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Gronik Supports Supreme Court Balance of Power Candidate

Posted by Andy Gronik, Former Candidate for Wisconsin Governor
Andy Gronik, Former Candidate for Wisconsin Governor
Andy Gronik, Former Candidate for Wisconsin Governor has not set their biography
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on Friday, 14 December 2018
in Wisconsin

lisa-neubauerFormer Candidate for Governor Andy Gronik urges all his friends and supporters to help Judge Lisa Neubauer become our next Supreme Court Justice.


MILWAUKEE - When things get out of balance they tend not to work as well, or not at all.  That’s why the framers of our constitution imagined a system where powers would be balanced between the governor, lawmakers and judges.  We need look no further than the current #LameDuck session in Wisconsin to appreciate how delicate this system is and to want to prevent the abuse of power.  That’s one of so many reasons why it’s important to get behind Judge Lisa Neubauer, a candidate for Supreme Court Justice of Wisconsin who respects the role of the judicial system and is supremely qualified to serve.

andy-gronikLet’s get Wisconsin back in balance.  Please join me in donating to Judge Neubauer’s campaign so she has the resources to win!

Judge Neubauer’s 10-year track record as an appellate judge clearly demonstrates fair, independent and impartial practice.  Wisconsin needs to return to a balanced court and government so the voice of the people is heard and intent of our framers is respected.  She has already earned the statewide support of hundreds of judges and brings decades of experience as a former litigator with the prestigious law firm Foley & Lardner.  Judge Neubauer is also a leader in her Racine community where she serves on boards, helps children learn to read, is a Big Sister and supports breast cancer survivors. To learn more about Judge Neubauer’s impressive life journey, click here.

Please join me in helping Judge Neubauer become our next Supreme Court Justice by donating whatever you can afford to her campaign and by forwarding this email to all your friends and asking them to do the same.

This election is not about whether you are a democrat or republican, live in the country or city, or are poor or rich.  It’s about restoring balance and the rule of law to Wisconsin’s judicial system with a candidate supremely qualified for the job.  In order to make this happen, everyone must be engaged so that together we can honor the system of government our framers envisioned.

Respectfully,

Andy Gronik

Former Candidate for Governor of Wisconsin

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A Tribute to the Dean of the Senate

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 Wednesday, 12 December 2018
in Wisconsin

fred-risser-senatorSen. Vinehout writes about fellow Senator Fred Risser, the longest serving State Legislator in the nation. He has served over 60 years in the Legislature seeking bipartisanship and ensuring the public is involved and shows no signs of slowing down.


MADISON - If I had a mentor in the State Senate, it would be my colleague from Madison, State Senator Fred Risser. He and I share a head for details, a dedication to the legislative process and a love of western Wisconsin. He often traveled to his grandparents’ farm near Fountain City. “I like that country. I would climb the bluffs and look out for rattle snakes.”

Senator Risser is the longest serving Legislator in the United States. He was born in 1927 and first elected to office in 1956 and elected to the state Senate in 1962.

At 91, Senator Risser has one of the sharpest minds in the Senate. He understands aspects of bills only a lawyer with vast legislative experience would know. I frequently turn to him to understand the breadth and background of bills. He often finds details hidden in the bills that I overlooked.

kathleen-vinehoutDuring our recent 21-hour long Extraordinary Session floor debate, I asked Senator Risser why no bills were officially before us and no one provided any material regarding what we were voting on. He reached in his desk and pulled out his copy of the Senate rules. He flipped through a few pages and said, “Look at the rules they [Republicans] made up. They don’t even have to give us a Senate Calendar.”

Senator Risser is an energetic and passionate man. Only last week, as the current Senate President expelled all observers from the Senate gallery, Senator Risser was the first lawmaker to jump out of his seat and plead with the current president to allow citizens to stay and watch.

wisconsinSenator Risser believes the Legislature’s business belongs in the public eye. “As President of the Senate and head of [the Committee on] Senate Organization, I insisted that everything be done in public. One time, [former Senator] Tiny Krueger was in the hospital and we took the Committee there.”

Over the years, Senator Risser watched as public hearings became less and less about the public. All too often, adequate public notice is not given and voting happens without the public watching. Senators will vote using a process of “paper ballots” filled out in the privacy of their offices. This was the process used by Senate Republican Leaders to approve last week’s extraordinary session. The business of the Senate has certainly changed.

