A breakdown of GOP bills: What else are Republicans up to?
STEVEN ELBOW | The Capital Times | Posted: Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to effectively end collective bargaining by public workers has sparked massive protests and riveted the nation. But what else have state Republicans been up to? Bills have been coming down the pike that would add to union woes, make it harder to vote at the polls and allow charter schools to proliferate. And Republicans haven’t even gotten to the social issues yet.
Perhaps the most controversial bills introduced during the regular legislative session have been proposals in the Assembly and the Senate to require voters to produce a photo ID from the state Department of Transportation when arriving at the polls, a move that critics say will stifle tens of thousands of votes, mostly those of Democratic-leaning groups like students, the elderly and the poor.
Here’s a partial rundown of other GOP legislation introduced in recent days:
• On Jan. 21, Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, proposed scaling back the state’s family and medical leave law, signed in 1998 by Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson. The proposal would make it harder to qualify for medical and family leave by making state law on the matter closer to federal law. A separate bill proposed by Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, on Feb. 23 would apply the state’s family and medical leave policy statewide, which means that localities could not adopt policies of their own. Dana Schultz of 9to5 Milwaukee, part of a nationwide working women’s advocacy association, says the law would pre-empt Milwaukee’s paid sick leave law, which passed by referendum in 2008 but has been held up by a court challenge.
• On Feb. 4, Rep. Kathleen Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, introduced a bill to rescind a 2009 law that requires law enforcement officers to record the race of those they pull over. The law’s intent is to gather data to see if racial profiling is taking place. Berneir’s bill would also eliminate a law that requires officers to attend training designed to prevent racial profiling and race-based discrimination.
• On Feb. 17, Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, and Rep. Erik Severson, R-Osceola, introduced a bill that would rescind a new Department of Natural Resources mandate that public drinking water be disinfected to remove microscopic pathogens. About 12 percent of the state’s municipal water supply systems would have been affected by the rule. A recent study has shown that about 13 percent of acute gastrointestinal ailments in areas that don’t disinfect are connected to the municipal water.
• On Feb. 22, Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, proposed a bill to repeal a law passed by the previous, Democratic-led Legislature that allows school district residents to challenge race-based mascot names. Nass’ proposal would eliminate the authority of the state superintendent of schools to determine whether a team nickname, logo or mascot promotes discrimination, pupil harassment or stereotyping, and to order a school board to eliminate the use of the offending moniker. The bill would also void previous decisions based on complaints about mascot names, typically those related to American Indians. Last year, the Osseo-Fairchild, Kewaunee and Mukwonago school districts were ordered to drop names and logos.
• On Feb. 22, Rep. Robin Vos, R-Burlington, introduced a bill that would allow universities to determine which bargaining unit to assign employees to, a decision currently made by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission. Coupled with Walker’s budget repair bill, which would rescind a 2009 law that allows university faculty and academic staff to join unions, Vos’ bill would allow universities to assign staff to nonclassified positions so they can’t organize. So far, faculties at UW-Superior, UW-Eau Claire and, just last week, UW-La Crosse, have voted to unionize.
• On Feb. 23, Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, introduced a bill that would create a Charter School Authorizing Board. The entity could authorize charter schools independently of school districts, which currently is not permitted except in certain circumstances in Milwaukee. The bill would also eliminate caps on the amount of money the state can take from general school aid to fund charter schools. Critics see the move as a giant step toward privatizing education in the state.
• On Feb. 23, Rep. John Murtha, R-Baldwin, introduced a bill to give $1,000 income tax deductions to state-accredited college or university graduates for the first five years after graduation. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has not yet put a cost estimate on the bill, but a similar proposal introduced last year was estimated to cost $5.4 million.
• On Feb. 24, Rep. Andre Jacque, R-Bellevue, introduced a bill that would eliminate the state’s farmland preservation program, a 2009 initiative by former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle to stem losses of farmland to urban sprawl. The bill would eliminate state funds for buying agricultural conservation land and also the fee for developing land in a farmland preservation district.
• On Feb. 24, Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, proposed legislation to repeal 2009 legislation that authorized the creation of regional transit authorities, which have the power to operate and impose sales taxes to run regional transportation systems. RTAs currently operate in Dane County as well as the Chippewa Valley and Chequamegon Bay areas in northern Wisconsin. The bill also would eliminate the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority, which aimed to establish a commuter rail line connecting Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee.