Monday, February 28, 2011

Milwaukee City Attorney: Walker's Bill Likely Unconstitutional

In response to Milwaukee Alderman Joseph Dudzik's request to review the constitutionality of Walker's budget repair bill, Milwaukee City Attorney Grant Langley stated, " our judgement, the courts would find the statute unconstitutional on three grounds..." The letter to Dudzik states that the bill is likely unconstitutional under both the federal and state constitutions.

The first reason the bill may be unconstitutional has to do with the pensions of city employees. Under the state constitution the state cannot create laws that interfere with local city pensions, but Langley believes that is what the budget repair bill does. The other two reasons have to do with the reduction of benefits for public employees. Langley states the reductions are a violation of both federal and state constitutional contract rights.

According to the same BizTimes article, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has sent a letter to Governor Scott Walker requesting that he ask the State Attorney General for an opinion. Barrett states that he is "unconvinced" that the provisions are unconstitutional, but cannot request an opinion himself.

State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is a Republican. So even if Walker follows through with the request, Van Hollen may not opine against the Republican governor.

WI Gov. Scott Walker Sued For Unfair Labor Practices

There's more trouble for the embattled Wisconsin Governor. According to WisPolitics, the "Wisconsin State Employees Union has filed a lawsuit claiming Gov. Scott Walker has committed unfair labor practice by refusing to negotiate with the union and denying collective bargaining rights." I'm surprised it took this long, as Walker himself has admitted that he hasn't negotiated with the unions since taking office, which is required by state law.

Who knows where this will go, but Walker seems to be walking a fine line, if he hasn't already crossed it. I'm sure this is just the beginning of several court cases against Walker, especially if the budget repair bill is passed as is.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are planning to cut off access to copy machines from the offices of the 14 absent Democrat senators, as well as require the majority leader to sign off on their staff's time sheets. This along with trying to deny the senators' paychecks, by requiring the senators to personally pick up their checks. Sounds like the Wisconsin 14 are working, and the Republicans want to stop them.

Capitol Locked Down

According to WisPolitics, no protesters are being let into the Capitol building until those who stayed the night leave. After last evening's events, this is clearly a political stunt. Everyone hold tight, if it's like any of Walker's other stunts it'll be over before you know it.

This only makes sense if they're planning to fully lock the Capitol building from all protesters when the remaining protesters leave. Otherwise, why make the 50 or so left in the building leave only to allow hundreds if not thousands to enter upon their exit?

Update: I got this wrong. The press release from the DOA says that there are several people inside the building who aren't following police direction to move to a designated area. It is until then that no more protesters will be allowed into the building. I'm still not sure why they decided to use such extreme measures. Public hearings have been scheduled but will have to be postponed if the public is not allowed to enter.

Update (2): This still smells fishy. I'm starting to think this is a tactic to make the protesters look bad. Walker may think the news reports will focus on the protesters as the reason for the Capitol building lock-down. I'm not sure what's going on inside, but unless there's a major strategic win by not moving, I would recommend the protesters inside follow the police requests. Keep the negative publicity focused intently where it should be.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wisconsin Police Sleep Among Protesters

Wisconsin Capitol police had announced that they would clear out the Capitol building for cleaning at 4pm this afternoon. This would be the first time the Capitol would be clear since the protests began. However, some protesters had said they would not voluntarily leave the building when asked, leading to possible arrests. So I arrived at the Capitol at about 4pm to show my support and witness anything that might occur.

There was a large crowd gathered at the State Street entrance of the building, chanting things such as "Let us in!" Many volunteers were seen in yellow or orange vests marked "Marshal" who were talking to the police and telling the crowd where they should stand. At one point, several police officers were at the door, and had asked the marshals to make a path through the crowd. However, only a few people exited the building, all without police escort.

After a while the police disappeared inside the building, and word quickly spread that people were leaving the building from another entrance. So we all moved to the other entrance. Again, volunteer marshals were telling people where to stand, making a clear path for those who would be escorted out of the building. We saw a few more people leave, but the crowd dwindled and so did the marshals.

