Tag Archives: wisconsin governor scott walker

Walker hints at lawsuit over Obama’s executive actions on guns

President Barack Obama’s plan to tighten restrictions on gun sales brought praise from Democrats in Wisconsin’s congressional delegation and accusations of executive overreaching from Gov. Scott Walker.

The president, on Jan. 5, detailed his plans to curb gun violence in America and offered his reasoning for taking executive action — Congress’ inability or unwillingness to act.

Central to the president’s 10-point plan is new federal guidance on who is in the business of selling firearms and who must acquire a license to sell guns. The president wants to close a loophole that allows dealers and buyers to avoid background checks in the retailing of guns online and at shows and flea markets.

The president also wants federal agencies to research technologies to reduce accidental shootings, increase funding for mental health care, implement procedures to better track lost or stolen guns and hire more federal examiners to conduct background checks.

“This is not going to solve every violent crime in this country,” said Obama, who wiped away tears as he spoke at the White House on Jan. 5. But the executive actions could “save lives and spare families the pain of these extraordinary losses.”

Walker, who has signed legislation weakening Wisconsin’s gun restrictions, suggested the state likely will sue over Obama’s executive actions. The Republican governor said he asked the attorney general to review the president’s plan and accused Obama of “disregarding the constitutional principles of separation of powers and exceeding his authority as chief executive.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, said the courts or voters would undo the president’s actions. “No matter what President Obama says, his word does not trump the Second Amendment,” Ryan said. “We will conduct vigilant oversight. His executive order will no doubt be challenged in the courts. Ultimately, everything the president has done can be overturned by a Republican president, which is another reason we must win in November.”

From Wisconsin’s Democratic leaders, there was praise for the presidential action.

State Rep. Chris Taylor of Madison said executive action is “desperately needed to stem the tidal wave of gun violence and deaths.”

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, welcomed “this practical and measured response to the ongoing inaction in the House and Senate that has compromised the safety of communities across the United States.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said Congress should build upon the president’s actions.

“Instead of Congress holding moments of silence on the House floor, we need moments of action to reduce the senseless gun violence that is rampant in our communities,” said Pocan, who supports the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, which would expand the background check program.

Reaction to Scott Walker’s fadeaway

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dropped out of the race for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, the second Republican to do so in the last month. Reaction to Walker’s quick fade from the polls and exit from the race…

Regan Page of the progressive American Bridge Bridge Project: Scott Walker was the Kochs’ chosen one, the King of Kochworld. The Kochs hand-picked Walker because of his deep commitment to putting the Kochs’ self-enriching agenda ahead of everything else. On nearly every single issue, Walker was the Kochs’ model candidate. Whether it was attacking health care reform, slashing funding for education, working to disenfranchise voters, or hurting working families, when the Kochs said jump, Scott Walker said, ‘How high?’ While the Kochs won’t get a return on their investment under a President Walker, the rest of the GOP field is just as cozy with the Kochs and committed to moving the billionaires’ self-interested, profit-maximizing agenda forward.

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera Action in Wisconsin: The country has been spared. Voters have seen Governor Walker for what he is: someone you can’t trust because he constantly shifts with the political winds. His last-ditch effort to bolster his support by promising to attack workers’ rights nationwide failed. We know that equally dangerous candidates continue to incite bigotry and promote economic policies that will only widen the gap between the haves and have-nots. 2016 is critical for our state and nation, and everyone who has the right to vote must use it.

Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO: The American people have unmistakably rejected Scott Walker’s anti-union brand. Scott Walker doubled down on anti-worker policies that have failed in Wisconsin and his poll numbers tanked.  Americans understand that in order to restore balance to our economy and sustain a thriving middle class we need unions.

Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO: Scott Walker didn’t realize that in America, we believe that working people have the right to come together, join together and negotiate with one voice for fair wages, decent benefits and a better life.  Now that Walker’s national ambitions have crashed and burned, we call on Governor Walker to move beyond the myopic anti-worker agenda that brought him his fifteen minutes of fame and get back to the job he was elected to do — creating real opportunities for the people of Wisconsin.

Editor’s note: This story is developing as we collect more reaction to the development.

Scott Walker says Nikki Haley asked him to hold back opinion on Confederate flag removal

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said on June 24 that he didn’t initially offer his opinion on whether the Confederate flag should be taken down from the Capitol grounds in South Carolina because Gov. Nikki Haley asked him to hold off speaking about it.