Politics is in Fred’s blood. “From the day I was born, I knew I was going into political office,” he told me. “Politics was a matter of supper time conversation.” He reminisced about hitchhiking to Chicago to catch President Franklin D. Roosevelt at a rally in Wrigley Field. “I’ve met them [US Presidents] all since,” he told me. “But I have not met Trump.”

Senator Risser shared with me a photo showing four generations of his family in the Wisconsin Legislature. “Four different political parties,” he explained. “My father was the last member of the Progressive Party,” he said “That’s because he held office two years after the party disbanded. … My great grandfather served in the Civil War. He shattered his arm and had it amputated on the battlefield. He was later elected as a Unionist.”

One thing Senator Risser and I share is a bit of a rebellious streak, especially when it comes to leaders who want to twist arms. I asked Fred how he dealt with finding common ground among Senators.

“When I was Minority Leader I created a Committee on Committees,” Senator Risser described. “We had three senior Senators who would make decisions with a consensus. Members accepted this. We had different senior members after every election. This worked out well. Members would contact the committee if they wanted a chairmanship. It wasn’t a one-man ballgame.”

He became Senate Minority leader because “no one else wanted the job.” Working with the consensus of his colleagues, he noted that “we were able to function well.” Among Senator Risser’s numerous achievements is the creation of the role of Senate President – the presiding officer of the State Senate. He led the effort to amend the state Constitution with the help of rural newspapers.

I had my share of injuries and illness during my Senate career. But Senator Risser bragged to me that he never missed a Senate roll call vote, “except maybe when we went to Illinois. I think they expunged those records.”

Part of his secret to a long and healthy life is exercise. He takes the stairs every day to his Capitol office. “I’ve never taken an elevator as Senator. That includes when I once was on crutches,” he said. “Walking up and down steps is good for you.” Senator Risser is also an enthusiastic bicyclist and rode a total of 2,825 miles this year. He has a tradition of biking for his birthday. He rides one mile of every year of the age he celebrates, which was 91 miles this year, and he shows no sign of slowing down.

Thank you, Fred, for your service to our state, your help and inspiration. Even after twelve years, next to you, I’ll always be a rookie.

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Sen. Larson on Republican Sour Grape Session

Posted by Chris Larson, State Senator, District 7
Chris Larson, State Senator, District 7
Chris Larson (D) is the Wisconsin State Senator from the 7th District in Milwauk
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on Monday, 10 December 2018
in Wisconsin

walkerMILWAUKEE - We just had an election wherein the outcome was clear, the people of Wisconsin sought change and elected a new Governor. Now should be a time of peaceful transition, but instead we have just witnessed an unprecedented power grab by Republicans in the state legislature.

The recent passing of President George HW Bush is a stark reminder of how far our country has come since the days when good people from both sides of the aisle could work together in mutual respect.

In his note to his successor, President Bill Clinton, President Bush wrote, “Your success now is our country's success. I am rooting hard for you.”

After a lifetime of service to his country, President Bush understood what most of us take for granted: Democracies are only functional when citizens are confident in the peaceful transfer of power after the conclusion of an election.

Eight years later, President Clinton would write to President Bush’s son, George W, the following: “And from this day you are President of all of us. I salute you and wish you success and much happiness.”

chris_larsonMy sympathies are with my Republican colleagues; I know too well the pain of losing an election. As state Senator, I have had the privilege of serving when both my party held power and when it lost it.

But when I entered office in 2011, I swore to uphold the constitutions of the United States and the state of Wisconsin. I pledged, just as Scott Walker did, to respect the rule of law and the democratic process.

In an unprecedented move, Scott Walker’s Republican-controlled legislature pushed a series of bills in a lame-duck session to remove checks and balances from our state government.

This package of bills, rammed through committees in the dead of the night, are designed to rig elections and consolidate power in the hands of a few. Never in Wisconsin’s history have we faced such an attack on our state Constitution and the democratic process.

On Monday December 3rd, prior to the lame-duck session, Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald stated “We trusted Scott Walker and the administration to be able to manage the back and forth with the Legislature. We don’t trust Tony Evers right now in a lot of those areas.”

