,00 Wisconsinites, the public by a 20 point margin (53% to 33%) thinks it is the Governor’s responsibility to take action to prevent anyone from losing their health care. This is a budget issue, because Governor Walker pushed 57,000 people off BadgerCare, and denied access to 81,000 people who would have been eligible, placing them on the federal marketplaces where they are vulnerable to an adverse U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The media call this morning was joined by three members of the Joint Finance Committee, Senator Jon Erpenbach, Representative Gordon Hintz, and Representative Chris Taylor.

“This is not the time to point fingers, we need leaders to step up,” said Representative Hintz.

On BadgerCare, Representative Chris Taylor said: “It’s a no-brainer. Why wouldn't we take this money to cover more people for less money.”

“For the life of me, I can’t understand why we have not done this,” added Senator Erpenbach. “It is up to Governor Walker to fix the problem, It’s the right thing to do.”

“It is clear that the Wisconsin public by huge margins supports major revisions to the state budget on health care issues,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “The public wants Wisconsin to take all the money that is on the table to strengthen BadgerCare, and believes it is Governor Walker’s responsibility to take action to safeguard the health coverage of the over 183,000 Wisconsinites at risk from a potentially dangerous U.S. Supreme Court decision.”

About the poll: Public Policy Polling surveyed 1,071 registered Wisconsin voters from March 6th to 8th. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.0%. 80% of interviews for the poll were conducted over the phone with 20% interviewed over the internet to reach respondents who don’t have landline telephones. Full poll results can be accessed  HERE

Web Link to Release

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Farmers say Walker's Budget Damages Farm Research, Schools and Conservation Input

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
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on Monday, 16 March 2015
in Wisconsin

dairyfarmAs Farmers come in as part of Ag Day at the Capitol, they focus on parts of the state budget that hurt rural communities. That includes rural schools, conservation, on-farm research, the Natural Resources board, the spring Conservation Congress, funding for the U.W. Extension, 4H, and farm safety. Many wonder why the governor is doing away with needed services.


MADISON - “It’s very important that we are here today,” the farmer from Independence told me. “In fact, it’s more important that we be here than anywhere else.” Here was in my Capitol office. Local farmers were visiting as part of Ag Day at the Capitol.

The weather that day was dry and warm. It was perfect for getting early spring chores done. Instead, these farmers drove hundreds of miles to meet with their legislators.

They were on a mission to change parts of the state budget that hurt rural communities. The first thing on their mind – in every group that visited – was rural schools.

“What are you going to do about rural schools?” the Buffalo County man asked me. “Our local school has two referenda on the ballot in April – one to fix the furnace and other delayed improvements; another to continue to keep the school open”.

“See this binder?” I showed him a large binder full of pages with red and green Post-It notes. “This is the Cliff Note version of the budget: It’s over 500 pages.”

“Everything in red I’m trying to get rid of. Everything in green is money I’m trying to get for education, the UW and other cuts,” I explained. Red notes far outnumbered green ones. Changes to agriculture and conservation were among the notes I flagged in red.

We talked through the farmers’ problems: managing tillage, conservation, chemical applications and nutrient management – i.e. when to spread manure. Many of the management questions farmers had to answer were assisted by on-farm research.

The flagship system of on-farm research is Discovery Farms. At twenty farms across the state, scientists monitor details like water and nutrient flow, erosion and soil structure, to help farmers develop best practices.

Thousands of farmers and ag support folks visit Discovery Farms to learn first-hand from U.W. Extension staff, scientists and the farmers themselves. The research brings a steady stream of knowledge to help preserve land and protect water for all of us.

Farmers also strongly opposed taking away the power of the citizen Natural Resources and Ag Department boards. “We just got a farmer on the Natural Resources board,” one farmer said. “This takes away our voice,” said another.

We talked about spring Conservation Congress meetings. Folks gather by the hundreds in school gyms around the state. Anglers and hunters use wisdom they’ve gathered over decades to make recommendations related to conservation. For example: should the pan fish limit at the local lake be changed?

The vote goes to the state Conservation Congress board, made up of members elected by their neighbors, and on to the Natural Resources board. Policy is made from the votes of those affected by the decisions. But the governor’s proposal would eliminate the input of the Conservation Congress by taking away the power of the citizen Natural Resources Board.

