Tag Archives: republicans

Walker proposes new welfare work requirements

Parents who work fewer than 80 hours a month could face food stamp benefit cuts under a proposal Gov. Scott Walker released this week.

Walker’s proposal also would require adults with children between age 6 and 18 to attend job training and search for work five days a week.

The proposals are part of a package called “Wisconsin Works for Everyone” that Walker released during a series of news conferences across the state.

Under current state law, childless adults in the FoodShare program have to meet the work requirement. They lose all food stamp benefits after three months of non-compliance.

Since the law took effect in April 2015, about 64,000 have lost their benefits.

Under Walker’s new proposal, adults with children who don’t meet the program’s work requirements would face a “partial” reduction in benefits. The governor didn’t say how much the loss in benefits could be.

Walker also is calling for a similar work requirement for people receiving housing vouchers from the federal government.

His proposals could require law changes by Congress and waivers from the Trump administration before taking effect. They would also have to pass the Republican-controlled state Legislature.

Walker has been saying that he hopes to work closely with the Trump administration on a variety of initiatives, including on welfare. Walker is expected to seek a third term in 2018 and will be spelling out his priorities for the next two years in the state budget he releases next month.

The governor provided few details of the welfare reform package this week, saying those would come in the budget.

Both of the new work requirements would begin as pilot programs, but Walker didn’t say where. His outline also doesn’t say how much the new requirements would cost.

Walker said he also reduce child-care assistance from the state once people become employed. Once someone becomes employed and hits 200 percent of the poverty line, the person would start contributing $1 copay for child care for every $3 earned.

Walker also is calling on the Trump administration to clear the way for the state to drug test some welfare recipients.

“We fundamentally believe that public assistance should be a trampoline not a hammock,” Walker said.

Robert Kraig, with the progressive advocacy group Wisconsin Citizen Action, criticized Walker’s proposals, saying they will do nothing to help create more family supporting jobs. Kraig said Walker was penalizing low-income residents for their own poverty.

State Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said Walker wants to create one set of rules for working families and another set of rules for the wealthy and well-connected.

“For too many hardworking Wisconsin families, Gov. Walker’s race-to-the-bottom economy is not working for them. Republican tax breaks that favor millionaires and corporations are shifting a greater burden onto workers,” Shilling said. “Since Gov. Walker took office in 2011, Wisconsin has fallen below the national average for job creation for 20 consecutive quarters. If Gov. Walker really wants to help workers and grow our middle class, Democrats stand ready with a range of proposals to raise family wages, lower student loan debt, invest in infrastructure and expand child care tax credits. It’s time we reward hard work, not the wealthy and well-connected.”

 

‘Resist Trump Tuesday’ actions planned across the country

More than 100 “Resist Trump Tuesday” actions are planned for Jan. 24, with the focus on urging  senators to oppose Donald Trump’s cabinet picks and agenda.

People’s Action, MoveOn.org, Working Families Party and other groups will hold actions at the offices of Democratic and Republican senators with a clear message: “Stop the Swamp Cabinet.”

As a candidate, Trump riled up supporters vowing to “drain the swamp” and chase corruption out of Washington, D.C.

Thus far, he’s moved to fill his administration with billionaires, bankers and Wall Street insiders.

Donald Trump’s “politics have only furthered a culture of corruption, and nowhere is that clearer than in the greed and hate embodied by the nominees to his swamp Cabinet,” said MoveOn.org organizing director Vicki Kaplan.

“Millions of Americans are taking action — meeting, marching, and organizing — to ensure Trump and the GOP don’t take away our health care, destroy public education, pollute our air and water, and put in charge billionaires and racists who look out for only themselves at the expense of the rest of us,” Kaplan added.

On the web

Check the action website for event listings coordinated by MoveOn.org, People’s Action, Working Families Party.

In Milwaukee

An action is planned at noon Jan. 24 at the Milwaukee office of U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.
The details:  Participants will meet at the SEIU Local 1 office and walk to Johnson’s office at 250 E Wisconsin Ave.  The action is being coordinated by Citizen Action of WI, SEIU and WI Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals. Sign up to attend here.

GOP governors who turned down Medicaid money have hands out

Republican governors who turned down billions in federal dollars from an expansion of Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health care law now have their hands out in hopes the GOP-controlled Congress comes up with a new formula to provide insurance for low-income Americans.

The other GOP governors, such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who agreed to expand state-run services in exchange for federal help — more than a dozen out of the 31 states — are adamant that Congress maintain the financing that has allowed them to add millions of low-income people to the health insurance rolls.

With Congress starting to consider plans for annulling and reshaping Obama’s overhaul, Republican governors and lieutenant governors from 10 states met privately for more than two hours last week with GOP members of the Senate Finance Committee and raised concerns about how lawmakers will reshape Medicaid.