No arrests had been made when I left the Capitol at about 6pm. According to the few people leaving the Capitol building, no one was asked to leave and hundreds of people remained inside. When I got home, I saw the Wisconsin State Journal reported that about 600 people will be allowed to stay the night. The journal reports Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs announced to the protesters inside, "If you're here you can stay." There's no word on exactly why the Capitol wasn't cleared as had been planned.

Apparently, some police officers will be among those staying in the Capitol tonight, which also includes some clergy. The Wisconsin Professional Police Association has been asking its members to sleep at the Capitol with the protesters as a sign of support. Today, hundreds of police marched into the Capitol to show their support and said, "We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today, but we know what's right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!"

Here's a video of the police in the Capitol rotunda today, shot by Ryan Harvey.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Legislative Tricks in the WI Assembly

Finally found a short video clip of the budget repair bill vote early Friday morning that strips rights away from many Wisconsin workers. See for yourself how the Republicans quickly snuck the vote in. You can see they had it planned, as the staff at the front begins to move quickly before anyone appears to know what's going on.

Why did they have to rush the bill through like this if they think it's the right thing to do?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Huge Rally Supporting Wisconsin Workers

Rally To Save The American Dream

Go to the state capitol on Saturday, February 26th at 3pm to show your support for Wisconsin workers and the middle class.

Many different groups are telling people to show up at their state capitols on Saturday to show their support for Wisconsin workers. With so many groups requesting people to come, this rally is bound to be the biggest yet.

The rallies in Madison have been high-spirited, educational, and lots of fun. So bring your family, friends, and neighbors. The rally is set to last all day long. So show your support whenever you can.

Don't forget to wear red and white!

Update: Time changed to 3pm!

Wisconsin Assembly Passes Bill Stripping Rights

The Wisconsin State Assembly just passed the budget repair bill, stripping collective bargaining rights from most public employees. The bill passed on a 51-17 vote after Republicans suddenly stopped debate and moved for a vote.

It happened so fast I nearly missed it, and it looks like so did a lot of the Assembly since 28 members weren't able to get their vote in. The only defectors were four Republicans who voted against the bill. Here's the roll call.

The Democrats introduced many amendments to remove the collective bargaining provisions, but all were tabled by the Republicans. The alternative budget repair bill may have been voted on again, but I didn't see it.

The bill now needs to be passed by the State Senate. So, as long as the Wisconsin 14 stay out of Wisconsin, public employees will keep their collective bargaining rights.

Update: Capitol in uproar. Democrats meeting to discuss options.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Dropkick Murphys Stand with Wisconsin

To show their support for the fight in Wisconsin to keep workers' rights for public employees, the Dropkick Murphys released a song from their new CD early. From the Dropkick Murphys' announcement:

Hey Everyone the Dropkick Murphys would like to take a moment to acknowledge the struggles of the working people of Wisconsin and to pledge our support and solidarity by releasing the song “Take Em Down” from our upcoming album. We think it’s appropriate at the moment and hope you like it.

The Dropkick Murphys Stand With Wisconsin !!!!!

They are also selling "Take 'Em Down" t-shirts to raise money for the Workers' Rights Emergency Response Fund.

Some lyrics from the song:
when the boss comes callin' they'll put us down
when the boss comes callin' gotta stand your ground
when the boss comes callin' don't believe their lies

when the boss comes callin' he'll take his toll
when the boss comes callin' don't you sell your soul
when the boss comes callin' we gotta organize

Here's a YouTube video combining the song with footage of the Madison protests.

Apparently we have to wait until March 1st to buy the song on iTunes. :(

Collective Bargaining Not Feasible? (Part 2)

I would like to continue the discussion from the post, Collective Bargaining Not Feasible?, because Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is standing by his claim that collective bargaining must be stripped for public employees in order to balance the state budget. Given that the unions have conceded all of the financial provisions needed to balance the state budget, what's the argument for stripping these rights?

The only evidence that Walker provides is his own anecdotal evidence from when he was a county executive. He says that negotiating with unions is "difficult," and that stripping collective bargaining rights would help local governments. Walker has added that some local governments have requested the stripping of collective bargaining rights from public employees. However, many local governments have said that they haven't requested Walker strip public employees' right to collectively bargain and that the local governments don't need such an extreme step.