It is important for elected officials to remember that we can disagree with each other on policy, but elections are never about one person. We were elected to serve the people of Wisconsin regardless of who is elected alongside us. Taking extraordinary measures to limit the power of an office because we might not “trust” the person that was elected to that office is a slap in the face to the citizens of Wisconsin that voted for change on November 6th.

We must never make the mistake of thinking that we were only elected to serve the voters who agree with us. Wisconsin’s working families deserve a legislative body where elected officials can work across the aisle and with the governor to solve Wisconsin's toughest problems.

****

State Senator Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, released this opinion editorial on the transition of power and the unprecedented measures taken by Republicans to limit the power of the offices of Governor.

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Republicans Attempt to Turn Back the Clock, But There is More Work to Do

Posted by Dave Hansen, State Senator Dist 30
Dave Hansen, State Senator Dist 30
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on Friday, 07 December 2018
in Wisconsin

gb-rates4Thanks to a lot of hard work we have a new Governor, Attorney General and State Treasurer, we won the statewide vote, but gerrymandering has left the GOP in control of the legislature. No time to waste feeling bad, the next major election is upon us.


GREEN BAY, WI - On November 6th the voters chose real change for our state after 8 years of Governor Walker and the Republican agenda.

It was part of one of the biggest electoral waves in our nation’s history.

In congress Democrats are poised to pick up 40 seats in the house. That is the 3rd largest gain in recent history, second only to the Republicans gains in 2010 and 2014.

But it was the biggest margin of victory in total votes in any mid-term election in history. Democrats received over 9 million more votes than Republicans and the 8.1% percent margin is bigger than any recent midterm including the GOP wins of 1994, 2010 and 2014. It even surpassed the Democrats’ wave in 2006.

And it all came in a mid-term election in which turnout itself was historic. In Wisconsin nearly 2.7 million people, or 60% of registered voters turned out. According to the New York Times, approximately 114 million votes were cast in U.S. House races in 2018, compared to 83 million in 2014. That compares to just 36.7 percent in 2014, and 41 percent in 2010.

So what votes in Wisconsin accomplished is truly impressive. Thanks to a lot of hard work we have a new Governor, new Attorney General and new State Treasurer. We should all be happy and proud of that.

So it is naturally disappointing that soon-to-be former Governor Scott Walker (Did I mention he lost?) and the Republicans in the Legislature once again showed their true colors by using a lame duck session Tuesday night to strip power from Governor-elect Evers and Attorney General-elect Kaul. Their actions are repugnant and a slap in the face not only to the majority of voters who chose a new, more progressive direction for our state, but to the spirit of democracy and the peaceful transition of power as well.

I’ve spoken to people who are disheartened by this. Especially after all the hard work leading up to the lame duck session making calls, sending emails and helping organize others to do the same to try to stop them from their egregious assault on our state’s valued democratic traditions.

dave-hansenAnd while I, too, am angry and frustrated I am also happy and proud at the effort made by those who stood up to Walker and the Republicans. You might not realize it but your voices made a difference.

tony-eversA day after Tony Evers was elected Republican Speaker Robin Vos vowed to limit his veto authority. There were rumors that they would try to eliminate the ability Governor’s to veto any unfair maps the GOP produces during redistricting (an issue very close to my heart!). They were even talking about moving the 2020 presidential primary in order to protect Dan Kelly, a Republican justice on the State Supreme Court who is coming up for reelection.

But none of that happened. And even though changes to other bills were minor, your efforts caused them great concern. We were supposed to go to the floor to debate their schemes at 11:00 a.m. that morning. 17 hours later we were still waiting for the Republicans to quit arguing amongst themselves and come back to the floor.

One of the results was their failure to pass a bill they claimed would protect people with pre-existing conditions if their lawsuit to end the Affordable Care Act is successful. But, it was a bill in name only that would not only not provide any real protection, it would also increase insurance premiums on everyone else.

That in and of itself is a major victory that everyone who saw through their charade can be proud in having helped stop.

Progressives and anyone who wants to see our state truly move forward should appreciate the fact that things are changing. Your voice really does make a difference, both at the ballot box and during the legislative process.

But we’re not done yet. The next major election is upon us. It is the election to fill the Supreme Court seat of retiring Justice Shirley Abrahamson. She is truly one of the great jurists in our state’s history and possibly the nation. She will be sorely missed, but in April we will have the chance to elect her successor.