“They’re worried about how it all works out,” Finance panel chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said after the session in a Senate office building.

GOP senators and governors stressed the need for giving states more flexibility to shape their Medicaid programs. That’s a change that worries Democrats, who say some states would inevitably end up covering fewer people or offering skimpier benefits.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said governors could find savings by being allowed to impose “work incentives” for some beneficiaries.

Kasich suggested shifting people who earn just above the poverty level from Medicaid to the online exchanges that Obama’s law created for buying coverage.

“I think they understand this is not simple and I think they know they have to get it right,” Kasich said.

A chief worry by governors was whether states that accepted extra federal money to expand Medicaid to more people would lose that extended coverage.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said afterward that “it ain’t going to happen,” though he did not detail how.

In a letter he carried to Capitol Hill, Kasich warned that repealing Obama’s law without an alternative in place could interrupt health care coverage for hundreds of thousands in Ohio and urged he “be granted the flexibility to retain the adult Medicaid coverage expansion.”

Ohio has added roughly 700,000 recipients to the program since the law took effect in 2013.

Unlike Kasich, 19 Republican governors — including Scott Walker of Wisconsin — defied the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that states open up Medicaid to more people.

It was a major expansion of the state-federal health insurance system whose primary purpose has grown in its 52 years from backstop medical assistance for the poor to the go-to program for closing gaps in private health insurance system.

In the three years since the Affordable Care Act went into effect, Medicaid enrollment has grown by about 18 million people, to roughly 75 million, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Walker, seeking to win over conservative voters for his failed presidential bid, notably turned down more than $500 million for his state.

But with Republicans, backed by President-elect Donald Trump, pursuing repeal of the law, Walker and other GOP governors now are asking specifically for the Medicaid money and fewer rules for spending it.

On average, the federal government’s contribution accounts for 56 percent of a state’s Medicaid budget, making the financing terms under the health care law much more generous.

Republicans have long sought block grants or lump-sum payments for health care. The money has helped them maintain their budgets, while the relative lack of heavy regulation has allowed governors freedom to experiment with social services policy.

“Now that Barack Obama is no longer going to be at the White House, it is going to be much more palatable for Republican governors to seek additional funding,” said Ron Pollack of Families USA, a leading advocate for Obama’s law.

All Democratic governors in office when the law took effect in 2013 agreed to the expansion. Even Republican governors in 11 states agreed to expand Medicaid, some with specific waivers that still allowed them to claim the federal reimbursement.

Now, Republican leaders in states aren’t just asking for money they turned down. They’re asking to change the formula to get back what they lost.

The federal Medicaid formula is based in part on how many enrollees a state had as of 2016. By last year, Michigan, for instance, had added 630,000 recipients since accepting the Medicaid expansion.

But Medicaid in Kansas grew at a far slower rate, given Gov. Sam Brownback’s opposition to the federal law. Now, he wants Congress to change the formula to benefit his state.

Position cuts, mission shift lead to scaled-back DNR under Walker

Gov. Scott Walker promised to transform the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. And he has — cutting scientists, shrinking its budget and pushing the agency to be more receptive to industry.

And even more changes could be in store. Walker and Republican lawmakers, who hold their largest majorities in decades, are pondering whether to eliminate the agency and spread its duties across state government as well as charge people more to get into state parks and to hunt. It all adds up to a picture of a struggling agency no one recognizes any more, critics say.

“They want this chamber of commerce mentality,” said Scott Hassett, who served as DNR secretary under former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. “That’s a different image than protector of natural resources. It’s sad.”

Agency officials and the Walker administration counter that the DNR is doing fine, carrying out its mission to protect the environment and enhance resources while becoming more customer-friendly.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said the DNR has become “more efficient, effective, transparent, and accountable” since Walker took office.

Republicans have long criticized the DNR, saying its pollution and hunting regulations are too strict, making it difficult for businesses to expand and draining the fun from outdoor sports.

Walker’s three state budgets cut $59 million from the DNR and eliminated nearly 200 positions, including half of its science researchers.

Last month DNR officials announced a major reorganization to deal with staffing cuts, including allowing large livestock farm operators to use consultants to help write permit applications so DNR staff won’t have to spend so much time on them.

The budgets also have scaled back the stewardship program and removed support for state parks, leaving them to survive on fees.

That’s created a $1.4 million deficit in the parks account, and Walker’s now mulling raising access fees.

In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited 75 deficiencies in how the DNR handles water regulation. Two environmental groups sued the DNR in 2014 to force the agency to adopt federal air pollution standards that were published a year earlier. The agency finally adopted them late last year.

This past June, state auditors found the agency wasn’t following its own policies for policing pollution from large livestock farms and wastewater treatment plants.

The audit also found a permit backlog for large farms, with DNR employees not having enough time to closely monitor the farms’ operations.

