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Archives for Wisconsin (page 1 / 5)

Lawsuit filed over Wisconsin law banning 'illegal' Irish butter →

A state law that makes it illegal to sell a popular Irish butter in Wisconsin is unconstitutional and deprives consumers of their rights, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Ozaukee County court.

The public advocacy group Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty brought the suit against the state on behalf of five clients, four of them consumers and one a Grafton food store.

Good. Very good. And why was this necessary?

"Wisconsin’s current protectionist law requires butter that is bought and sold to be labeled by the government. This archaic labeling regime prevents very popular butter such as Kerrygold from being enjoyed by Wisconsin residents," the group said in a news release.

A state law with roots in the 1953 margarine scare requires all butter sold in Wisconsin to be tested and graded by state-approved experts.

As a butter made and packaged in Ireland, Kerrygold is not inspected in the United States, making it illegal to sell under the state law.

Lest you think this is a worthwhile regulation, Wisconsin is the only state in the nation with a law like this. It's a purely protectionist measure, to make the Wisconsin dairy industry happy.

My 2016 Primary Results

I voted Tuesday, with most of the rest of the state of Wisconsin. I live in the People's Democratic Republic of Dane County, so I take great pride in having a losing record in each local election that I vote in. This year was no different, as I went 1 for 5 in local elections. I did have an odd feeling of satisfaction, as I went 2 for 2 in statewide voting. I finished with a 3–7 record overall. (My vote is in italics; the winning vote is bolded.)

President of the United States --- Republican

  • Donald Trump, 35%
  • John Kasich, 14%
  • Ted Cruz, 48%

Justice of the Supreme Court

  • JoAnne Kloppenburg, 48%
  • Rebecca Bradley, 52%

Oregon Village Trustee (choose 3)

  • Doug Brethauer, 22.7%
  • Jeff Boudreau, 24.5%
  • Philip Harms, 21.2%
  • Jerry Bollig, 31.3%
  • Write-in ("No TIFs"), 0.3%

Oregon School District Board Member --- Area 1 (choose 2)

  • Dan Krause, 30%
  • Krista Flanagan, 46%
  • Uriah Carpenter, 24%
  • Write-in ("No drug dogs"), 0.5%

Rural broadband bills would streamline local approvals →

The Wisconsin Assembly is considering some changes to how broadband providers apply to provide service.

AB 820, creates a “Broadband Forward” certification for municipalities that is intended to limit fees and streamline the application process for service providers. To be eligible, municipalities must enact an ordinance that designates a single contact for applicants to work with and provide a timeline for consideration of applications, specific criteria for approval or denial of applications, and enables electronic filing.

It would also prohibit application fees exceeding $100 and bar municipalities from discriminating against providers seeking access to public right-of-ways.

That all sounds good to me.

[Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo] said he’s largely concerned that the bill would place too many restrictions on local governments.

“I’m scared that we’re dictating a whole lot as a state to local municipalities,” he said. “While I support rural broadband like crazy and wanted to sign on just based on the title, I think there’s enough restrictions in there that make me hesitate.”

Oh? How are these restrictions a bad thing? The provisions about providing a single point of contact, hard timelines, and specific criteria all sound like very good things to me. Let the companies know who they're dealing with, how long the process will take, and exactly what they have to do. Get rid of the risk of long delays and capricious criteria.

Bill Esbeck, executive director of the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association, lauded the bill for prohibiting “unreasonable” fees on service providers. Some of the Telecommunications Association’s member companies have seen right-of-way access fees as high as $5 per foot, making already expensive projects less feasible, he said.

“When you have a project that is looking to invest in a fiber route that’s 10,000 feet long, a $50,000 invoice from a local government seems to cross the line between reasonable and unreasonable. … This will absolutely improve the efficiency of those investments,” Esbeck said.

Given the deplorable lack of rural broadband in America, to say nothing of actual competition, I think the State should approve anything and everything that can speed up the approval and permitting process. The faster and cheaper it is to submit an application for providing broadband service, the more broadband you're likely to get.

Drop-In Chefs Help Seniors Stay In Their Own Homes →

This is a very interesting service, from a local Madison company.

