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Archive for February, 2011

So What Were They Copying?

Interesting line caught my attention in the AP story about the new changes Senate Org kicked in today.  After getting rid of direct deposit last week for the AWOL “Badger 14,” today the trio of Ellis, Fitzgerald, and Grothman changed the supervisory offset for Senate Democratic staffers to the Majority Leader (It’s a little hard for their bosses to sign their time cards being in Illinois you know) and then they had their copier access restricted.

Fitzgerald is also not allowing Democratic lawmakers or their staff members to use Capitol copiers, saying there has been some “highly unusual usage” of the machines in recent days.

Beyond the logistical headache of having to ask the Senate Clerk every time they need to make a Xerox (see my friend Moe Lane about that), there is a rather legitimate question as to what, if any, copies the staff of the AWOL 14 Senate Democrats could be making?

There’s been reports of all sorts of zany activity that’s been going on in the state capitol over the past two weeks.  The State’s War Memorial was turned into an info booth.  A third floor hearing room was turned into “Protest Central.”  Madison Assemblyman Brett Hulsey apparently transformed his office into a dormitory.  What’s to say the State Senate Democratic staff hasn’t been abusing their copier privileges making flyers and the like for the protesters who took over the Capitol?  Perhaps an ethics investigation is in order?

It’s not like their bosses have been there giving them actual district work they needed done?

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Appleton Dem: “We Have No Case on ‘Illegal Vote.'”

Rather shocking admission from Appleton Democrat Penny Bernard Schaber to WFRV 5 in Green Bay.

The battle over the Budget Repair Bill has moved on from the state assembly, but days after the vote is over opponents are still upset with how it went down.

“To say that we’re calling the vote: ‘Yes! No! Done!’ in 17 seconds doesn’t seem like it’s following any kind of Roberts Rules of Order,” said Natalie Bowman, who opposes the Budget Repair Bill.

“We are looking into what rule infractions there are,” said Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber (D) Appleton. “We don’t believe we can legally say they did something illegal because these are the rules the assembly sees for themselves.”

Oops, looks like someone needs to get her talking points with Madison in order.

For days, the AssDems have been claiming the 1 AM vote last week was illegal, hell Mark Pocan and Kelda Helen Roys are holding another unauthorized “Kangaroo Court” of a hearing on the bill right now — a bill that’s already been passed in the chamber mind you — just to keep the protesters inside the state capitol and here you have one of their own members telling a town hall in her district, “We don’t believe he have a case!”

I’ve said previously that I wasn’t too keen on the speed in how the vote occurred, but to call it “illegal” is grasping at straws.  Then again, I’ve also heard the biggest regrets for some Assemblymen is that they weren’t in the Assembly Chamber when the vote was taken, it’s that they froze and didn’t push the button in time.

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The Slow Career Suicide of Gordon Hintz Continues

Yeah, really not a smart move after the prostitution charges.

Last Friday…. after the Assembly voted to engross the Budget Repair Bill, Hintz turned to a female colleague, Rep. Michelle Litjens and said: “You are F***king dead!”

“New Tone” folks.

I got to meet Michelle on Election night at the celebration party we as the Johnson Campaign were having at the EAA.  She is a really nice, intelligent woman and small business owner who wants to get things done in Madison to control the cost and growth of government.

She’s set to be interviewed this afternoon on 620WTMJ by their afternoon host John Mercure on “Wisconsin’s Afternoon News” at 3 PM central time.

(Listen Live here.)

UPDATE: After this news went nationally viral, Hintz has apologized to Litjens.

Litjens said she accepted the apology, but has asked the Assembly leadership to discipline Hintz.

“Everyone was exhausted. We were on the floor 58 hours. (But) there is still no excuse for his comment,” Litjens said.

Litjens said she did not believe Hintz’ comments were meant for her personally. Rather, the comment was directed at the Republican Party as a whole for moving ahead on the governor’s bill.

“We should be able to civilly discuss issues we are passionate about without feeling threatened,” she said.

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Ziegelbauer: Walker’s Plan Has Merit

Again, the traditional disclaimer.

DISCLAIMER: Assemblyman Bob Ziegelbauer (I-Manitowoc); who both represents southern Manitowoc County and serves also as Manitowoc County Executive, is my cousin.  My dad is his mother’s younger brother.  We have not talked about the events in Madison at all since they began two weeks ago.  In fact, the last time we talked was sometime in late November, early December of 2010.

From yesterday’s Manitowoc Herald Times-Reporter:

Two weeks ago, Gov. Scott Walker unveiled the next step in his plan to put Wisconsin’s fiscal house back in order, by realigning retirement and other fringe benefits for state and local government employees. It confronts head-on a problem every city, county and school district in the state has been struggling with, and it filled the Capitol with protesters.