Many farmers also served on town boards. More than once I heard about the governor’s proposal to take away towns’ ability to hire property assessors. “This just doesn’t make sense,” one farmer told me. “The counties don’t want to take over the assessors, the state hasn’t given money to do this. And we lose our powers.”

We talked through other farmer concerns including funding for U.W. Extension, 4H, and farm safety. The conversation came back to schools and education. “Our schools pay for the independent charter schools in Milwaukee. I don’t think that’s fair,” said one farmer. “My children already spend an hour and a quarter on the bus,” said another.

“You know I was just appointed to the environmental education board,” said a third. “I really don’t understand why the governor is doing away with environmental education. These programs help school kids learn about Wisconsin’s natural resources.

As he got up to leave one of the farmers gestured to my budget binder still sitting on the table. “I like the way you did that,” he said, referring to the red and green tabs.

“It’s a big budget with a lot of bad in it,” I nodded. “You’ve got to eat an elephant one bite at a time.”

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Legislative Season Brings Many Capitol Visitors

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 10 March 2015
in Wisconsin

rtw-capitolThis week Sen. Kathleen Vinehout writes about recent visits from constituent citizen lobbyists who came to Madison to discuss a myriad of important concerns. These visits are a critical way for legislators to learn about issues of concern to their constituents.


MADISON - “I’ve never done this before,” the young woman told me. She came to my Capitol office for the first time to talk about issues important to her and her profession. She was one of about two-dozen groups that recently visited.

People imagine a legislator’s job as debating on the Senate floor. But much of my time is spent listening and learning. Here’s a sample of visits from a single day.

My day started working with my staff to distill the important decisions of the state budget into a PowerPoint for use at Town Hall meetings. Budget choices include what happens to local schools, the UW, health care, local government, public safety, state parks, our environment, agriculture, roads and bridges.

Soon into my budget work, my staff interrupted saying, “There’s a group waiting for you.”

The first group of almost 100 employees and retirees represented a local utility. The group leaders shared several concerns including federal guidelines that called for a reduction in carbon emissions. They worried Wisconsin was not given credit for prior lowered emissions. After the leaders explained utility concerns, I invited employees to speak. Their most important issue was protecting local schools.

“I’m very concerned about the Eau Claire school district,” a man shared. “I want my grandchildren to have a better education than my children, but how can the school do this with so many budget cuts?”

Back at my office I started adding up budget dollars spent on large road construction projects in Southeast Wisconsin. I was adding the third nine-digit number when my staff said, “The Optometrists are here to see you.”

An independent optometrist from Eau Claire told me about her new business and the problem she was having with insurance companies. “They won’t cover simple things I can treat, like pink eye,” she said. “Instead patients are required to go to the large healthcare system. The patient stays there and doesn’t come back to my office.”

She and her fellow optometrists wanted support for a bill to provide, as they called it, ‘patient equity and access to care’. The bill would allow optometric, chiropractic and podiatric (foot doctor) patients to choose their own doctor.

Shortly after this meeting I was visited by a nurse from Eau Claire who talked about creating a new law for independent nurse practitioners. Mid-level providers are a growing field. Research and patients alike support independent practice for nurse practitioners and certified nurse-midwives. But the law is slow to keep up with changes.

She also explained problems with a shortage of nurses and injuries to nurses in the workplace.

My next visitors were quite familiar with the job of citizen lobbyist. The Kwik Trip employees joked with me -“It’s Groundhog Day” - as they told me for what seems like the 6th time about big companies trying to repeal the Unfair Sales Act.

You might think of Kwik Trip as a big company but the La Crosse-based company is small potatoes in a big world. They are firmly behind protecting the mom and pop gas stations from unfair competition.

As the Kwik Trip folks left I hurried to another hearing room where nursing home administrators expressed concerns about budget cuts. “We just can’t continue,” one administrator said. “In 10 years, three nursing homes closed in our area,” said another. “We are competing with Wal-Mart and McDonalds for workers and we have to pay our workers more,” said a third. “Wisconsin must invest in caring for our elders.”

