Open Wisconsin to Syrian refugees

This summer we saw a child named Aylan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian boy, face down in the sand on a beach in Turkey. He drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. His parents were fleeing a Syria beset by the murderous regime of Bashar al Assad and the butchery of ISIS. Like many Syrians, Aylan's family sought safety and freedom. Like too many Syrian refugees, their journey reached a tragic end.

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Lawsuit seeks to declare GOP political redistricting in Wis. unconstitutional

Plaintiffs' goal in a federal lawsuit is to right what they see as the wrong of GOP-drawn state political redistricting that the Wisconsin Fair Elections Project director calls the ‘most intentionally partisan map in modern American history’

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Strip Search Bill Before The Legislature

Strip Search Bill Before The Legislature

Don't 'fix' a GAB that isn't broken

Don't 'fix' a GAB that isn't broken

By Nancy Kaplan


State government agencies exist to do the day-to-day work of governance. All are important to some so-called "special interest groups." But none is more important to the largest interest group of all — current and potential voters in Wisconsin — than the Government Accountability Board. In 2007, with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, the state Legislature gave the gift of GAB to the people of Wisconsin. But now the Republicans want to renege.

GAB is a gift because it is a recognized national model for nonpartisan regulation of laws governing elections, campaigns and lobbying. Its six members are former state judges serving part-time, staggered, six-year terms. They are appointed by the governor. The governor nominates a judge to fill a vacancy from a roster of judges previously selected by a panel of Wisconsin Court of Appeals judges; and the nominee must be confirmed by the state Senate. Four members of the current board were appointed by Gov. Scott Walker. The agency provides key safeguards against corruption in government at all levels. 

All citizens of Wisconsin — Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal — should be concerned about reverting to the status quo ante 2007. Then, GAB's responsibilities were divided between a state Ethics Board and a state Elections Board. GAB became necessary because its predecessors were not able to prevent the legislative caucus scandal of 2001-2002, the most serious political scandal to rock Wisconsin in a century.

So there are lots of good political reasons for the people of Wisconsin to oppose scrapping GAB. But there are serious practical reasons as well. The current chair of GAB, Judge Gerald C. Nichol, has written an open letter to the leaders of the state Senate and Assembly laying out why it would be wrong to make changes at this critical point in the election cycle. In that letter, he says:

"[GAB supports] Wisconsin's 1,853 municipal clerks and 72 county clerks. In addition, the elections staff is responsible for reviewing nomination papers for 43 judicial races in the spring election and 195 congressional, legislative and district attorney races in the general election.

"Beyond those normal functions, 2016 will be the first year of full statewide use of photo ID, and clerks and election workers need support and training to ensure that the law is implemented correctly. In addition, our elections and IT staff are finishing work on a major upgrade to the Statewide Voter Registration System, which will roll out to clerks in early 2016 and will require significant training and support efforts.... Finally, I understand legislators are working on a major overhaul of campaign finance laws to comply with recent court rulings, which may require significant changes to the Campaign Finance Information System, manuals and training for campaign committee treasurers."

Nichol points out that the "Legislature has not availed itself of the statutory remedy for resolving tensions that have arisen because Republicans have, in Nichol's words, "unfairly maligned" the board's professional staff as "partisan:"

"During the course of the past year there has been extended media coverage of the Legislature's dissatisfaction with the Government Accountability Board," he writes. "By law, the Legislature has the unique opportunity to provide advice and direction to the agency through the Joint Legislative Committee on Organization. Wis. Stat. § 5.05(5f). In eight plus years, the Legislature and the Board have not opened this channel of communication."

In the last 12 months, accusations have twice been investigated by the Legislative Audit Bureau. Both reports clear GAB of any malfeasance, partisanship or wrongdoing. In light of the disruptions Nichol describes and with the results of the Legislative Audit Bureau's investigations now in hand, Wisconsin's legislators will be doing all citizens of the state an enormous disservice if they nevertheless act out of partisan pique and try to "fix" an agency that isn't broken.

Read the original op-ed at JSOnline.

Be sure to sign the petition at Grassroots Northshore.

Many women need Planned Parenthood

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America marked its 97th anniversary on Oct. 16. The name Margaret Sanger might be familiar to some readers. On that date, she opened the first U.S. reproductive health clinic in the borough of Brooklyn, N.Y. Since then, Planned Parenthood has grown to be a much-relied-upon worldwide provider of total health care for women.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin Inc. has been there for women in our state since 1935. Seventy-eight years later, PPWI continues to fight for all Wisconsin women to have access to quality health care. The struggle has taken on new intensity over the last three years, since Gov. Scott Walker slashed funding to PPWI in 2011. 

Four of PPWI's 27 health centers across the state have been closed this year. That means a good number of women seeking care, not just for reproductive health, now are forced to travel many miles for even the most basic health services.

PPWI reports that one in five women come to Planned Parenthood just for health care. For roughly 60% of such patients, PPWI is their only health care option right now because those women don't have primary health care providers. PPWI serves about 70,000 patients in Wisconsin every year. 

Perhaps most significant, in terms of getting an overall picture of the importance of PPWI to the health of Wisconsin women, is that 98% of what the organization does every year is prevention-based health care; less than 2% is abortion services.

Like many other women locally and statewide, I've used PPWI's services. In 1984, I experienced an unplanned pregnancy. I was working two part-time jobs at the time and had no health insurance. I went to a Planned Parenthood health center, where a test confirmed my pregnancy. But it was the personal care and counseling I received, including information about adoption agencies, that helped me ultimately make an adoption plan for my baby.