Last fall federal regulators visited the DNR to investigate claims that the agency is failing to enforce water pollution laws and regulations. The EPA hasn’t released any findings yet. And last month the agency removed language from its website that stated human activities are causing climate change, saying instead that the cause is debatable even though most scientists agree burning fossil fuels causes global warming.

What’s more, waning interest in hunting has resulted in fewer license purchases, creating a $4 million gap between revenue and spending authority for habitat management projects. The DNR has suggested Walker make up the difference by raising hunting and fishing license fees.

“So many changes and roadblocks have tied DNR’s hands so dramatically that they’re really not able to do the job the public expects them to be doing,” said Amber Meyer Smith, a lobbyist for environmental advocacy group Clean Wisconsin, a plaintiff in the air lawsuit.

Scott Manley, a lobbyist for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business group and a key Republican constituency, said the DNR has become friendlier to businesses and is still doing its job despite the staffing cuts.

DNR spokesman James Dick cited a list of accomplishments. They included improved air quality — a DNR report released in September found air pollution has dropped statewide over the last decade — efforts to recruit hunters and the purchase of a conservation easement on 67,000 acres in northern Wisconsin, the largest conservation purchase in state history.

He also pointed out the agency is working to correct the EPA-identified deficiencies, walleye stocking has expanded and the agency has made strides in building a customer service image.

“There will always be critics who vocally disagree with what we’re doing but we prefer to note the accomplishments we’ve made over the last five years,” Dick said. “Since the start of this DNR administration, we have always believed it is possible to protect the environment, wildlife habitat and other natural resources without impeding the economic growth and development of our state.”

The agency still isn’t getting any love from GOP lawmakers. Rep. Adam Jarchow has resurrected a proposal to split the DNR into two new departments that would handle wildlife and pollution and spread the rest of the agency’s duties across three existing agencies. He has said the DNR doesn’t function in its current form.

Republicans have tried to break up the agency before but have failed in the face of opposition from outdoor clubs and environmental groups. Still, Walker has said the plan is worth pursuing. Five former DNR secretaries who served under both Democrats and Republicans, including Hassett and George Meyer, now executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, sent Walker a letter last week urging him to keep the agency intact.

Meyer, who served under Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, said in a telephone interview that Walker is building a “negative” environmental legacy.

“His idea of customer service,” Meyer said, “is really just a business customer service.”

RESISTANCE: List of protests against inauguration of Donald Trump

The number of protests before, during and after the inauguration of Donald Trump continues to increase.

More than 30 groups have applied for permits to protest in Washington, D.C.

Protests also will be taking place in cities across the nation, including in multiple sites on multiple dates in Wisconsin.

A look at protest plans…

Women’s March on Washington

The Washington Metropolitan Police Department has issued a permit for the  Women’s March on Washington, which takes place Jan. 21 — the day after the inauguration.

Police expect 200,000 participants for the event, which will start near the Capitol. Marchers will walk along Independence Avenue to Constitution Avenue — and more details are being worked out.

Roundtrip bus rides to and from the event are available, including from  Madison, Green Bay, Stevens Point and Eau Claire. Coaches from Milwaukee also were booked.

Here’s the statement from the march organizers:

On Jan. 21, we will unite in Washington, D.C., for the Women’s March on Washington. We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.

The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us — women, immigrants of all statuses, those with diverse religious faiths particularly Muslim, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native and Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, the economically impoverished and survivors of sexual assault. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.

In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice.

For more information about the Women’s March on Washington, go to womensmarch.com.

Sister solidarity marches

Women’s marches on Jan. 21 also will take place in many other cities in the United States, including in Madison.

The Madison action will take place noon-5 p.m., with demonstrators gathering at Library Mall and marching to the state Capitol.

For more on the Women’s March on Madison, go to facebook.com/events/361478110866299

Women’s March on Chicago

In the Midwest, the largest women’s march will take place in Chicago on Jan. 21.

March organizer Liz Radford, in a release from the ACLU, said, “We are marching to voice protests and concerns because our rights, safety and values are at stake. The mission of this march is to connect, protect and activate in our communities. … We are varied races, ethnicities, ages, religions, sexual identities, economic situations, politics and countless other diversities, and we will share space on Jan. 21 to protect our rights and our humanity.”

The march is expected to begin at about 10 a.m. in Grant Park.

For more about the Women’s March on Chicago, go to womens121marchonchicago.org or facebook.com/womensmarchonchicago

Earth2Trump roadshow

TheEarth2Trump roadshow kicked off on the Pacific coast earlier this month and the two-route, 16-stop tour moved eastward, building a network of resistance againstTrump’s attacks on the environment and civil rights.

The shows feature live music, national and local speakers and a chance for participants to write personalized Earth2Trump messages that will be delivered to Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day.

The Center for Biological Diversity is organizing the shows in coordination with groups around the country.