As I got back to my office, an Eau Claire man visited. He was helping the Amish keep their homes. Because of their religious convictions and culture, some Amish don’t follow laws related to plumbing, electricity and smoke alarms. The man shared stories of Amish being evicted in subzero weather. The loss of their home was devastating.

It was now quite late. I turned back to my desk. Waiting for me were finishing touches on health care legislation, the Department of Health Services budget briefing and an invitation to a Constitutional Officers reception.

I didn’t get far on my budget math, but I did benefit from the knowledge gained on issues of concern to my constituent citizen lobbyists.

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Walker Signs So-Called 'Right to Work' Bill

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 Monday, 09 March 2015
in Wisconsin

walker-open-businessMADISON - This morning, Gov. Scott Walker, who in 2011 succeeded in slashing collective bargaining rights for most public sector workers, signed a private-sector right-to-work bill that makes Wisconsin the 25th state to adopt the policy and has given new momentum to the business-led movement.

For decades, low wage states across the South and Great Plains have enacted such policies, known as “right to work” even though the right to work has nothing to do with them. They really are simply designed to prevent organized labor from forcing all workers in a shop covered by their collective bargaining agreement to pay union dues or fair share fees.

Also for decades. the higher paid industrial Midwest has resisted. Those days are gone, as Wisconsin follows neighbors Michigan and Indiana. While it may take years before the full effect of the new law becomes apparent here, most expect it to weaken unions and drive down the wages of union employees.

"This freedom-to-work legislation will give workers the freedom to choose whether or not they want to join a union, and employers another compelling reason to consider expanding or moving their business to Wisconsin," Walker said in regard to the signing, even though there is little evidence that either claim is true.

Walker’s real motivation is much more likely about politics than job creation: breaking a dwindling union movement in Wisconsin and boosting his standing as the conservative choice for the Republican presidential nomination next year. In the long run, the new laws throughout the region are intended to help Republicans build a favorable electoral map for 2016, by weakening the labor groups that have traditionally provided muscle and money to Democratic candidates in crucial swing states.

So the political ambitions of Scott Walker and his big business donors once again trump the interests of the people of Wisconsin, who still face a lagging economy and a $2.2 billion state budget deficit. Only time will tell how the events of the last two weeks will affect Walker's electability.

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The Path Forward After Passage of So-Called 'Right to Work'

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
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on Friday, 06 March 2015
in Wisconsin

union-members-at-capitolMADISON - The Republican controlled Wisconsin State Assembly passed the so-called 'Right to Work' bill this morning. Governor Scott Walker is expected to sign the bill into law next Monday.

The passage of this bill is another step in the conspiracy of multinational corporations and right wing billionaires to rig the economy against average working people. The bill undermines the fundamental freedom of workers to band together, and have a voice in the decisions made by the CEOs of large multinational corporations. When added to the other elements of the conspiracy, encouraging the outsourcing of jobs, driving down the value of the minimum wage, devastating public employee unions, and gutting our generational investments in our schools and colleges, it will accelerate a race to the bottom by shrinking the middle class. It will make it harder and harder for millions of working families shutout of opportunity to work their way up the economic ladder and claim their piece of the American dream.

The heroes in this rigged legislative process are the thousands of average workers who over the past two weeks came to their State Capitol from all over Wisconsin to do that most American of things, exercise their first amendment rights as citizens. The culprits are a conservative majority that is so ideological that they cannot even hear the voices of their own constituents, and are willing to act on fraudulent facts made up out of whole cloth by the special interests they serve. The complete absence of workers coming to the Capitol to support this legislation is a powerful proof that this bill is about the demands of Corporate CEOs to drive down wages and benefits, and has nothing to do with the interests of average working families.

Although the radical brand of conservative who has seized control of the machinery of our government celebrate a present victory, they are actually sowing the seeds of their ultimate defeat. In due time their deliberate rigging of the economy to shrink and shut off the middle class will become an undeniable fact, and will inspire a wave of outrage which big money politics and gerrymandered legislative districts cannot not contain. The conservative “divide and conquer” path to power will not work once the consequences of their manipulation of the economy are fully felt and understood across Wisconsin. Once the vehicle of our economy is driven off a cliff, the wreckage will be visible for all to see. It is a shame that we must re-learn the harsh lessons of the past that when workers have no power in the economy multinational corporations will drive their wages and benefits into the ground. Once this harsh lesson is learned again, the action of today will not stand.