“A healthy diet is good for everyone. But as people get older, cooking nutritious food can become difficult and sometimes physically impossible. A pot of soup can be too heavy to lift. And there’s all that time standing on your feet. It’s one of the reasons that people move into assisted living facilities.

But a company called Chefs for Seniors has an alternative: They send professional cooks into seniors’ homes. In a couple of hours they can whip up meals for the week.”

“According to some estimates, there are hundreds of thousands, maybe even a million seniors living in their own homes who are malnourished. In long-term care facilities, up to 50 percent may suffer from malnutrition. This leads to increased risk for illness, frailty and falls.”

“Part of the business plan is keeping the service affordable. In addition to the cost of the food, the client pays $30 an hour for the chef’s time. That’s usually a couple of hours a week of cooking and cleaning up the kitchen. There’s also a $15 charge for grocery shopping. So clients pay on average $45 to $75 a week.

And while there are lots of personal chefs out there and services that deliver meals for seniors there are few services specifically for older adults that prepare food in their homes.”

This isn't what most people would think of as healthcare, but I'd call it healthcare innovation. Living a healthy life—and eating right— is a big part of staying out of clinics and hospitals. If people spend money on this service, they could very well be saving thousands of dollars in other healthcare expenses.

This strikes me as the kind of service that insurance companies won't want to provide but that patients would be willing to pay for, if they have control over their own healthcare dollars.

Wisconsin's Two Chief Justices →

It looks like it'll be an interesting—and awkward—couple of months on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

“Wisconsin Supreme Court justices moved quickly Wednesday to elect a new chief following certification of a constitutional amendment that ended seniority as the sole determinant, even as a federal lawsuit was pending seeking to delay replacing longtime Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

Abrahamson objected to the email vote making Justice Patience Roggensack the chief justice, and Abrahamson continues to believe she still holds the position, her attorney Robert Peck said in a letter filed with U.S. District Court late Wednesday.”

This entry was tagged. Wisconsin

My 2014 Election Results

Since I live in the People's Democratic Republic of Dane County, I take great pride in having a losing record in each election that I vote in. This year was no exception. I finished with a 1-14 record. (My vote is in italics; the winning vote is bolded.)

Governor & Lieutenant Governor

  • Mary Burke / John Lehman (Democratic), 47%
  • Scott Walker / Rebecca Kleefisch (Republican), 52%
  • Dennis Fehr / No Candidate (People's Party), 0%
  • Robert Burke / Joseph M. Brost (Libertarian), 1%

Attorney General

  • Susan V. Happ (Democratic), 45%
  • Brad Schimel (Republican), 52%
  • Thomas A. Nelson, Sr. (Libertarian), 3%

Secretary of State

  • Doug La Follette (Democratic), 50%
  • Julian Bradley (Republican), 46%
  • Jerry Broitzman (Constitution), 1%
  • Andy Craig (Libertarian), 3%

State Treasurer

  • David L. Sartori - (Democratic), 45%
  • Matt Adamczyk - (Republican), 49%
  • Andrew Zuelke - (Constitution), 1%
  • Ron Hardy - (Wisconsin Green Party), 3%
  • Jerry Shidell - (Libertarian), 2%

U.S. Congress, District 2

  • Mark Pocan (Democratic), 68%
  • Peter Theron (Republican), 32%

State Senator, District 27

  • Jon Erpenbach (Democratic)
  • Write-in: [I forgot what name I wrote in]

Assembly Representative, District 80

  • Sondy Pope (Democratic)
  • Write-in: Tony Stark

County Sheriff

  • David J. Mahoney (Democratic)
  • Write-in: Capt. America

Clerk of Circuit Court

  • Carlo Esqueda

State Referendum

Question 1: "Creation of a Transportation Fund. Shall section 9 (2) of article IV and section 11 of article VIII of the constitution be created to require that revenues generated by use of the state transportation system be deposited into a transportation fund administered by a department of transportation for the exclusive purpose of funding Wisconsin's transportation systems and to prohibit any transfers or lapses from this fund?"

  • Yes, (80%)
  • No, (20%)

County Referenda

Question 1: "Should the State of Wisconsin increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour?"