For more on the tours, see a map at www.Earth2Trump.org or follow the tours on social media at #Earth2Trump.

Occupy the Inauguration!

At 2 p.m. Jan. 20, demonstrators in Madison will stage Resist Trump—Occupy the Inauguration! at Library Mall in the 700 block of State Street on the UW campus.

An announcement said demands include “No border wall. Stop the deportations of undocumented immigrants. Tax rich millionaires like Trump. Fund health care for all. Make college free. Black Lives Matter! End rape culture. Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline! Green jobs now!”

The demonstration is sponsored by the Madison Socialist Alternative.

For more details, email madison@socialistalternative.org.

Candlelight vigil

Activists are organizing a candlelight vigil for 7 p.m. Jan.  20 at the intersection of Lake and State streets in Madison. Plans include a march and a program. Organizers ask people to bring flashlights for the vigil, called to denounce “despicable acts of bigotry, hatred, prejudice and xenophobia.”

Immigration prayer vigil

An immigration prayer vigil will take place in Juneau on Jan. 20, which is Inauguration Day.

An announcement to WiG invited people to attend and “stand in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters.”

The vigil will take place at the Dodge County Detention Facility at 3 p.m. The facility is at 216 W. Center St. in Juneau.

Organizers expect more than 100 people to attend the rally coordinated by WISDOM, a faith-based organization and affiliate of Gamaliel, which also will be present.

For more information, including car pool opportunities, call contact organizer Bernie Gonzalez at 262-443-7831 or .

No Nukes! No Trump protest

A “Homes Not Bombs” anti-nuclear protest and concert are being organized in Washington, D.C, in advance of the inauguration.

John Penley of North Carolina and Bruce Wright of Florida are organizing the protest Jan. 19 in Washington’s Franklin Square. The organizers have secured a permit for the event in the park and hope to secure permission for overnight camping.

Speakers will include Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, Code Pink activist Medea Benjamin, Col. Ann Wright, attorney Stanley Cohen and others.

Room Full of Strangers will perform.

Looking to spring

Organizing also is taking place for the People’s Climate Mobilization, a major march in Washington, D.C., set for April 29 — the week after Earth Day.

350.org holds a leadership post in organizing the march.

For more about the march, go here.

Editor’s note: This list will be updated as we collect additional information or as more details are provided. Please check back.

If you have details about a protest or other related event, please post a comment to this page or email Lisa Neff at lmneff@www.wisconsingazette.com.

6 surprising health items that could disappear with ACA repeal

The Affordable Care Act of course affected premiums and insurance purchasing. It guaranteed people with pre-existing conditions could buy health coverage and allowed children to stay on parents’ plans until age 26. But the roughly 2,000-page bill also included a host of other provisions that affect the health-related choices of nearly every American.

Some of these measures are evident every day. Some enjoy broad support, even though people often don’t always realize they spring from the statute.

In other words, the outcome of the repeal-and-replace debate could affect more than you might think, depending on exactly how the GOP congressional majority pursues its goal to do away with Obamacare.

No one knows how far the effort will reach, but here’s a sampling of sleeper provisions that could land on the cutting-room floor:

CALORIE COUNTS AT RESTAURANTS AND FAST FOOD CHAINS

Feeling hungry? The law tries to give you more information about what that burger or muffin will cost you in terms of calories, part of an effort to combat the ongoing obesity epidemic. Under the ACA, most restaurants and fast food chains with at least 20 stores must post calorie counts of their menu items. Several states, including New York, already had similar rules before the law. Although there was some pushback, the rule had industry support, possibly because posting calories was seen as less onerous than such things as taxes on sugary foods or beverages. The final rule went into effect in December after a one-year delay. One thing that is still unclear: Does simply seeing that a particular muffin has more than 400 calories cause consumers to choose carrot sticks instead?  Results are mixed. One large meta-analysis done before the law went into effect didn’t show a significant reduction in calorie consumption, although the authors concluded that menu labeling is “a relatively low-cost education strategy that may lead consumers to purchase slightly fewer calories.”

PRIVACY PLEASE: WORKPLACE REQUIREMENTS FOR BREAST-FEEDING ROOMS

Breast feeding, but going back to work? The law requires employers to provide women break time to express milk for up to a year after giving birth and provide someplace — other than a bathroom — to do so in private. In addition, most health plans must offer breastfeeding support and equipment, such as pumps, without a patient co-payment.

LIMITS ON SURPRISE MEDICAL COSTS FROM HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM VISITS

If you find yourself in an emergency room, short on cash, uninsured or not sure if your insurance covers costs at that hospital, the law provides some limited assistance. If you are in a hospital that is not part of your insurer’s network, the Affordable Care Act requires all health plans to charge consumers the same co-payments or co-insurance for out-of-network emergency care as they do for hospitals within their networks. Still, the hospital could “balance bill” you for its costs — including ER care — that exceed what your insurer reimburses it.