Haley’s spokeswoman Chaney Adams confirmed the two Republicans spoke over the weekend, but he did not say that Haley asked Walker not to comment.

Walker called Haley on June 20 to check in and let her know he was getting questions about the flag, Adams said. Haley told Walker that she had a plan to handle it and that it was important that the movement come from inside the state and not outside, Adams said.

The flag’s placement on the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse became a topic of debate after Dylann Roof, 21, was accused of shooting nine parishioners during a Bible study meeting in a historic African-American church in Charleston.

The suspect held the Confederate flag in a photograph on a website and displayed the flags of defeated white-supremacist governments in Africa on his Facebook page.

Walker on June 20, after speaking to religious conservatives in Washington, told reporters that the debate over whether the flag ought to remain on public land in South Carolina should be at the state level.

“I just think before I or anyone else weighs in on anything to do with policy, whether it’s this or any other policy decisions, we should honor the dead and the families by allowing them to bury their loved ones,” Walker went on to say. “And then you could perfectly ask me that question at some point in the next week or two when that’s done.”

Walker was criticized for not taking a position on whether the flag should stay or go.

On June 22, after Haley called for removing the flag, Walker said on Twitter that he was glad Haley was taking that position and he supported her.

“She asked me to wait,” Walker claimed. “I was fully prepared to say that it’s a state issue, but if it were me I would take it down. But I waited until she had a chance to get out front.”

Stop playing politics with women’s health

As a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist for 40 years, I have dedicated my life to making women and families healthier. This commitment makes it all the more disheartening and disturbing to see Gov. Scott Walker commit to signing a ban on abortion that will put women’s health and safety at risk.

Abortion bans are opposed by the medical community, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association, because they interfere with patient/physician trust and they prohibit women from making private, personal medical decision — even women facing medically complex pregnancies or those whose pregnancy will not survive.

Throughout my career, I’ve provided health care for thousands of women and families and have delivered thousands of babies. Unfortunately, not every pregnancy ends the way a family hopes. Miscarriage, pregnancy complications that threaten a woman’s health and life and fetal anomalies not compatible with life do occur. In these very difficult instances, a woman should have access to all medical options, including safe pregnancy termination.

Only women and doctors — not politicians — should have authority to make these deeply personal medical decisions.

Unlike politicians, who are often working in their best interest, I am trained and obligated to act on behalf of my patients’ best interests. The argument for abortion bans is not based on sound science and is an attempt to prescribe how physicians should care for their patients. Abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy is rare, but when it occurs, it’s often the kind of situation where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available.

Despite political efforts to restrict access, abortion remains a legal medical procedure — and it is safe because it is legal. Abortion is subject to rigorous safety standards and research is constantly evolving best practices and regulation at the local, state and national levels. Physicians who provide abortion services adhere to strict medical standards based on recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

But politicians in Wisconsin keep intruding into our doctors’ offices. They make laws that ignore sound science, best practices and the recommendations of doctors like me.

Walker’s vow to take away women’s access to safe and legal abortion in difficult medical situations is dangerous. It would interfere with my ability to provide medical care in the best interest of my patients. It won’t make abortion go away, it will just make it dangerous.

As a physician, I must speak up to provide the expertise that lawmakers lack. I urge other medical professionals to join me in illuminating the facts before the Legislature overreaches even further into our field.

Dr. Doug Laube is former chair of the UW Medical School Obstetrics Department, former chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health and former president of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Walker Watch: The one where his aide quits after a day

Walker communications aide quits after a day

After drawing criticism from the head of the Iowa Republican Party for questioning the state’s early role in the presidential nominating process, an aide to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s national political operation resigned. She’d been on the job for a day.

Veteran Republican strategist Liz Mair told The Associated Press that she was leaving due to the distraction she created by a series of Twitter posts about Iowa’s presidential caucuses. A former consultant to ex-Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Mair was tapped to lead Walker’s online communication efforts.

“The tone of some of my tweets concerning Iowa was at odds with that which Gov. Walker has always encouraged in political discourse,” Mair said in a statement announcing her immediate resignation. “I wish Gov. Walker and his team all the best.”

Mair had been the latest political operative hired to join Walker’s growing political operation as he ramps up for a 2016 presidential bid. While Wisconsin lawmakers are mired in budget negotiations intensified by a $2.3 billion budget shortfall Walker created, he appears to be spending most of his time traveling to early states in the presidential nominating process. 

In January, Mair took to Twitter to complain about an event in the state hosted by Iowa Congressman Steve King, a favorite of the GOP’s far-right flank.