About 300 local Wisconsin governments have signed a petition opposing Walker's budget, saying they oppose the stripping of collective bargaining rights. "Far from being a problem, collective bargaining is part of the solution. We work cooperatively with our employees to solve problems," Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said. The local governments include large (in Wisconsin terms) constituent regions of the state such as La Crosse, Eau Claire, and Oshkosh.

As I stated in the previous post, Wisconsin has had collective bargaining rights for public employees since 1959. We've faced larger budget deficits in the past in which public employees have taken financial concessions to keep the state moving. We've never had to strip collective bargaining rights to balance the budget, because our government leaders have done the difficult task that many business owners do of negotiating with the unions.

The budget is set by our legislators. Public employees have no direct say in the state or other government budgets. So the issues with the budget cannot be the fault of our public employees. Instead, it must be the fault of those who have the power to set the budget, our legislators. If the legislators have issues they feel they can't solve by negotiating, they need to convince their constituents to put pressure on the employees. That's how democracy works. It may be difficult. It may be messy. That's democracy. That's how government has worked in Wisconsin for over 50 years.

Consider a current example. Texas is a Right-To-Work state that doesn't allow collective bargaining for public employees. Yet, Texas has a much larger deficit than Wisconsin. Wisconsin has about a two-year budget deficit of about $3.6 billion, and Texas is looking at a two-year budget deficit of near $27 billion. These are facts provided by the respective states. So, clearly budgets can get out of control whether public employees collectively bargain or not, and Wisconsin is not in nearly as much trouble as other states.

So, history has shown that collective bargaining doesn't destroy governments, our budget issues aren't the fault of our public employees, the public employees have agreed to pay more, and the local governments want to keep collective bargaining for their employees. Why can't our public employees collectively bargain?

It's a serious question that I'm asking.

WI Dems' Budget Saves $11 Million and Unions

The Wisconsin Assembly Democrats introduced an alternative to Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill that removes all policy items from the bill and saves $11 million more than Walker's bill.

The full details of the alternative, including the Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo showing the savings, are on the WisPolitics Budget Blog.

As another show of what this budget repair bill is about, GOP leader Fitzgerald said the Republicans won't vote for the money-saving alternative. The bill would save $11 million more than their bill at a time when everyone agrees we need to save money. However, for some reason this alternative, which saves more money, is somehow not as good. I would like a little explanation, please.

Update: The alternative bill failed on a party-line vote, but the vote has been expunged so that legislators have more time to consider the bill and vote on it again later.

This is the time to contact your representative to tell them how you feel.

WI Gov. Scott Walker Possibly Violating Ethics

John Nichols from the Nation and CapTimes announced tonight on MSNBC's The Ed Show that many of the things Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said in his prank call conversation are being investigated for potential ethics violations. The questions revolve around the relationship between Walker and the Koch brothers. Nichols says we should expect to hear more tomorrow.

According to Nichols, Wisconsin has some of the strictest ethics laws.

I'll post a link to the video when it's posted to MSNBC's website.

Update: I happened to catch the end of the story on a repeat of the show. Now that I've been able to re-watch it, I can add some more information.

The Koch brothers quietly setup a lobbying office in Madison last month.

According to Nichols, former WI AG Peg Lautenschlager "found what she determines to be multiple ethics, election law, and labor law violations, and she will tomorrow morning suggest that the state government accountability board begin to review those ethics violations."

Nichols continues, "The government accountability board is an independent, non-partisan board...without any Republican or Democratic control." In response to whether an investigation will occur Nichols said, "If an ethics complaint is filed they must begin the investigation. The Governor has said things that clearly cross ethical, election law, and labor law lines and must be investigated."

One of the statements in question is Walker's response to the faux David Koch's mention of "vested interest."

KOCH:  Absolutely and you know we have a little bit of vested interest as well.  Ha, ha.  
WALKER:  Well, that’s just it.

The previous post on the prank call highlights other causes for concern.

Update: Nichols may have spoken too soon. The GAB will not investigate ethics violations at this time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Walker Opens Up To Prank Caller

A blogger from the Buffalo Beast called Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker saying he was David Koch. According to the Buffalo Beast article, that's all the blogger needed to do to talk to Walker.

I'm still reading the article, but I wanted to get this out there.