If it’s a non-profit hospital — and about 78 percent of all hospitals are — the law requires it to post online a written financial assistance policy, spelling out whether it offers free or discounted care and the eligibility requirements for such programs. While not prescribing any particular set of eligibility requirements, the law requires hospitals to charge lower rates to patients who are eligible for their financial assistance programs. That’s compared with their gross charges, also known as chargemaster rates.

NONPROFIT HOSPITALS’ COMMUNITY HEALTH ASSESSMENTS

The health law also requires non-profit hospitals to justify the billions of dollars in tax exemptions they receive by demonstrating how they go about trying to improve the health of the community around them.

Every three years, these hospitals have to perform a community needs assessment for the area the hospital serves. They also have to develop — and update annually — strategies to meet these needs. The hospitals then must provide documentation as part of their annual reporting to the Internal Revenue Service. Failure to comply could leave them liable for a $50,000 penalty.

A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE … HER OB/GYN

Most insurance plans must allow women to seek care from an obstetrician/gynecologist without having to get a referral from a primary care physician. While the majority of states already had such protections in place, those laws did not apply to self-insured plans, which are often offered by large employers. The health law extended the rules to all new plans. Proponents say direct access makes it easier for women to seek not only reproductive health care, but also related screenings for such things as high blood pressure or cholesterol.

AND WHAT ABOUT THOSE THERAPY COVERAGE ASSURANCES FOR FAMILIES WHO HAVE KIDS WITH AUTISM?

Advocates for children with autism and people with degenerative diseases argued that many insurance plans did not provide care their families needed. That’s because insurers would cover rehabilitation to help people regain functions they had lost, such as walking again after a stroke, but not care needed to either gain functions patients never had, such speech therapy for a child who never learned how to talk, or to maintain a patient’s current level of function. The law requires plans to offer coverage for such treatments, dubbed habilitative care, as part of the essential health benefits in plans sold to individuals and small groups.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. This story from HKN is published under a Creative Commons license.

RESISTANCE: List of protests against inauguration of Donald Trump

The number of protests before, during and after the inauguration of Donald Trump continues to increase.

More than 30 groups have applied for permits to protest in Washington, D.C.

Protests also will be taking place in cities across the nation, including in multiple sites on multiple dates in Wisconsin.

Civil rights attorneys in Washington on Jan. 5 declared victory after the National Park Service announced it would be issuing permits soon, particularly for the Ellipse near the White House.

The park service typically reserves space on and around the National Mall for use by the Presidential Inaugural Committee. But attorneys representing protesters said the agency went too far this time in blocking access to public space. And they had threatened to sue if permits weren’t granted.

Attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard called the park service announcement “a significant victory for free speech.”

A look at protest plans…

Women’s March on Washington

The Washington Metropolitan Police Department already has issued a permit for the  Women’s March on Washington, which takes place Jan. 21 — the day after the inauguration.

Police expect 200,000 participants for the event, which will start near the Capitol. Marchers will walk along Independence Avenue to Constitution Avenue — and more details are being worked out.

Roundtrip bus rides to and from the event are available, including from  Madison, Green Bay, Stevens Point and Eau Claire. Coaches from Milwaukee also were booked.

Here’s the statement from the march organizers:

On Jan. 21, we will unite in Washington, D.C., for the Women’s March on Washington. We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.

The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us — women, immigrants of all statuses, those with diverse religious faiths particularly Muslim, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native and Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, the economically impoverished and survivors of sexual assault. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.

In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice.

For more information about the Women’s March on Washington, go to womensmarch.com.

Sister solidarity marches

Women’s marches on Jan. 21 also will take place in many other cities in the United States, including in Madison.

The Madison action will take place noon-5 p.m., with demonstrators gathering at Library Mall and marching to the state Capitol.

For more on the Women’s March on Madison, go to facebook.com/events/361478110866299

Women’s March on Chicago

In the Midwest, the largest women’s march will take place in Chicago on Jan. 21.

March organizer Liz Radford, in a release from the ACLU, said, “We are marching to voice protests and concerns because our rights, safety and values are at stake. The mission of this march is to connect, protect and activate in our communities. … We are varied races, ethnicities, ages, religions, sexual identities, economic situations, politics and countless other diversities, and we will share space on Jan. 21 to protect our rights and our humanity.”

The march is expected to begin at about 10 a.m. in Grant Park.

For more about the Women’s March on Chicago, go to womens121marchonchicago.org or facebook.com/womensmarchonchicago.

#HereToStay immigrant rights actions

Nationwide rallies in support of immigrant rights will be staged in more than 20 states Jan. 14 in a show of resistance against Trump’s harsh rhetoric about Mexicans, Latin Americans, Muslims and others.