And in 2020 we will have the chance to finally end Republican control of the State Supreme Court.

But, it all starts now. There is no time to waste feeling bad about what happened at 7:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. Instead we should recognize that our voices and efforts can and have made and get to work making Justice Abrahamson proud by making sure her replacement lives up to the high standards she set for the Court.

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Speed and Secrecy: The Last Act

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 Wednesday, 05 December 2018
in Wisconsin

scott-fitzgeraldThe bills proposed in the Extraordinary Session called by Republican Leaders will create powers for the Legislature that handcuff the new administration and curtail the power of the incoming Governor and Attorney General. Wisconsinites expect a respectful transition of power, not a power grab by one party.


MADISON - If you were a legislative leader in Wisconsin, and had an opportunity to pass new laws before your party’s governor left office, what would you do? What would you fix as your last act in power?

As I face my last Senate votes, I am working hard to understand what laws my Republican colleagues choose to pass before the new Democratic Governor takes office.

Late last Friday night, after Senate staff went home for the weekend, Republican leaders released their last act. Five bills detailing changes to over 400 sections of state law.

I learned late Friday, there would be one public hearing on Monday and the full Legislature will act on Tuesday. By the time many of you read this column, the bills passed both houses and await Governor Walker’s signature into law.

I’ve witnessed a lot of speed and secrecy by legislative leaders. But this final action, to make bills public late Friday and seek final passage the following Tuesday ranks among the worst of the worst. Speed and secrecy seriously threaten democracy. No time to ask questions. No time for constituents to learn. No time for lawmakers to hear and heed the desire of constituents.

walker-signs-budgetBased on concerns expressed by Wisconsinites, you would think the last act of the GOP leaders would be fixing the transportation budget, school funding reform and lowering healthcare premiums.

Not a chance.

Instead, Republican leaders are pushing a series of bills that provide tax loopholes for company owners, and removing caps on the number of large companies that could claim very large cash subsidies. These same bills give control of the troubled Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to the two Republican leaders by creating a majority of GOP legislative leaders’ appointees.

These same bills create harsh rules that must be followed by people facing challenges, like being unemployed, needing supplemental nutrition, health care or facing difficulties in proving citizenship to vote.

Based on my preliminary read of the bills, provisions in the bills limit powers of the incoming Governor and Attorney General and create onerous requirements for the new administration. Agency directors will be coming back to the Legislature for permission to file federal reports over and over again, rather than catching up on backlogs, and providing better service to people of the state.

Innovation should be encouraged in a new administration. Instead, the bills would handcuff agency officials by requiring repeated approval for any different or new use of federal funds from the Legislature’s budget writing committee. For example, I counted at least four repeated approvals needed by the Secretary of Health Services to seek federal money for nursing homes – a high priority because Wisconsin ranks last in reimbursement. These onerous requirements would affect many health programs Wisconsinites love, including Senior Care, FamilyCare, IRIS and BadgerCare.

In many cases, borrowing and cash transfers used by the Walker administration to fill budget holes, show more cash at year’s end, and move money around for pet projects, like Foxconn, would no longer be allowed.

Ironically, a computer project financial disclosure Walker vetoed as onerous, would be required of the incoming governor. Presumably, Governor Walker will sign the bills into law as his last act. Perhaps he will change his mind about what disclosure should and should not be required of the executive branch.

While some provisions in the bill create seemingly meaningless monthly reports and repeated seeking of permission, other provisions alarmingly undermine the critical balance of powers between the three branches of government.

kathleen-vinehoutFor example, provisions of the bills would emasculate the Attorney General. In cases of constitutionality and enforceability of statutes, it would be the Legislature representing the state in court – not the Attorney General. Legislative leaders would accomplish this by appointing outside counsel beholden only to the leaders and paid for by taxpayers.

It appears other changes in the court system are directed at influencing environmental protection enforcement cases.

The final act of the Party in power tells us something about the priorities of that Party – prioritizing tax breaks and corporate cash subsidies and penalizing those needing healthcare, supplemental nutrition, and help finding employment.

The will of the people is not represented in this final act by Republicans and Governor Walker. Wisconsinites elected a new governor with different priorities and their expectation is a respectful transition of power.

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