Update: The first thing the prank caller notes is that Walker isn't taking anyone's phone calls. So he decides to see if Walker would answer the call of a Koch brother. Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, Walker made room for Koch in his schedule and took his call. So, apparently Walker won't talk to the public employees, protesters, unions, or Democrats. Walker said on Morning Joe this week that he will not discuss the bill with the Democrats. But Walker will gladly talk to a Koch brother, possibly because they gave $43,000 to Walker's campaign in 2010.

In the conversation Walker discusses how he has thought about planting troublemakers to sway public opinion. "You know, well, the only problem with that [planting troublemakers] - because we thought about that." Walker goes on to say how his "gut reaction" is that if he were to introduce troublemakers it could end up backfiring on him. I can only wish he could come up with other reasons for not planting troublemakers.

Many times in the conversation Walker refers to people who disagree with him as "not one of us." How far does this relationship between Walker and the Koch brothers go? What is Wisconsin's interest in the Koch brothers?

"Koch: Beautiful; beautiful. Gotta crush that union." Not one time does Walker say otherwise, instead he continues on about how he plans to accomplish crushing unions.

Another empty threat: "Walker: …I’ve got layoff notices ready…" - more on that and why it's an empty threat later.

Walker also accepts an invitation for a paid flight from the faux David Koch. From the Buffalo Beast article:

Koch: [Laughs] Well, I tell you what, Scott: once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.
Walker: All right, that would be outstanding.

Update: Here is the full transcript.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

WI Fire Fighters Say Cut Our Pay, Keep Others' Rights

In true Wisconsin fashion, the fire fighters have been standing with the citizens of Wisconsin since the beginning of the protests. Anywhere the fire fighters walk around the Capitol they walk into cheers, and rightfully so. The fire fighters are not under attack by Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill, but they have been standing in solidarity with other Wisconsinites to oppose the stripping of collective bargaining rights from Wisconsin workers.

Now, the fire fighters have taken a much greater step in the effort to save the rights of Wisconsin workers by agreeing to reduce their pay. According to WisPolitics, the President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin said if Walker needs the money to save other employees' rights, they would include themselves in the budget repair bill's financial concessions.

Wow! Everyone who opposes this bill thanks you and the rest of the fire fighters with ever greater appreciation.

I think many police officers may be included in this concession, but I'm not sure. If anyone knows, please tell. I'm sure they would be if they aren't currently, and we thank you, too.

Update: As a reader pointed out, and should have been evident to me, there is no reason for the fire fighters to make any concessions because the other public employees have already agreed to do so. Money is not the issue that stops the passage of Walker's budget repair bill. Still, thanks go out to those workers who would voluntarily take concessions to save others' rights.

Protesters Not From Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's "fireside chat" tonight, Walker said that the protesters are increasingly from out-of-state, as if to say very few protesters are Wisconsin citizens.

Has he looked outside? I'd like to think the Badgers are that popular, but I highly doubt all of that red is from out-of-state.

Does he talk to the people? Anyone walking around the Capitol during the protests talking to the people around them would know nearly everyone is from Wisconsin. I haven't met a person from out-of-state yet, though I have seen them as they were speakers and entertainers.

Does he read the signs? Most of the personally constructed signs I've seen were easy to recognize as Wisconsin-made from what the signs said. Many of the people at the Capitol are local firefighters, teachers, street workers, students, and other concerned citizens.

Collective Bargaining Not Feasible?

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker continues to say that collective bargaining rights must be stripped to balance the budget. However, the only evidence he provides is his own anecdotal evidence from when he was a county executive about how "difficult" it is to bargain with unions. That's not enough evidence to pass any bill, much less a bill that strips people's rights away. So what does the evidence say about the effects of collective bargaining for public employees on the state budget?

Wisconsin has had collective bargaining rights for public employees since 1959. We've faced larger budget deficits in the past in which public employees have taken financial concessions to keep the state moving. We've never had to strip collective bargaining rights to balance the budget, because our government leaders have done the difficult task that many business owners do of negotiating with the unions. Gov. Scott Walker has only held office for a few weeks.  How could he have made a genuine effort to negotiate with the public employees in such little time?

And now that the public employees have agreed to the financial concessions needed to balance the budget, what does stripping collective bargaining rights give our state that we don't already have? I can also ask, what does stripping collective bargaining rights take from Wisconsin?