Total compensation — wages plus fringe benefits — for public sector employees has been out of whack for long a time. It’s a systematic problem, one we can’t ignore.

When the economy went down, state and local government kept spending as if everything was normal. But, the truth is that when things went bad, nearly everyone in the private sector took a big, permanent, financial hit almost immediately and are only now working their way back.

Public sector employees were protected from the pain by continuing tax increases, mediation arbitration and the political power of their unions. As unemployment got worse, the gap between their total compensation and the rest grew farther apart. Now, we need to adjust, to realign that as soon as possible. The longer we wait, the harder it will be.

Of course this is a message that no one wants to hear. But, telling people the truth isn’t picking on anyone. For too long, public employees have been told by their leaders that they deserved more, and good people believed it. But now you can decide for yourself. At the county, we’ve posted pay and benefits for the past four years on our website. Every unit of local government should do the same.

Many still say, just raise taxes, as if someone else can pay for this. But raising taxes would only make things worse for everyone.

The governor’s plan calls for most employees to pay half of the cost of retirement benefits and increase their share of health insurance costs. The typical impact would be about 7 percent of total compensation, not painless, but compared to the rest of the world, a modest amount.

I agree with much more than I disagree with in the governor’s plan, and I’m working to make it better; by adding civil service protections, addressing concerns about seniority and including all local government employees.

This will not only help the budget, but more importantly save jobs all around us. Instead of constantly cutting jobs and programs, cities, schools and counties will end furloughs, bring back laid off workers and create stable career opportunities for young people.

Of all the members of the State Legislature, the Walker Budget Repair Bill and the soon-to-be announced budget will effect Ziegelbauer the most on a professional basis.  Unlike others (Madison Democrat Brett Hulsey comes to mind) claiming they were ex-city council members and the like, only Ziegelbauer — as a county executive — will be the only one actually having to write a budget for a municipality in the next few months.

He’s going to actually have to live with the budgetary mechanics of the legislation; not complain for purely politically reasons which has been standard operating procedure for both sides of the political aisle for years in Wisconsin.

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Last U.S. WWI Veteran Dies

Thank you sir, for your service.  Rest in Peace.

Frank Buckles, the last U.S. World War I veteran, has died, a spokesman for his family said Sunday. He was 110.

Buckles “died peacefully in his home of natural causes” early Sunday morning, the family said in a statement sent to CNN late Sunday by spokesman David DeJonge.

Buckles marked his 110th birthday on February 1, but his family had earlier told CNN he had slowed considerably since last fall, according his daughter Susannah Buckles Flanagan, who lives at the family home near Charles Town, West Virginia.

Buckles, who served as a U.S. Army ambulance driver in Europe during what became known as the “Great War,” rose to the rank of corporal before the war ended. He came to prominence in recent years, in part because of the work of DeJonge, a Michigan portrait photographer who had undertaken a project to document the last surviving veterans of that war.

As the years continued, all but Buckles had passed away, leaving him the “last man standing” among U.S. troops who were called “The Doughboys.”

Buckles testified before Congress in 2009.  His purpose, to get a memorial for those who served in WWI.  He also served during World War II, and was a prisoner of war for three years after he was captured in the Philippines.

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In Honor of the Oscars

Not watching this year, I actually have “Casino Royale” on in the background.

But I remembered this from last year, so why not bring it back?

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Weekend Quick Hits

And away we go…

Again, It’s All About The Kids

While most of the statewide press is having an orgy of “Oh My GOD!” about the number said to be in Madison today at the protests, a noteworthy thing happened.  Seems the National Education Association, or NEA, is demanding their union member double their payments to the teachers union.

Amid substantial membership losses and a $14 million shortfall in its general operating budget, the National Education Association plans to double each active member’s annual contribution to the national union’s political and media funds.

Currently, $10 of each active member’s NEA dues is allocated to these special accounts. The more than $20 million collected each year is then disbursed to state affiliates and political issue campaign.

Meanwhile, in Labor News I Care About

The NFLPA, which represents all the players on all 32 NFL franchises, is on the verge of decertifying itself as a means to prevent ownership from locking out the players when the current collective bargaining agreement expires on March 3rd.

If the union decertifies, it is no longer a union, and the National Labor Relations Board loses its hold over the NFLPA. The owners are expected to claim the decertification is a sham and challenge it in the NLRB.