  • Yes, (74%)
  • No, (26%)

Question 2: "Shall the next Governor and State Legislature accept available federal funds for BadgerCare to ensure that thousands of Wisconsin citizens have access to quality and affordable health coverage?"

  • Yes, (82%)
  • No, (18%)

Municipal Referendum

Shall the Village of Oregon adopt the following Resolution?

RESOLVED, the people of the Village of Oregon, Wisconsin, call for reclaiming democracy from the corrupting effects of undue corporate influence by amending the U.S. Constitution to establish that:

  1. Only human beings - not corporations, unions, non-profits, or similar associations - are endowed with constitutional rights; and

  2. Money is not speech, and, therefore, regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we hereby instruct our state and federal representatives to enact Resolutions and legislation to advance this effort.

  • Yes, (80%)
  • No, (20%)

Oregon School District

Question 1: "Shall the Oregon School District, Dane, Rock and Green Counties, Wisconsin be authorized to issue pursuant to Chapter 67 of the Wisconsin Statutes, general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $54,600,000 for the public purpose of paying the cost of a school building and improvement program consisting of the construction of additions to and renovation and improvement of Oregon High School, Oregon Middle School and Brooklyn Elementary School; renovation and improvement of Prairie View Elementary School and Netherwood Elementary School; acquisition and installation of technology improvements; roof replacement at District buildings; HVAC upgrades at the swimming pool; and construction of storm water improvements and other site improvements on the JC Park East property?"

  • Yes, (63%)
  • No, (37%)

Question 2: "Shall the Oregon School District, Dane, Rock and Green Counties, Wisconsin, for the 2015-2016 school year and thereafter be authorized to exceed the revenue limit specified in Section 121.91, Wisconsin Statutes, by $355,864 a year, for recurring purposes of paying operation and maintenance expenses associated with new or upgraded District facilities?"

  • Yes, (61%)
  • No, (39%)

Ten Charged with Vote Fraud in Milwaukee →

John Fund, writing in National Review:

In 2008, an investigative unit of the Milwaukee Police Department issued a 67-page report on what it called an “illegal organized attempt to influence the outcome of [the 2004] election in the state of Wisconsin.” John Kerry won the state by less than 12,000 votes in the presidential race that year. The police report found that between 4,600 and 5,300 more votes were counted in Milwaukee than the number of voters recorded as having cast ballots. Absentee ballots were cast by people living elsewhere; ineligible felons not only voted but worked at the polls; transient college students cast improper votes; and homeless voters possibly voted more than once.

Vote fraud is a real problem. Kudos to Milwaukee for taking it seriously. And tar and feathers for anyone else who thinks that only racists could possibly want to verify voters before counting votes.

Consider the Milwaukee Evidence in Debate on Voucher Expansion →

Wisconsin's School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP) recently finished a 5-year study of the effectiveness of Milwaukee's voucher program.

After five years, the SCDP team found:

Statistically significant gains for voucher users in reading compared to matched Milwaukee Public School (MPS) pupils (with the important caveat that the introduction of program wide WKCE testing in the final year of the evaluation could be responsible for some of the gains);

  • Statistically similar impacts on math test scores for matched MPS and MPCP users;
  • A modest positive impact on public school tests scores as more private schools participated in the MPCP;
  • Statewide taxpayer savings, though not in Milwaukee;
  • Higher graduation rates for voucher users compared to MPS;
  • Higher rates of four-year college enrollment for voucher users;
  • Evidence that closed schools in both MPS and the MPCP were the lower performers;
  • High levels of parental satisfaction;
  • No impact on housing prices or racial integration;
  • High rates of school switching;
  • Wide variation in achievement levels between schools.

So what are the practical lessons from the SCDP for other communities considering vouchers? Don’t expect the introduction of a voucher program to sizably increase test scores across the board for voucher users, or students in public schools. It’s safe to expect no negative impact on test scores, but any gains will likely be substantively small. So if the primary consideration in a community is raising test scores, a voucher program like Milwaukee’s may not be wise.

However, if you are a community struggling with high school graduation rates, particularly for low-income pupils (like Madison and Green Bay), a Milwaukee style voucher program could be a viable strategy to raise attainment.