“In other news, I see Iowa is once again embarrassing itself, and the GOP, this morning. Thanks, guys,” Mair wrote and later added, “The sooner we remove Iowa’s front-running status, the better off American politics and policy will be.”

In other Walker news…

• CAMPAIGN OVER CAMPUS: Walker’s sons plan to skip college in the fall to campaign for their dad, who is organizing for 2016. Walker, who did not finish college, announced his 19- and 20-year-old sons plan to ditch school while campaigning in New Hampshire. “They twisted our arms to figure out a way to maybe take part of a semester off next year, next fall, to come to New Hampshire, to come around the country and talk to young people like themselves,” Walker said.

• EASY WALKER: The governor, after speaking at a tourism conference in the early primary state, said he hopes to cross New Hampshire on his Harley. East to west, the state is about 65 miles wide.

• JIBJAB: Republican presidential hopefuls George Pataki and Lindsey Graham, on the circuit in New Hampshire, poked fun at Walker and others making obvious plans to seek the nomination. Graham, referring to Walker’s attacks on public and private employee unions, said at a forum, “Any Democrats here? You better be glad Scott Walker’s not here, because he would beat you up.”

• TAXING BUDGET: An analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau determined that Walker’s state budget would raise taxes and fees by $48 million. The report also showed that Walker proposals to bolster tax collection would bring in nearly $125 million in additional revenue over the next two years.

• NO APPEAL: The Wisconsin Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal filed by a former aide to Walker when he was Milwaukee county executive. Kelly Rindfleisch appealed her conviction for misconduct in office, but the Supreme Court declined to take it. Rindfleisch was one of six people convicted as a result of a now-concluded John Doe investigation focusing on activities in Walker’s county executive office. 

Walker dismantles care systems

While Gov. Scott Walker struts around the country campaigning for president, bombshells from his proposed state budget continue to shred the lives and hopes of millions of Wisconsinites.

The latest example of reckless overreach by Walker is his proposal to overhaul the state’s long-term care system for people with disabilities and the elderly. It had the usual elements of “shock and awe.” It forecloses public input, regional control and transparency. It rewards campaign contributors and destroys an effective public service that was decades in the making.

Changes in the long-term care system came as a complete shock to everyone involved. People with disabilities, the elderly and their loved ones, caregivers, health providers, managed care organizations, advisory bodies, the state’s Division of Long Term Care and even Walker’s own Secretary of Health Services Kitty Rhoades were blindsided by the proposed changes.

Rhoades insisted that the changes — which she could not enumerate — were all for the best and that the details would be worked out during negotiations with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The feds cover 58 percent of the costs of Wisconsin’s Medicaid program.

Meanwhile, Rhoades abruptly canceled meetings of the state’s Long Term Care Advisory Council. The council is made up of consumers, administrators and service providers. Walker is not interested in their input. He is dictating the terms and has the votes in the GOP-controlled Legislature to have his way.

The current long-term care system took years of development and is based on active input from the individuals whose lives are most impacted. The programs are cost-effective, outcomes are good, satisfaction levels are high (an astonishing 95–97 percent), and the regional managed care organizations have won respect for their responsiveness and accountability. 

Among dozens of dastardly deeds, Walker’s budget eliminates IRIS, a program that allows consumers to choose their own caregivers and support services within their allotted budget. Self-determination and independent living have been central goals of the disability rights movement. Just as those values have finally made inroads into changing the traditional top-down, medical model of long- term care, Walker is kicking them to the curb.

A $19 million cut to Personal Services translates to 1 million fewer hours of personal care for our elderly and disabled neighbors.

Leave it to Scott Walker: not only do his policies threaten the welfare and self-determination of our most vulnerable citizens, they also destroy jobs. The budget eliminates the eight long-term care districts and requires Managed Care Organizations to provide services statewide. This opens the door to contracts with big national insurers — no doubt, campaign contributors — displacing the regional MCOs that have built trust with consumers. More than 3,000 local jobs could be lost.

Big insurers will direct care with all their usual restrictions and arbitrary decisions. Changes in doctors and caregivers will be traumatic for elderly and disabled people. The budget also removes legislative oversight of Medicaid programs. Public oversight is being handed over to the state commissioner of insurance. How convenient.

Walker is like the proverbial bull in the china shop, wiping out valuable assets Wisconsinites have built over many years — worker protections, our university system, natural resources and, now, a long-term care system considered a model for the nation. It will take generations to undo the damage.