But the NFLPA is poised to act this week before it is locked out. It already has obtained unanimous approval from players across the league to decertify, a process it undertook throughout last season and the union’s executive committee reaffirmed that vote this past Tuesday to empower NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith to take this action.

The primary reason for decertification would be to file for an injunction that, if granted, would prevent the owners from locking out the players. NFLPA officials and players believe that this could be the only hope to have a full NFL season next year. Furthermore, decertifying as a union prior to the expiration of the CBA would allow NFL players to seek injunctive relief and commence anti-trust action against owners in front of U.S. District Court Judge David Doty, who has had jurisdiction over the current labor agreement since 1993. Owners have attempted unsuccessfully to have Doty removed from jurisdiction and strategically want the CBA to expire to effectively eliminate his authority, a source said.

Players and ownership have been meeting with a federally-appointed mediator in the Washington, DC-area for the better part of the week, but word leaked to sports-talk radio and other NFL insiders is they’re not going anywhere and both sides seem hell-bent on their respective paths.

I’m making no conscious effort to pick a side in this fight, and I think the idea of NFL ownership opening up their books (Only the Packers are legally required to because of their ownership structure) is a worthwhile idea to create trust between two parties.  Of course, when the NBA did this years back, the players claimed ownership was lying.

[BTW, the NBA is bleeding cash.  Teams might actually be contracted.  I’m rooting for the Memphis Grizzles to disappear.]

Once Again the Left Uses Reagan For Their Own Means

Funny, how when faced with a losing fight, suddenly they remember he used to head SAG…wished he got that sort of reference at the Academy Awards the year he died.

You could hear a pin drop at the Kodak Theater when his picture came on the screen.

And by the way “cap,” he’s talking about private trade unions in that video, not the type you love and profess over you AFSCME hack.

Finally, Who Says Unions are Compromising?

I’m sorry, but until I see it, I won’t believe it.  The media, the left, and the unions all say “Concessions are being made.  Concessions are being made.”

Well, where are they exactly?  All we’ve seen in the past few weeks is a flurry of activity from local public employee unions from Madison to Sheboygan and parts elsewhere in the state to hammer out new contracts with their municipalities and locking down their current deals before anything happens on the state level so any hit can’t effect them.  That’s disingenuous.

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Pelosi on DNC Resolution Honoring Her: The Queen is Not Pleased

(H/T RightWingNews)

Too funny.

The Democratic National Committee wanted to honor Nancy Pelosi Thursday — but its praise wasn’t good enough for the House minority leader.

When the DNC’s Resolutions Committee brought up a resolution commemorating Pelosi’s years as speaker of the House, Pelosi’s daughter sought to alter the proposal at her mother’s behest, adding some of the accomplishments that the elder Pelosi felt the committee had overlooked.

“I have some friendly amendments,” said Christine Pelosi, a political strategist, at the committee’s session during the DNC Winter Meeting at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel Thursday afternoon. She is a member of the committee.

“You think I’m kidding,” Christine Pelosi added, to surprised laughter from the room. The proposed changes, she indicated, came out of a discussion with her mother.

First, Pelosi wanted to add a mention of her fight against HIV and AIDS, because it was “why she went to Congress.” Then, she wanted to insert a paragraph on her “accomplishments for equality,” mentioning the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in December.

Humility doesn’t exist in this family does it?

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Budget Repair Bill Passes Assembly

Well, this has been an enjoyable three days hasn’t it?  And it ended pretty much how it was guaranteed to end — with child-like screaming.

After a bitter, 61-hour debate that was the longest in living memory, the sleep-starved state Assembly voted in just seconds early Friday to approve a watershed proposal repealing most union bargaining rights held by public workers.

Just after 1 a.m., Republicans cut off debate on Gov. Scott Walker’s bill and in pell-mell fashion the body voted 51-17 to pass it. In the confusion, nearly one-third of the body – 28 lawmakers including 25 Democrats, two Republicans and the body’s lone independent – did not vote on the bill at all.

All Democrats voted against the proposal along with four Republicans – Dean Kaufert of Neenah, Lee Nerison of Westby, Richard Spanbauer of Oshkosh, and Travis Tranel of Cuba City.

Democrats erupted after the vote, throwing papers and what appeared to be a drink in the air. They denounced the move to cut off debate, questioning for the second time in the night whether the proper procedure had been followed.

“Shame! Shame! Shame!” Democrats shouted in the faces of Republicans as the GOP lawmakers quietly filed off the floor and a police officer stood between opposing lawmakers.

“Cowards all! You’re all cowards,” yelled Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison) as another Democrat tried to calm him down.