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Wisconsin Needs Its Own Health Insurance Marketplace

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 05 March 2015
in Wisconsin

healthcare-familySen. Kathleen Vinehout is circulating a bill that would create a Wisconsin based Health Insurance Marketplace. Hard-working Wisconsin families will lose health insurance if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs in 'King vs Burwell', a case that challenges whether citizens who buy insurance through the federally facilitated health exchange are eligible for premium assistance.


MADISON - On Wednesday, I unveiled a plan to create a state-based Health Insurance Marketplace as United States Supreme Court Justices opened arguments on a case that could strip Wisconsinites of their health insurance premium tax credits.

Hard-working Wisconsin families will lose health insurance premium credits if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, and Wisconsin can avert this crisis by creating its own state-based Marketplace.

The U.S. Supreme Court took up a case (King vs Burwell) that challenges whether citizens who buy insurance through the federally facilitated health exchange are eligible for premium assistance. Nearly 90% of the over 200,000 Wisconsinites who signed up for insurance through the federal exchange are receiving assistance.

Over $58 million going to our hard-working families is at risk. "On average, the benefit to Wisconsin families is about $300 a month in credits to cover about 70% of their premium" according to Misra, A. & T. Tsai in  “Health Insurance Marketplace 2015: Average Premiums after Advance Premium Tax Credits through January 30 in 37 states using the HealthCare.gov platform”. ASPE Research Brief. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, February 9, 2015, p. 5..”

The bill captures those aspects of Wisconsin’s health care industry that are unique to our state and builds off work already in progress by Wisconsin health plans and providers to create a balance between health quality, costs and access.

The Badger Health Benefit Marketplace is a one-stop shop for small businesses and people who buy insurance on their own. This will give folks a truly competitive market for health insurance and help drive down health costs for everyone.

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GOP "Right-to-Work" Show Moves On to Assembly Hearing

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, 03 March 2015
in Wisconsin

rtw-outside-2015The Republican fast tracked bill would ban any requirement that nonunion members in the private sector pay union dues. The majority of those speaking Monday were against the measure, viewed as a distraction from Governor Walker’s harmful budget.


MADISON - Six days after the Senate Labor Committee held it's controversial public hearing on the same subject, the Assembly Labor Committee heard testimony into the night on Monday on Assembly Bill 61 – the so-called “Right to Work” bill. The bill would ban any requirement that nonunion members in the private sector pay union dues.

Just like last week's Senate hearing, where opponents vastly outnumbered supporters, the majority of those speaking Monday at the Assembly Labor Committee were also against the measure.

The few supporters, including the state chamber of commerce, said they represented many other people who were reluctant to speak publicly. Backers argue that the change will make Wisconsin more competitive with other states, in particular Indiana and Michigan, and allow workers to decide whether they want to pay union dues rather than have them deducted automatically.

Union members, construction contractors, and other opponents reiterated their arguments that the measure would weaken unions, leading to lower wages and unsafe workplaces. They also questioned who really wanted the law, given that coalitions representing hundreds of contractors and other businesses had formed in opposition, and said it was wrong to rush the bill through in less than two weeks.

peter_barcaIn a statement released after the hearing, Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said:

“We just heard hours of thoughtful, compelling testimony from business owners, workers, researchers and everyday citizens who agree that ‘Right to Work’ is wrong for Wisconsin and recognize that it will drive down wages and hurt our middle class. I want to thank everyone who came out today – including those who drove hundreds of miles and waited hours to testify – against this destructive legislation.

“‘Right to Work’ is a distraction from Governor Walker’s harmful budget and it will keep pushing Wisconsin’s economy in the wrong direction. Even the governor himself has said private-sector unions are important partners in economic development efforts that put people to work – efforts the governor and Republican legislators are undermining with this bill.

“We as elected officials must be doing everything we can to restore economic opportunity for our citizens, not tear it down. As Professor Chowdhury from Marquette testified today, this bill would take $3.89 billion a year out of the Wisconsin economy.

“Democrats stand ready to debate this harmful legislation on the Assembly floor and continuing to work toward a stronger economy for Wisconsin.”

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