Go here to see a summary of the history of labor rights in Wisconsin.

Feel free to discuss this in the comments, and I'll revisit this question in the near future.

C-SPAN for Wisconsin

Did you know there's a C-SPAN for Wisconsin? I didn't until last week. It's called WisconsinEye. If you're a Charter cable customer, the channel is 995. If you're a Time Warner Cable customer or have AT&T U-verse, WisconsinEye is not available to you, and you'll probably want to read this. However, on the WisconsinEye website anyone can watch what happens at the Wisconsin State Capitol live as well as previously recorded events.

So, check it out and see what's happening without TV news editing, but beware the politician spin is still there.

(WisconsinEye is not affiliated with C-SPAN, and I'm not affiliated with either.)

Wisconsin Polls Show Strong Majority Oppose Walker

Many people have been talking about the national Rasmussen poll that shows more national voters side with Gov. Scott Walker. However, I've been reminding people that this is Wisconsin, not the nation. The local polls have shown consistent opposition to Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill. We're the people who brought you collective bargaining, and our opinions are the only ones that matter in this case. Now, Nate Silver from FiveThirtyEight says he's skeptical of the Rasmussen poll because of the way in which the questions were asked. So it's clear we should focus more on results from local polling.

Two new local polls have been released since the Rasmussen poll that show strong opposition to Walker's plan in Wisconsin. These polls could be biased as well, but they are fairly consistent with previous local polls. There's a poll released on Monday from Madison public opinion analysts Forward Strategies, and another poll released today from the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. Both polls show that a strong majority oppose Gov. Scott Walker's plan to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights.

The poll commissioned by the state AFL-CIO shows that 52% of Wisconsinites oppose Walker's plan to eliminate people's rights, with 42% supporting the plan. These results are consistent with the majority of local polls I've seen before. We should remember that Walker was elected with 52% of the vote. It's clear, even though Walker says no one should be surprised by his plan, many of us, myself included, are surprised.

The WisPolitics Budget Blog has a good summary of the entire poll with links to the actual poll.

The Forward Strategies poll targeted key Republican Senate districts instead of the entire state. The poll found that over two-thirds of Wisconsinites in those districts think Walker should compromise before stripping public employees of their bargaining rights. This is well outside any margin of error, which was 4.89%, though it was a very small sample with only 400 voters questioned.

The Senate districts that the Forward Strategies poll targeted were:

Rob Cowles, Green Bay
Randy Hopper, Fond du Lac
Dan Kapanke, La Crosse
Luther Olsen, Ripon
Dale Schultz, Richland Center
Sheila Harsdorf, River Falls
Terry Moulton, Chippewa Falls

Tell your Senator how you feel if you are in one of these districts, or anywhere in Wisconsin for that matter.

Law Enforcement Thanks Protesters for Peaceful Protests

With crowds estimated to be well over 60,000 at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison on Saturday, and the first large gathering of budget repair bill supporters, people questioned if the protests would remain peaceful. However, many protesters were carrying signs reminding everyone, "This is a peaceful protest." Even though some people were scared, angry, or worried, and tensions were high, both sides remained peaceful.

The police who were protecting those in and around the Capitol helped in the effort by setting up buffers between the two sides of the debate and escorting the substantially smaller crowd of bill supporters in and out of the Capitol. Many protesters could be seen and overheard thanking the police for their work, and now the police have publicly thanked the protesters for their efforts.

Thanks to protesters on both sides for keeping this debate civil, and thanks to law enforcement for enabling everyone to take part in this debate.

Welcome to the Publius No. 9 Blog from Madison, WI

Welcome to the Publius No. 9 Blog from Madison, WI.

The goal of this blog is to be an outlet for the voices of the people of Wisconsin, and a place for open, honest, fact-based debate. Everyone, especially those from Wisconsin, are encouraged to voice their opinions and to respond politely and intelligently to the opinions of others.

I live in Madison, and I've been at the Capitol for the workers' rights protests nearly every day since they began. I enjoy learning as much as I can from talking to everyone there, and I keep my ear to the ground for news elsewhere. I'm a little late to the blogging boat, but I will post more info as it occurs.

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