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Week in review: Partisan politics at play in WI

By   /   January 27, 2012  /   1 Comment

By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — Partisan discord was on full display this week in Wisconsin government.

The Assembly passed mine-permitting legislation without a single vote from Democrats on Thursday, the same day more John Doe charges were filed.

Gov. Scott Walker gave his State of the State address among GOP cheers and protesters’ “boos.”

And more action occurred on the recall elections, one of the clearest symbols of antipathy toward election officials. 

Mining bill marches forward

Controversial legislation that could open the door to a projected $1.5 billion iron ore mine in northern Wisconsinpassed the Assembly on Thursday on a party-line vote. 

Assembly Bill 426, meant to streamline the state Department of Natural Resources permit process, passed with 59 Republicans approving, and 36 Democrats opposing.

Proponents said the legislation removes unnecessary bureaucracy in the mine-permitting process and will bring much-needed jobs to the state. 

Gogebic Taconite LLC has proposed an open-pit, iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties, a project the company projects will create 2,800 jobs.

“Today’s vote makes it crystal clear that Assembly Democrats are not and never have been serious about creating jobs,” Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said in a statement. “Instead, they are more interested in protecting the special interests that help them get elected.”

Democrats charge that the bill does too little to protect the natural environment, and Republicans have let other job-creating bills languish.

“The bill that they have before us, I doubt, will get any Democratic votes, because there’s too many questions about whether we can protect the drinking water and other environmental concerns,” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said Wednesday night.

The bill now moves to the state Senate, where Republicans hold a 17-16 majority.

That chamber has formed a special committee intended to draft mining legislation, but has yet to produce a mining bill.

State of the State is division

Walker delivered his second State of the State address Wednesday, amid cheers from Republicans, boos from protesters and stone-faced silence form Democrats. 

“We’re turning things around; we’re heading in the right direction,” Walker said, noting that the state has added “thousands” of jobs over the past year, fixed a $3.6 billion budget gap and bolstered Medicaid funding by $1.2 billion, all while cutting property taxes and avoiding public employee job cuts.

And, Walker said, the administration and Republicans did it without budget tricks.

The speech comes nearly a year after he introduced collective-bargaining limitations for most public-employees, legislation that is credited for this summer’s recall elections.

Democrats argue that the governor has not lived up to promises to create jobs and has overseen budget cuts that will devastate Wisconsin schools.

“Our state, previously recognized nationally as a public leader in public education, health care and good government, is now polarized and broken,” Barca said in his response to the address.

Amid an environment of recalls, however, there was an indication early Wednesday that Walker — who has been running campaign ads for months — is winning the image war.

A slight majority, 51 percent, approve of Walker, versus 46 percent who disapprove, according to a Marquette Law School poll, in contrast to other polls last year that indicated more people disapproved of Walker than approved.

The poll of 701 Wisconsin registered voters, conducted Jan. 19-22, has a margin of error of 5.7 percent.

More time for recalls

The Government Accountability Board, or GAB, will have more time to validate the estimated 1.9 million recall-petition signatures, a judge ruled this week. 

Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess also extended the time Republicans will have to challenge signatures into next month.

State law provides 10 calendar days for challenges to the signatures, which were delivered Jan. 17 to the GAB.

The GAB, which oversees the state’s elections, will have 61 days — instead of 31 — to complete its unprecedented task of reviewing signatures on recall petitions filed against Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four GOP state senators.

But Niess left the door open to a further extension of the deadline.

“I’m putting everybody on notice that good cause (for further delays) is going to require a higher showing next time,” he said, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Recall-related campaign finance reports, submitted Monday, indicated that Walker has a commanding fundraising lead, with a majority of his recent funding coming from out of state.

State law exempts candidates facing a potential recall from standard campaign-contribution limits, until an election has been ordered.

That enabled the governor to collect $4.5 million since Dec. 10, including $250,000 each from four donors.

Walker’s No. 1 donor, thus far, is Bob Perry,of Houston-based Perry Homes, one of the largest homebuilders in Texas, who has contributed $500,000 to the governor’s campaign since November.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin and liberal political action committee United Wisconsin, who are leading the recall efforts, raised $394,000 and $86,379, respectively, from Dec. 10 through Jan. 17.

John Doe’s net gets wider
The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office has filed charges against two people who worked for Walker when he was the Dane County executive.
Kelly Rindfleisch, who served as deputy chief of staff, faces four felony charges for allegedly campaigning for lieutenant governor candidate Brett Davis, while she was on the county clock.
Darlene Wink faces two misdemeanor charges for allegedly fundraising for Walker while in a county building and using a county computer.
Walker’s campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews responded in a statement that, “The Milwaukee County Executive’s Office expressed policy was that county employees were not permitted to use county time or resources to conduct any political activity. Scott Walker expected everyone to follow the law and made that clear publicly and privately.”

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  • Brad

    I’ve heard conservatives say that the democrats won’t vote for the mining legislation because they don’t want Gov. Walker to get any credit for creating jobs. They are only partially right. The democrats won’t vote for the mining legislation, period. That’s it. They know it will open the door to tons of well paying jobs both at the mines and at the factories in Wisconsin that will build the machines to do the work. But democrats don’t want those jobs to be created. They want the lack of jobs to remain, so they can use it as a platform for their endless “jobs jobs jobs” rhetoric. Another thing, if the republicans have “let other job-creating bills languish”, why did the democrats wait until now to say so? The democrats would’ve been screaming about those “other job-creating bills” all along if what they said was true, and if they really wanted to allow jobs to be created. But, as we all know, democrats don’t speak the truth and they don’t want the jobs to be created. Oh, and this also. If Peter Pan Barca is so worried about drinking water, why doesn’t he say something about the cubic mile of poop that Milw. Metro. Sewerage Dist. dumps into Lake Michigan every year, with the blessing of the long line of democrat Milwaukee mayors including the present goof? Answer: Because Barca doesn’t give a damn about drinking water. Barca cares about the interruption of special interest (union-goons, environmental nut-jobs, etc.) money flowing to him and the rest of the democrat/marxist party. That’s it.