For a detailed summary of disability-related impacts and information on public hearings on the budget, go to http://www.disabilityrightswi.org/archives/4867

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Protesters rally again against right-to-work bill

Thousands of Wisconsin union workers rallied at the Capitol Saturday to protest a “right-to-work” proposal that would outlaw the mandatory payment of union dues, but the crowd was much smaller than those in 2011 against Gov. Scott Walker’s law stripping public sector unions of much of their power.

Speakers at the event jeered Walker’s comment earlier in the week that fighting against protesters during the 2011 debates prepared him to battle terrorists as president. Walker has not yet announced his presidential campaign, but is expected to do so later this year.

“What we are doing here today is the heart and soul of democracy, not terrorism,” said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of Wisconsin AFL-CIO.

Protesters held signs that said “This union grandma is not the same as ISIS” and “We are mad as h(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) but we are peaceful.”

Bretta Schmidt, a nurse at Meriter Hospital in Madison held a sign that said “I’m a nurse, not a terrorist.” Schmidt said she protested Act 10 in 2011 and crowds Saturday could not compare.

“We feel defeated,” she said. “We know this is going to pass.”

A spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Administration, Cullen Werwie, said between 2,500 and 3,000 people gathered at the Capitol on Feb. 28.

There were about 2,000 there for rallies earlier in the week.

During the Act 10 debates in 2011, an estimated 100,000 people turned out for protests at the Capitol.

Wisconsin Senate passes right-to-work bill, protests continue

For two straight days this week, 2,000 union members converged on Wisconsin’s Capitol to rally against a new right-to-work bill, chanting, marching and hurling profanities at GOP lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker.

The tone of the rallies has been bitter and angry but hasn’t come close to matching the energy that coursed through the building four years ago during massive protests against Walker’s proposal to strip public workers of most of their union rights. This time around, union members said Republicans are moving too fast to organize large crowds. Some have even conceded it’s a lost cause and the governor is bound to score another victory against organized labor.

“People are tired,” said Gerry Miller, a 44-year-old welder from Milwaukee and United Steelworkers member who joined Wednesday’s rally. “You do have a moral base that feels helpless.”

The dynamics of the right-to-work fight are very different than the 2011 battle.Republicans who control the Legislature are moving at lightning-speed to get the bill through to Walker. They introduced the measure late last week, and the Senate passed it Feb. 25, making it difficult for unions to mobilize large-scale protests during the work week.

In 2011, public unions had weeks to organize and hold daily rallies against what became known as Act 10 because minority Democrats in the Senate decided to flee to Illinois in an ultimately futile attempt to block a vote in that chamber.

The Senate needed a quorum to vote on Act 10 because it had a fiscal effect on the state, a requirement Republicans eventually got around by stripping the fiscal elements out of the measure so they could pass it without the Democrats. Leaving the state wouldn’t help Democrats this time. The right-to-work bill has no state fiscal effect.

“(Republicans have) gotten smarter,” said Perry Kettner, leader of the Milwaukee and Madison Allied Printing Trades Council. “They’re trying to push it through quickly when people can’t come in. On a weekend when workers get out of the factories, they’d be here.”

Twenty-four states already have enacted right-to-work laws, which generally prohibit businesses and private-sector unions from mandating workers pay union dues regardless of whether they’re union members. The laws don’t restrict unions’ bargaining powers like Act 10 did.

There’s an air of inevitability hanging heavy over this fight as well. Republicans have the votes to pass it in the Assembly following its clearing the Senate, and Walker, who is mulling a 2016 presidential bid, has said he’ll sign it into law.

“You fight the good fight against Walker and he beats you,” Seth Markgraf, a 34-year-old construction worker from Arlington who belongs to construction-trade union LIUNA’s Local 113 Milwaukee chapter. “They beat us in the recall and they beat us in another general election. It’s just apathy. How do we beat Scott Walker?”

Miller acknowledged the bill will pass, which means unions will have no choice but to work harder to convince people to join them.

“We start again with what other right-to-work states have done – explain why it’s important to be a member,” he said. “We have a whole other agenda now.”

Wisconsin teacher of the year calls out Walker over comments

A former Wisconsin teacher of the year criticized likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker in an open letter this week, saying he’s misrepresenting the facts when telling an anecdote about a laid-off teacher.

The Republican Wisconsin governor recently defended his telling of the story, which he’s repeated many times and wrote about in his 2013 book, saying he’s been “very clear” in how he’s described what happened to the teacher.