Organizers describe the rallies as “a mass mobilization of allies set to build community, celebrate our immigrant heritage and defiantly pledge to protect immigrants, Muslims and refugees from hateful attacks and policies.”

As many as 5,000 people are expected to participate in the Milwaukee action coordinated by Voces de la Frontera .

Protesters will gather at about 11 a.m. Voces de la Frontera, 1027 S. Fifth St., Milwaukee, and then march to the Milwaukee County Courthouse, where a rally will take place.

Buses will bring demonstrators from Madison and Racine.

Participating groups in Milwaukee include United We Dream, Center for Community Change, Fair Immigration Reform Movement, Service Employees International Union, America’s Voice Education Fund, American Federation of Teachers, MoveOn.org, Planned Parenthood, Color of Change and National Domestic Workers Alliance.

For more about the march and the rally, go here.

Earth2Trump roadshow

Hundreds of people in Oakland and Seattle this week kicked off the cross-country Earth2Trump roadshow.

The two-route, 16-stop tour is building a network of resistance againstTrump’s attacks on the environment and civil rights.

The shows include live music, national and local speakers and a chance for participants to write personalized Earth2Trump messages that will be delivered to Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day.

The Center for Biological Diversity is organizing the shows in coordination with groups around the country.

The central tour travels by train. One stop, in Portland, Oregon, featured Portland singer Mic Crenshaw and American Indian storyteller Si Matta, who was part of the water-protector occupation at Standing Rock.

The southern tour that began in Oakland will be in Los Angeles on Thursday from 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. at Global Beat Multicultural Center. The show features Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis Rodriguez and musicians Casey Neill and Allyah.

For more on the tours, see a map at www.Earth2Trump.org or follow the tours on social media at #Earth2Trump.

Occupy the Inauguration!

At 2 p.m. Jan. 20, demonstrators in Madison will stage Resist Trump—Occupy the Inauguration! at Library Mall in the 700 block of State Street on the UW campus.

An announcement said demands include “No border wall. Stop the deportations of undocumented immigrants. Tax rich millionaires like Trump. Fund health care for all. Make college free. Black Lives Matter! End rape culture. Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline! Green jobs now!”

The demonstration is sponsored by the Madison Socialist Alternative.

For more details, email madison@socialistalternative.org.

Candlelight vigil

Activists are organizing a candlelight vigil for 7 p.m. Jan.  20 at the intersection of Lake and State streets in Madison. Plans include a march and a program. Organizers ask people to bring flashlights for the vigil, called to denounce “despicable acts of bigotry, hatred, prejudice and xenophobia.”

Day Against Denial Rally Milwaukee

On Jan. 9, demonstrators will gather at 5:30 p.m. the federal courthouse, 517 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, for the Day Against Denial Rally.

Actions are taking place across the country to protest Donald Trump’s cabinet choices — specifically Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, Scott Pruitt for EPA administrator, Rick Perry for energy secretary and Ryan Zinke for the Interior Department.

An announcement for the Milwaukee protest said, “The climate is changing and anyone who denies it shouldn’t be in the White House cabinet. It’s up to the Senate to stop these nominations — and up to us to show up in person to tell our senators to fight Trump’s climate-denial cabinet.”

For more information, email organizer Mark Haag of 350 Milwaukee at marklhaag@yahoo.com.

Day Against Denial Rally and March Madison

In Madison, the rally and march to protest Trump’s cabinet choices will be at 4:30 p.m. beginning near the old MATC building, 200 Wisconsin Ave.

After the action, activists will gather for a potluck supper at the Friends Meetinghouse, 1704 Roberts Court.

For more, email Nick Berigan at nberigan@gmail.com.

Coast to Coast ‘OurFirst Stand’ protests.

UPDATED: More than a dozen rallies have been scheduled from coast to coast on Jan. 15 — and more are being planned — in a major show of grassroots support for critical health care programs under assault by Republicans in the new session of Congress.

The nationwide day of action — “Our First Stand: Save Health Care” — is being organized by Senate and House Democratic Leaders Charles E. Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the leader of outreach efforts for Senate Democrats.

Schumer and Sanders will speak at a major event at a United Auto Workers hall in Warren, Michigan. Pelosi will speak at a rally in San Francisco. Other events are set for Chicago, Philadelphia and other cities nationwide. More rallies will be announced in the coming week. (To see the list, click here.)

“The American people will not allow Republicans to throw 30 million Americans off of health insurance, privatize Medicare, make massive cuts in Medicaid, raise the cost of prescription drugs for seniors and, at the same time, provide massive tax breaks to the top 1 percent,” Sanders said.

Despite campaign promises by  Trump not to cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, Senate and House Republicans began in the opening days of the new Congress to take away health insurance for more than 30 million Americans, end Medicare as we know it, threaten nursing home care for seniors, choke off support for Planned Parenthood and jack up prescription drug prices.