I think this evidence justifies expanding the voucher program state wide. I'd love to see that happen.

Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors →

The Cato Institute recently released the 2012 version of their annual report card on the nation's governors. As a supporter of the Tea Party movement, it's gratifying to see that the Republican governors are actually improving and are growing more fiscally responsible.

Wisconsin's own Scott Walker earns a "C", for some very good reasons. I hope he can pull that up to an "A" over the next 2 years.

Are Republicans and Democrats Any Different?

Advocates of smaller government often lament that politicians of both major par- ties tax and spend too much. While that is certainly true, Cato report cards have found that Republican governors are a bit more fiscally conservative than Democratic governors, on average. In the 2008 report card, Republican and Democratic governors had average scores of 55 and 46, respectively. In the 2010 report card, they had average scores of 55 and 47, respectively.

This pattern is even more pronounced in the 2012 report card. This time around, Republican and Democratic governors had average scores of 57 and 43, respectively. And, as in prior report cards, the difference between the two parties is slightly more pronounced on taxes than on spending.

The fiscal differences between governors of the two parties have increased a bit. In this year’s results, there are fewer governors than in prior reports who are out of step with the typical policies of their parties. In both the 2008 and 2010 reports, for example, Democrat Joe Manchin earned an “A,” while Republican Jodi Rell earned an “F.” But in this year’s report, all four “A” governors are Republicans and all five “F” governors are Democrats.

More Importantly, Why Did the Janesville Plant Close? →

Wisconsin's own Christian Schneider talks about the forces that drove GM to close the plant in Janesville, WI.

While plant closings are always complex issues, two main issues (both somewhat embarrassing to the Left) played a large role: the heavy burden of organized labor and misplaced government intervention in the automotive marketplace.

As George Will wrote at the time, by 2005, GM had essentially become a health-care company that also happened to make automobiles.

Fiscal Reality Wins a Victory in Wisconsin →

This is why I worry about government spending levels. Wisconsin either needs to cut spending or raise taxes (or both) an average of $1522 more per household, per year. For the next 30 years.

Wisconsin voters know they are struggling. They sense that unchecked growth of local and state governments will grind them down even more. Government as usual was not an option.

But they need to know how bad things really are.

For example, without major reforms, the public pensions officially accounted at 100 percent funded actually need $1,563 more from the average household every year for 30 years just to pay benefits already promised, according to an updated study for the National Bureau of Economic Research by Robert Novy-Marx and Joshua Rauh.

Public retiree health-care funding is more than $2.3 billion short, according to the Pew “Widening Gap” study, and the state only paid 45 percent of the last payment due. Somebody is going to have to make up the difference.

Playground Politics: Ten thoughts on Tuesday →

My favorite Wisconsin political blogger comments on Tuesday's election results.

  1. The Democrats have no bench.  Hey Democrats, who are your frontrunners for the 2014 gubernatorial election?  You just killed off Tom Barrett and Kathy Falk.  You have nobody in the Congressional delegation.  If Ron Kind wouldn't do it now, at a time when you really needed him, why's he going to do it later when he has to give up his House seat to do it?  And what else?  Your Young Screamers contingent?  Supertwitterer Chris Larson?  Gordon Hintz, lover of the happy ending?  The ever-sanctimonious Kelda Helen Roys?  That'd be like the GOP hanging its hat on Andre Jacque and Tyler August.

This entry was tagged. Elections Wisconsin

WPRI Report: Rebuilding and Modernizing Wisconsin's Interstates with Toll Financing →

This is the real work of "rebuilding America's crumbling roads". And the money involved is going to require everyone to pitch in, especially the people who use Wisconsin's roads the most.

All highways wear out over time, despite ongoing maintenance. Over the next 30 years, most of Wisconsin’s Interstate system will exceed its nominal 50-to 60-year design life and will need complete reconstruction. When that point is reached, it makes sense to update designs to current safety and operational standards, as was done recently in the reconstruction of the Marquette interchange. And in corridors where demand is projected to exceed capacity, resulting in heavy congestion, it makes sense to add lanes.