Claudia Klein Felske posted recently on Marquette University’s College of Education blog that she was “surprised” and “bewildered” to hear Walker tell Iowa conservatives last month the story of how the 2010 teacher of the year had lost her job.

Felske was the 2010 high school teacher of the year, one of four teachers given the prestigious award by the state superintendent and recognized at a Capitol ceremony, and was not laid off.

Walker has frequently told the story of how “outstanding teacher of the year” Megan Sampson lost her job in 2010. The governor cites it as an example of what he called a broken system that he fixed by effectively ending collective bargaining for teachers and other public workers.

Sampson actually won the Nancy Hoefs Memorial Award, given by the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English for first-year language arts teachers. And while she was laid off in June 2010 from a job in Milwaukee, she was hired by another nearby district for a job that following fall.

Walker wrote about Sampson in his 2013 book “Unintimidated” and clearly identified her as “the outstanding first-year teacher by the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English.” But during a conservative summit last month in Iowa that attracted other potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates he described Sampson as “the outstanding teacher of the year in my state.”

That comment spurred Felske’s letter to Walker.

Walker, in a recent conference call with reporters in London where he was on a trade mission, called controversy over how he describes the award Sampson won a “petty distinction.”

“It’s very clear I’ve talked about this many times,” Walker said.

Felske wrote to Walker that he should not have blamed the seniority system under union contracts for Sampson’s layoff and that instead he “should have done some serious soul searching” over the impact of funding cuts he supported for public K-12 schools, technical colleges and the University of Wisconsin System in 2011 had in leading to Samson’s layoff.

Sampson’s layoff, however, preceded Walker’s election as governor.

Walker said those complaining over the teacher of the year distinction are “trying to redirect where the facts are.”

Sacrificing common-sense for ideology

Gov. Scott Walker’s brazen attempt to delete “truth” and “public service” from the Wisconsin Idea tells us everything we need to know about Walker, his administration, the GOP Legislature, their fat cat donors and their own perverted ideas for Wisconsin.

Since his first state budget in 2011, Walker has targeted public education. Hundreds of millions have been cut from K-12 schools, technical colleges and the university system. This attack is part of a decades-long campaign to defund public education through budget cuts, tuition freezes and transfers of tax dollars to vouchers for private schools, many of them religious.

The $300-million cut to the UW system will damage lives and communities. Jobs will be lost. Classes will be canceled. Education will be disrupted and delayed. Good professors will leave the system. Research will be curtailed and business ideas and startups will be hampered. 

It used to be a no-brainer that investment in education pays off, especially in our competitive, globalized economy. But common sense is being sacrificed to an all-encompassing ideology of “starving the beast” — shrinking government “to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub” in the infamous words of right-wing strategist Grover Norquist.

Despite the dreams of free market purists, the public sector has been the most stable part of our economy. Dismantling it is accelerating the destruction of the middle class. Where will we be when government is rendered impotent and we are all forced to rely solely on the instabilities and chicanery of private industry?

Other Walker proposals show clearly where we’re headed. His budget cuts 18.4 scientific positions from the Department of Natural Resources. These are the scientists who conduct the vital field research used to shape Wisconsin’s environmental, land and wildlife management policies. 

Science in the public interest be damned! The age of de-regulation has arrived. Let the land grabs and abuse of our environment commence!

Meanwhile, Ashley Furniture, which faces millions in federal fines for workplace safety violations, is poised to get $6.7 million in tax credits from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. WEDC, a public-private hybrid that replaced the state Commerce Department, is supposed to create new jobs in Wisconsin. But audits reveal that WEDC does not account for the millions it disburses to private companies and fails to record the number of jobs created.

Ashley, responsible for more than 1,000 work-related injuries — over 1,000! — at its plant in Trempealeau County, is getting a real sweetheart deal. For the $6.7 million in corporate welfare, it doesn’t even have to create any new jobs.

All of this gives credence to the idea that corporate tycoons, aided by their political and media hit men, are destroying public oversight and education to consolidate wealth and property and to create a more compliant population that will shut up and take orders. 

It is encouraging that some business owners joined with academics and students to protest Walker’s cuts to the UW system. Yet, I wonder where all these people were during the 2014 election. It was pretty obvious then what radical moves the governor was committed to taking.

I guess the threat doesn’t seem real until it’s you and your livelihood or education being attacked. We need to start feeling greater solidarity with others and asserting ourselves through political action if we are to stop what amounts to a corporate coup in our formerly progressive state.