“If Mr. Trump allows the Republican Party to go ahead with its plans, it will dismantle the health care system and jeopardize the economic security of millions of Americans,” Sanders said. “Our message to the Republicans is simple and straightforward. You are not going to get away with it. You are not going to punish the elderly, disabled veterans, the children, the sick and the poor while you reward your billionaire friends.”

Health care activists, trade unions, senior citizen groups and others are working to coordinate the rallies on Jan. 15.

No Nukes! No Trump protest

A “Homes Not Bombs” anti-nuclear protest and concert are being organized in Washington, D.C, in advance of the inauguration.

John Penley of North Carolina and Bruce Wright of Florida are organizing the protest Jan. 19 in Washington’s Franklin Square. The organizers have secured a permit for the event in the park and hope to secure permission for overnight camping.

Speakers will include Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, Code Pink activist Medea Benjamin, Col. Ann Wright, attorney Stanley Cohen and others.

Room Full of Strangers will perform.

Looking to spring

Organizing also is taking place for the People’s Climate Mobilization, a major march in Washington, D.C., set for April 29 — the week after Earth Day.

350.org holds a leadership post in organizing the march.

For more about the march, go here.

Editor’s note: This list will be updated as we collect additional information or as more details are provided. Please check back.

If you have details about a protest or other related event, please post a comment to this page or email Lisa Neff at lmneff@www.wisconsingazette.com.

State senator seeks sponsors for non-partisan redistricting bill

State Sen. Dave Hansen is seeking sponsors for legislation to create a non-partisan redistricting process.

Seeking sponsors marks the next step toward introduction of the bill, according to Hansen, a Democrat from Green Bay.

Hansen is a long-time advocate of redistricting reform that would move responsibility from legislators and political parties to the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau.

“Allowing politicians to draw district boundaries makes it too easy for the majority party to gerrymander the maps to their long-term advantage,” Hansen said in a press statement. “And when parties engage in that behavior it is the voters and the people who are hurt because they are no longer able to check extreme behavior by the majority party.”

In 2011 Republican leaders and staff worked in secret outside the Capitol to draw district lines designed to lock in their legislative majorities for ten years or more.

As a result, in the 2012 election Republicans took over 61 percent of the seats in the Assembly despite winning less than 49 percent of the vote.

“Gerrymandering as we are seeing it practiced is a form of cheating,” Hansen said. “Neither political party should be able to lock in their power by creating an unfair advantage in drawing district lines.”

A federal court has ruled the Republican-drafted maps are unconstitutional, drawn with the intent to lock in GOP control of the Senate and Assembly. The case is on track for a U.S. Supreme Court review.

Hansen said making the legislative change is important regardless of the outcome in the court case.

He said, “No one who looks at the evidence objectively is disputing that the maps drawn by Republican leaders are unfair to the voters. If competition is a good thing in other aspects of society then it is good for our political system. And that’s what we want, fair and competitive elections.”

Vowing to jettison Obamacare, Republicans face immediate resistance and risks

The 115th Congress started work Tuesday with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate in agreement on their top priority — to repeal and replace the 2010 health law, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“The Obamacare experience has proven it’s a failure,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at an opening day news conference.

But that may be where the agreement among Republicans ends.

Nearly seven years after its passage, Republicans still have no consensus on how to repeal and replace the measure.

“It is risky business,” said Thomas Miller, a conservative economist and former Capitol Hill aide now at the American Enterprise Institute.

Republicans, he said at a recent AEI forum, are “very good at fire, aim, ready.” But with more than 20 million Americans getting coverage under the law, GOP lawmakers will have to tread carefully, Miller warned. “The hard one is when you’re trying to defuse what’s already been out there, cutting the wires on the bombs sequentially” so as to avoid a messy and destructive explosion.

Republicans are reportedly discussing a range of options for disassembling Obamacare, but analysts who have been involved in the intricacies of health policy for decades warn no replacement strategy will be easy.

The most immediate problem for the GOP is that even with majorities in both chambers of Congress, they do not have the 60 votes needed to overcome Democrats’ objections in the Senate. (There are 52 Republicans in the Senate now.) That means they won’t be able to pass a full repeal of the law on their own and it is unlikely eight Democrats would join to overturn President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.

Even if they did have the votes standing by, they don’t have anything teed up to replace the health law.

“It’s not that Republicans don’t have replace bills. They have a couple dozen,” said Douglas Badger, who oversaw health policy in the White House for President George W. Bush and worked for the Senate GOP leadership prior to that. “The problem is they don’t have consensus,” he said at the AEI forum.

Still, doing nothing, or even waiting, is not an option given that these lawmakers have been vowing to repeal the law almost since the day it passed in 2010.

“You have to pass something,” said Miller, “and whatever you pass you call repeal.”