Wisconsin already has a $1 billion per year highway funding gap. The total $26.2 billion cost of this Interstate program is far beyond the ability of current transportation funding sources to handle. Federal and state fuel tax revenues, the largest source of transportation funding, are in long-term decline in real, or inflation-adjusted, terms, and a portion of Wisconsin’s vehicle registration fee revenue is now committed for several decades to paying debt service on transportation revenue bonds issued since2003 to cover funding shortfalls. General obligation bonds, with general fund debt service, were also issued to make up for recent diversion of transportation fund revenue to the state’s general fund. To rebuild the rural Interstate and southeastern freeway system in a timely manner will require an additional source of transportation revenue.

This study explores the feasibility of using toll revenue financing to pay for this $26.2 billion reconstruction and modernization program. Under the principle of value-added tolling, tolls would not be charged on a corridor until it was reconstructed and modernized. All toll revenues would be dedicated to the rural Interstate and southeastern freeway system corridors, as pure user fees. Based on a 30-year program of reconstruction and assuming moderate toll rates comparable to those on other toll road systems, the study estimates that the entire rural Interstate program could be financed by toll revenue bonds. For the southeastern freeway system, one option is to toll only the new lanes, operating them as express toll lanes. Doing so would produce enough revenue to cover about 17% of the cost of the entire freeway system reconstruction. Tolling would be all electronic, with no toll booths or toll plazas to impede traffic. If political support could be garnered to price all lanes on the southeastern freeway system instead, our analysis estimates that the revenues would cover 71% of the cost of reconstruction.

No "Fundamental Right" to Own a Cow, or Consume Its Milk →

Wisconsin Judge Patrick J. Fiedler, on your fundamental rights.

"This court is unwilling to declare that there is a fundamental right to consume the food of one's choice without first being presented with significantly more developed arguments on both sides of the issue."

"no, Plaintiffs to not have a fundamental right to own and use a dairy cow or a dairy herd;

"no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to consume the milk from their own cow;"

"no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice..."

If Americans don't have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice, what rights do they have?

In Spite of All That Cash, Unions Came Up Short →

For months, unions have told us that after their state-senate recall efforts in Wisconsin, lawmakers would learn not to scale back their collective-bargaining “rights.” The recalls would warn any state thinking about passing a law like Governor Walker’s to think again. Yet after Tuesday night’s recall elections, only one lesson is perfectly clear: It’s probably not a good idea to cheat on your wife.

This entry was tagged. Elections Wisconsin

Governor Walker’s Recall

I did not realize this.

Like all other public officials, the Governor of Wisconsin is not eligible for recall until he or she has served at least one year in the current term of office. Recall petitions cannot be circulated until early November, 2011, and cannot be offered for filing until January 3, 2012.

The number of signatures required to trigger a recall election for Governor is 540,208, or one-quarter of the 2,160,832 votes cast for Governor in the November 2010 General Election.

Looks like recall season will continue through the rest of 2011. Oh, joy.

This entry was tagged. Wisconsin

Union curbs rescue a Wisconsin school district →

Here’s some more information about the changes that Kaukauna School District is making, thanks to Governor Walker’s much attacked public sector union reforms.

Then there are work rules. "In the collective bargaining agreement, high school teachers only had to teach five periods a day, out of seven," says Arnoldussen. "Now, they're going to teach six." In addition, the collective bargaining agreement specified that teachers had to be in the school 37 1/2 hours a week. Now, it will be 40 hours.

The changes mean Kaukauna can reduce the size of its classes -- from 31 students to 26 students in high school and from 26 students to 23 students in elementary school. In addition, there will be more teacher time for one-on-one sessions with troubled students. Those changes would not have been possible without the much-maligned changes in collective bargaining.

Teachers' salaries will stay "relatively the same," Arnoldussen says, except for higher pension and health care payments. (The top salary is around $80,000 per year, with about $35,000 in additional benefits, for 184 days of work per year -- summers off.) Finally, the money saved will be used to hire a few more teachers and institute merit pay.

District swings from deficit to surplus →

As changes to collective bargaining powers for public workers take effect today, the Kaukauna Area School District is poised to swing from a projected $400,000 budget shortfall next year to a $1.5 million surplus due to health care and retirement savings.

“These impacts will allow the district to hire additional teachers (and) reduce projected class sizes,” School Board President Todd Arnoldussen wrote in a statement Monday. “In addition, time will be available for staff to identify and support students needing individual assistance through individual and small group experiences.”

The district anticipates that elementary class size projections for next year will shrink from 26 students to 23 students. Class sizes for River View Middle School are expected to fall from 28 students to 26 students.

Kaukauna High School classes could be reduced from 31 students to 25 students.

Huh. That’s certainly … unexpected.

(Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds, Ann Althouse, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal.)

Silly Unions, Act 10 Doesn't Violate Civil Rights

After Governor Walker's budget repair bill (AB-10) was re-instated by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, our unions immediately ran off to Federal court to claim civil rights violations.

At the time, I thought that their case was exceedingly weak and more in the vein of a stupid Hail Mary attempt than a serious effort at practicing law. Today, I saw that the United States Court for the Western District of Wisconsin appears to agree with me. They denied the unions' request for a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injuction in quite plain terms. Check out the ruling [PDF].

If you don't read the ruling, the breakdown of their argument shows you pretty clearly what they think. It’s not a final ruling yet but, if this is representative of what the court is thinking, the final ruling could be even more fun.

  • “There Is A Rational Basis For The Differing Treatment Of General Employees And Public Safety Employees”
  • “Plaintiffs’ Attempt To Reduce Act 10 To Crass Political Payback Fail”
  • “Plaintiffs Have No Probability Of Success On The Merits Of Their First Amendment Claim, As That Claim Is Without Merit”
  • “Plaintiffs Misstate The Nature Of Their Alleged Irreparable Harm”
  • “The State And The Public Interest Will Suffer Great Irreparable Harm By The Issuance Of A Preliminary Injunction”
  • “Plaintiffs Seek To Alter The Status Quo, Not Maintain It, By Asking For A Remedy That Will Result In A Completely New Set Of Collective Bargaining Statute”

The ruling is all kinds of good fun.

This entry was tagged. Unions Wisconsin

Wisconsin Takes a Step Backwards in Police Accountability

I was disappointed to see that state Representative Robin Vos is undoing one of the good reforms that Governor Doyle put into place.

In the bad old days, Milwaukee police officers had cut a sweet deal that allowed them to keep collecting paychecks and benefits when they were fired by the police chief until a final ruling on the dismissal was made by the Milwaukee Police and Fire Commission.

That meant, of course, that it was in the best interest of a fired officer - even a guilty one - to challenge and delay a dismissal as long as possible. Keep those paychecks rolling in, pardner.

And it was like that for a quarter of a century, under a law that treated Milwaukee cops differently from those in the rest of the state. When they were fired, Milwaukee police officers appealed - 96 percent of the time. And they collected salaries and benefits during that appeal time - appeal time that was dragged out. For the 26 years that the law was in effect, the appeal time for police officers in Milwaukee was double that of fired firefighter dismissals.

Back in October 2004 that cushy deal blew up, after off-duty Milwaukee police officers viciously beat Frank Jude Jr. at a house party, and three fired officers collected more than $500,000 in pay while awaiting trial. The Legislature cut off the continued pay for police accused of felonies and Class A and B misdemeanors, and in 2009 extended the cutoff of salaries and benefits for all fired officers.

That did not mean that officers who were mistakenly fired were without recourse: if they appealed their dismissals and won they were entitled to back pay - in a lump sum. That has been the standard for the past three years. It is a fair standard.

So why, early in the morning last week, did Vos and the Joint Finance Committee move to reinstate the 2008 law that would keep officers fired for things other than felonies or Class A and B misdemeanors on the payroll during the appeals process? In 2006, we noted that over the years the City of Milwaukee had paid out more than $2.5 million to officers who were ultimately fired.

Bad move, Representative Vos. It's wasteful and it assumes the wrong that: that police are blameless, that complaints are generally baseless, and that police need to be protected against the general public. Those assumptions aren't always right and acting as those they were is a good route to making sure that the police and the public view each other with hostility and distrust.