I worked at PPWI in 1982-'83, in a clerical position in its nurse practitioner training program. The first of its kind in Wisconsin, that program produced highly skilled, well-trained nurse practitioners from a multistate area to serve in its health centers.

PPWI's mission is to care for women, at all stages of their lives, with the end goal being healthy women, healthy families and healthy communities. Yes, it's true. Providing abortion services for women who feel that is their best option when facing an unplanned pregnancy is part of PPWI's role. Of the four locations where women can get an abortion in Wisconsin, three are PPWI health centers.

Despite the fact Planned Parenthood health centers in Wisconsin provide a full range of vital health services to women, continued attacks from elected officials make that mission more difficult every year. The recent legislation passed, which would require doctors providing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic, is one glaring example of such attacks. 

PPWI and the other abortion provider in Milwaukee asked the court to enjoin the law, which would have closed down the Appleton PPWI health center and the other clinic in Milwaukee. A federal court injunction has, so far, kept this law from going into effect.

The Wisconsin Medical Society and the Wisconsin Hospital Association both have come out against the law. This type of legislation is a tactic being used nationally by those seemingly obsessed with blocking a woman's lawful right to choose. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also opposes this attempt by legislators to, effectively, practice medicine.

When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, there is no single right answer for every single woman. But it's between that woman and her health care provider — not her legislator — to review and pursue her options.

Peggy Schulz is a freelance writer and third-generation Milwaukee resident. Email

This piece originally appeared on JSOnline on October 13th 2013.  Republished with permission from the author.

Walker’s Racial Divide

Walker's Racial Divide

by Lena Taylor


Not much shocks me anymore in politics, especially things that come out of Governor Scott Walker’s mouth.

But last week, things got even more bizarre in Walker’s world.

The Walker magic with the far right wing is wearing off and Walker’s national poll numbers are sinking faster than Vanilla Ice’s career.

It seems like in the minds of the far right wing, busting unions was so 2011.

It turns out a track record of ultra conservatism isn’t enough for the far right wing.

In their shortsightedness, they want to know how extreme their golden candidates have been in the last week.

And that’s where our very own Governor Scott Walker comes in.

Walker penned a guest column in Hot Air in which he insinuated that President Barack Obama is somehow responsible for a national racial divide that he believes has led to an increase in murders of police officers around the nation.

In his guest column, Walker says, “This isn’t the America I grew up in…” Walker further goes on to say, “In the last six years under President Obama, we’ve seen a rise in anti-police rhetoric… This inflammatory and disgusting rhetoric has real consequences for the safety of officers…”

It gets better. Walker further states, “After years of division under President Obama, America needs a leader who will seek to unite all Americans.”

Walker’s rhetoric has gotten so out of control that I couldn’t let it go unchecked.

Somewhere out there, someone read Walker’s words and believed them.

Now, I’m not sure who that person is, but if you meet them, give them a copy of this column, read it out loud to them if you have to, and then tell them to call 608-266-1212and tell the Governor’s office that Scott Walker should be ashamed for insinuating that President Obama is somehow responsible for the deaths of police officers.

First and foremost, the fact is that according to data from the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial Fund, police murders are trending downward under Obama (314) compared to the last three two-term presidents, which peaked under President Ronald Reagan (576).

One death of an innocent life, law enforcement or otherwise, is too much death. I think we can all agree on that, right?

But to use murdered police officers for political gain is straight up desperate and shameless.

Since Walker wants to make comparisons between himself and Obama, I thought you should know a few things.

Under Obama, our unemployment rate is lower now than it has ever been since Obama inherited the Bush recession.

More people have health care access today thanks to Obama. Not to be outdone, more people can marry the person they love and despite Walker repealing Wisconsin’s equal pay law, it’s still on the books in Washington, DC.

Compare that to the 22 years Walker has been in office as a state representative from Milwaukee County, the Milwaukee County executive and now governor.

Do you think race relations are better off under Walker’s “leadership”? Milwaukee is still one of the most segregated cities in America.

Eighty-five percent of Milwaukee’s school children read below grade level.

That’s just a few of the many reasons Wisconsin was recently rated one of the worst states to raise a black child.

Despite knowing our state’s voter ID law would make it harder for black voters to vote, Walker signed the law.

Meanwhile, we’ve got tremendous health disparities amongst communities of color not seen in white communities across the state.

All this is happening on Scott Walker’s watch.

In the keystrokes of one guest column, Governor Walker wants you to believe that not only is President Obama responsible for America’s racial divide, but that divide has led to an increase in murders of police officers and that he, Scott Walker, is the one to bring America back together.

The hypocrisy in his words! Governor Scott Walker is the same man who told a billionaire that he’d bust the unions one step at a time rather than all at once because, “you have to divide and conquer.” His words are telling.

Just think about what that means. He wants to conquer fellow Wisconsinites like he’s the modern day political version of Genghis Kahn.

Walker even named his own political action committee “Unintimidated.” Walker is right about one thing. There is a divisive political leader in American. It’s just too bad he can’t see that it’s him.


Reposted from Madison 365.

Larson Describes Bill To Regulate Health Insurance Rates


Larson Describes Bill To Regulate Health Insurance Rates

SEPTEMBER 11, 2015

The bill would put more regulations on health care rate increases. It would also ensure more public input and reporting requirements before health insurance rates increase. State Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, and Rep. Debra Kolste, D-Janesville, are currently circulating the bill for co-sponsorship.

 Reposted from Wisconsin Public Television

Scott Walker's unhelpful new health care proposal

Scott Walker's unhelpful new health care proposal

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