The leading option under consideration is “repeal and delay.” The idea is to use the budget process to overturn the tax-and-spending parts of the law, but delaying the effective date to buy time for Republicans to agree on a replacement bill.

But there are problems with that strategy. One is political — Democrats are already crying foul.

“It’s not acceptable to repeal the law, throw our health care system into chaos and then leave the hard work for another day,” incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday.

Added Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., “it’s not repeal and delay, it’s repeal and retreat.”

The plan also has raised concerns in the health industry. The goal of delaying the repeal date is to let people who have obtained insurance under the health law keep it while a replacement is formulated. But that is by no means guaranteed.

Insurance analysts have said that any more uncertainty in an already fragile marketplace could easily prompt insurers to leave the individual market, which would put at risk coverage for not just the roughly 10 million people who are purchasing plans there under the health law, but also the roughly 10 million people who previously had individual policies. (Another 10 million people have gained coverage under the health law through an expanded Medicaid program for those with low incomes.)

Without specific help for insurers from Congress, which would likely include insurance payments Republicans have called bailouts, “the market will begin to crumble” quickly, said Robert Reischauer, former president of the Urban Institute.

House Majority Leader McCarthy told reporters Tuesday that “no decisions have been made yet” on how Republicans might want to help stabilize the insurance market while they seek a replacement plan.

The individual insurance market could also be rattled if the incoming Trump administration decides not to appeal a lawsuit brought by congressional Republicans who argued that the Obama administration was illegally using money to pay insurers to subsidize health costs for some low-income customers buying individual plans on the health law’s marketplaces. If the new administration bows out of the suit and those subsidies, insurers would not get reimbursed for the expenses, and some analysts predict it could force companies to leave the market.

On the other hand, attempting to repeal and replace the law in a single bill also could pose problems.

Repealing and replacing together “looks less like repealing than fixing,” said Badger. “That could cause some angst” among the GOP base that wants Obamacare to be fully eliminated.

And Democrats point out that Republicans are equally guilty of overpromising the benefits of overhauling the health care system, albeit in a very different way.

The goals currently being talked about by Republicans — including making health care more affordable, covering more people, reducing government spending and giving states more flexibility — “are impossible to achieve,” within acceptable GOP budget limits, said Reischauer at the AEI event. “There are going to have to be some tradeoffs,” he said, as Democrats found when they tried to accomplish roughly those same goals.

Made available from Kaiser Health News under a creative commons agreement. KHN is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

House Republicans change course on gutting ethics board

House Republicans, under pressure from President-elect Donald Trump, Democrats and good-government watchdogs, reversed course on a plan to gut an independent ethics board, according to a report from The AP.

The reversal came as representatives came together for the first day of the 115th Congress.

House Republicans had come under attack from Democrats, watchdog groups and also Trump over a secretive move to place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under their control.

One vocal critic was U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., who said the “effort to take all investigative and oversight authority away from the independent Office of Congressional Ethics was a shameful first action for the new Congress.”

In an emergency meeting, faced with criticism, House Republicans voted to undo the change.

“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority,” was the statement on Trump’s Twitter account.

Congress should be focused on tax reform and health care, the statement said, and there was a reference to draining the swamp.

“We were elected on a promise to drain the swamp and starting the session by relaxing ethics rules is a very bad start,” GOP Rep. Tom McClintock of California said, according to the AP.

Republican  Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma: “People didn’t want this story on opening day.”

The ethics office was created in 2008 after several bribery and corruption cases in the House.

Regarding Republicans’ amendment dealing with the ethics office, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., had issued this statement defending the move: “After eight years of operation, many members believe the Office of Congressional Ethics is in need of reform to protect due process and ensure it is operating according to its stated mission. I want to make clear that this House will hold its members to the highest ethical standards and the Office will continue to operate independently to provide public accountability to Congress. The Office will continue to be governed by a bipartisan independent outside board with ultimate decision-making authority. The Office is still expected to take in complaints of wrongdoing from the public. It will still investigate them thoroughly and independently. And the outside board will still decide whether or not evidence exists to warrant a full investigation by the House Ethics Committee. With the amendment adopted last night, the bipartisan, evenly-divided House Ethics Committee will now have oversight of the complaints office. But the Office is not controlled by the Committee, and I expect that oversight authority to be exercised solely to ensure the Office is properly following its rules and laws, just as any government entity should. I have made clear to the new Chair of the House Ethics Committee that it is not to interfere with the Office’s investigations or prevent it from doing its job. All members of Congress are required to earn the public’s trust every single day, and this House will hold members accountable to the people.”

Kind stated, “I am glad my colleagues realized this mistake and decided not to pursue the change. At a time when the people of Wisconsin have lost trust in Washington further weakening transparency and accountability for members of Congress is not the way to rebuild that trust. I will continue to stand up for Wisconsinites by fighting against any future attempts to limit the transparency and accountability of government.”