Most Republicans had no comment on the vote afterward and some were escorted out under police protection. Earlier in the night, Majority Leader Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) said that Democrats had been given more than two full days and nights to make their case – effectively turning the debate into a filibuster – and that Republicans had done nothing wrong.

“It seems clear our side wants to vote and I challenge anyone watching to say we have not held out for an adequate debate,” Suder said.

“The democrats were clearly stalling,” said Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc). “That’s why Assembly rules allow for a vote on final passage. We took that vote and did what the people of this state asked us to do on Nov. 2 – get spending under control.”

At this time last year, I was doing some contract research jobs, and as part of it, had to watch hours upon hours of State Senate and State Assembly debate footage.  It wasn’t stellar TV-watching, and in fact, if I wasn’t getting paid to go through it all, I would have turned it off five minutes in.  That being said, what’s been going on in the State Assembly these past three days has been a disgrace to the body and a disgrace to the State Assembly Democrats.

38 six-year olds would have been on better behavior in that room than these 38 duly-elected representatives of Madison, Milwaukee, and those handful of parts in-between.  Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and his team — for all the grief they’ve been given over how they’ve been accused of “shutting down debate” — have been far more generous with the rules than either former Democratic Speaker Sheridan and especially former Majority Leader Tom Nelson was.

Debate should have been shut down days, not hours ago.  The only thing Fitzgerald should be chastised over is the fact he was letting both the goons outside of the chamber as well as the goons inside the chamber dictate the terms of debate.  The Assembly has rules, each and everyone of the 96 members in there (recall there are 3 empty seats due to elevations to Walker’s Administration) knows them.

As for how the vote itself went down, I’m not cool with it, but I also think those saying its “illegal” are grasping at straws.  In closing, I share what Ryan Gruber, aka “The Recess Supervisor,” a former State GOP Assembly Staffer and a man who possibly the only thing I share with him are a few friends at various think tanks out in DC, wrote about the debate.

Goodness knows that the Assembly GOP was none too excited about the manner in which Governor Doyle and the AssDems slammed the 09-11 budget through the Legislature, or any one of a number of other bills. But they also didn’t try to hold the entire body hostage for days on end with tired, recycled arguments. They made their political points and then they sat down let the process move forward.

Guess what, Democrats? Everyone’s heard you. Everyone heard you Tuesday. Nobody’s even listening to you at this point, except to see if we can get some more witty Pocan/Kramer banter, or take a drink every time Kelda gives the same pious, insipid good government speech again – the one that sounds like she’s reading from the “How a Bill Becomes a Law” coloring book.

For Democrats to ask – no, demand – additional compromise beyond the changes made in Finance shows how badly they fundamentally misunderstand the purpose of the minority. They can stomp around the building and send their letters to the Governor, on and on, but at the end, nobody’s obligated to negotiate with them or give them anything. They aren’t in charge. It’s almost as though they slept through the November elections (well, their campaigns definitely did), and now they refuse to recognize that just as the 2006 and 2008 elections had consequences for the GOP, the 2010 has consequences for them.

Now someone tell those fugitives in Illinois to get their collective asses back to Madison.  The tantrums lasted long enough and they’re kidding themselves if they’re going to get some sort of “Prodigal Son” treatment upon their return.  This last week has been an embarrassment of riches for anyone who’s called Wisconsin “home.”

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IL Lawmaker Proposes “Jock Tax” on “Wisconsin 14”

This is funny, but since Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (and now Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel) have pretty much turned their state into a “Sanctuary State,” it’s not likely to happen.

State Rep. Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) is introducing legislation today that will apply the Illinois income tax to visiting legislators from Wisconsin and Indiana.

Noting that the Democrats passed legislation to “close corporate loopholes” which resulted in Illinois taxing planes while they were flying over Illinois, incomes of movie stars filming in Illinois, baseball and football team players on Illinois fields,

“I think that ought to apply to visiting Democrats.”

“What’s good enough for the Green Bay Packers is good enough for the Wisconsin legislature.”

The reason he brings up the Packers is because of the Wisconsin connection no doubt, but he just as well could have listed any other sports franchise in his statement.  Illinois (and probably Wisconsin too, since it’s a more common practice than you think) have what is commonly called “a Jock Tax” on the books.  “Jock Taxes” are meant to tax the income of pro athletes for the time they are in the state or municipality they are playing in for the length of the game.  Which means, if a player who resides in Los Angeles or New York City comes to play a game in Chicago or Milwaukee, they would be taxed on pretty much their game check.

No doubt the irony is lost on Illinois Democrats.  That said, I do believe Lance Burri is correct.  This sort of tax is for those who are doing their jobs; not running from it.

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