As most of you are aware, Governor Walker introduced his 2017-19 state budget earlier this year chock full of handouts for the wealthy and his special interest friends. As the Joint Finance Committee currently reviews his budget and makes changes over the next few months, the rest of the Legislature continues to move forward with standing committees meeting regularly and the Speaker/Majority Leader scheduling session days on the floor.
We know this is a re-election budget for Governor Walker and that the GOP-controlled Legislature is looking to make significant changes to his proposal. Over the last several weeks we have seen a litany of ultra-conservative legislation, mostly stemming from right-wing think tanks like ALEC, which I believe are intended to serve as a distraction as they evaluate a budget that benefits those big corporations and those at the top, not working families like ours. We must continue to stay diligent and pay close attention!
Legislative Republicans Hold Hearing to Re-Write Federal Constitution
Last week, the Assembly Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations and the Senate Committee on Financial Services, Constitution and Federalism held a joint public hearing on several pieces of legislation that call for and set procedures for a constitutional convention to amend the federal constitution and require a balanced budget.
The idea of calling for an Article V convention is an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) brainchild, and is a high-stakes process. The convention can amend the U.S. Constitution in any way it sees fit, and can write its own rules. In this hyper-partisan political environment, most convention delegates would be chosen by Republican legislatures.
If passed, Wisconsin would become the 30th state out of the 34 needed to call for a convention. The only safeguard is that three-quarters of states must ratify any proposed amendment.
For more information on Article V conventions, see my press release HERE and my column HERE.
Republicans Circulate “Permitless Carry” Gun Bill
This week, Republican legislators circulated a bill that allows people to carry concealed guns in public without a permit or any training, expands the ability of people to carry guns in schools, and removes age restrictions for carrying a concealed weapon. Republicans are willing to go against evidence that shows that in states where there are less gun safety measures and more guns, more dangerous individuals get access to guns and more people, including women and police officers, die. If more guns made us safer, we would be the safest country in the world. Instead we are the deadliest industrialized nation with the highest gun homicide rate.
For more information, see my press release HERE.
Officer-Involved Death Legislation
This session, I’ve reintroduced two bills that build upon 2013 Wisconsin Act 348, which requires law enforcement agencies to bring in two outside investigators when an officer-involved death occurs. This legislation was intended as a first step, and the two following bills provide common-sense, but needed changes to the officer-involved death law.
AB 155 requires a special prosecutor, rather that the local district attorney, to review the criminal reports from the independent investigator, make the charging decision, and prosecute the case if warranted. This safeguard would remove potential conflicts faced by District Attorneys in deciding whether or not to charge a law enforcement individual with whom they need to maintain a professional relationship.
AB 156 prohibits both outside lead investigators in an officer-involved death from being employed, or having an immediate family member who was employed, within the previous 10 years by the law enforcement agency they are charged with investigating. This clarification will help avoid any actual or perceived conflict of interests, preserve the independence of these investigations, and enhance accountability and public trust in the process.
Trump and Speaker Ryan’s “Repeal and Replace” Plan Implodes
Thank you to everyone who joined me in calling Speaker Ryan and telling him to scrap plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood. It is because of your great work and advocacy, Speaker Ryan did not have the votes to pass his replacement legislation and the ACA currently remains the law of the land. To learn more about how the Trump/Ryan plans hurt Wisconsin women, read my column featured in The Progressive HERE.
While this was a huge victory for Americans, we cannot stop now. Now more than ever we must continue to hold Congress’s feet to the fire, but also we must continue working to improve our current system of health care. The ACA was by no means perfect and there is still a great deal of work to do to make sure all Americans have access to affordable health care. Here in Wisconsin, despite the chaos in DC, I continue to push my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work on real solutions to control health care costs and keep Wisconsin’s families happy and healthy.
In need of a win after their embarrassing loss a couple weeks ago, last week Vice President Pence and Majority Leader McConnell forced a vote to solely de-fund Planned Parenthood, by allowing states the ability to deny Planned Parenthood access to federal Title X funds. As most of you know, Planned Parenthood is a safety-net provider that serves some of our most vulnerable populations with basic health care like birth control, breast exams and cervical cancer screenings. The stakes could not be higher – if this plan goes through, women will die. Please join me in the fight to save Planned Parenthood!
Progressive Democrats Propose a Real Tax Cut, Walker Proposes Peanuts
As the Chair of the Progressive Workgroup, I have been working with my colleagues to advance legislation that creates an economy that works for all Wisconsin’s families, not just those at the top. Simply put, the rich are getting richer while middle income people are having to work harder just to survive. Over the last three decades, the average incomes for Wisconsin’s top 1 percent has increased by 120 percent, yet the incomes of the remaining 99 percent grew by just 4 percent (Pulling Apart 2016, by the Wisconsin Budget Project and COWS). Meanwhile, Wisconsin Republicans have created a rigged economic system that leaves low and middle income families behind. Not only are middle income people paying the largest percentage of their income of any group in state and local taxes (Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy), the number of Wisconsin middle income families is declining (Pew Charitable Trust).
At the end of February, I joined several of my Democratic colleagues in introducing a middle class tax cut. The proposed tax cut is specifically targeted to individuals making less than $60,000/year and families making less than $100,000/year. For example, a family of four making $45,000/year would receive an additional $607 for tax year 2017. Now compare this to Governor Walker’s tax proposal, included in his 2017-19 state budget, which on-average provides Wisconsin families a $44 tax cut. Quite a difference, huh?
We pay for our middle class tax cuts by repealing the largest corporate tax giveaway in Wisconsin history – of which 88 percent goes to Wisconsinites making more than $500,000/year – and instituting a Millionaire’s Tax by creating a fifth tax bracket for Wisconsin’s most wealthy.
Budgets are all about priorities. If Governor Walker wanted to provide real middle income tax relief, he could, but instead he and legislative Republicans prefer to spend over a half billion dollars on tax breaks that go to Wisconsin’s wealthiest, without requiring the creation of one single job and allowing the outsourcing of Wisconsin jobs.
Safe at Home Program – Address Confidentiality Program
Last year I joined Majority Leader Fitzgerald, Minority Leader Shilling and Rep. Kleefisch in passing bipartisan Safe at Home legislation into law. Safe at Home is a critical program that creates an address confidentiality program for victims of abuse, stalking and sex trafficking.
I’m proud to be part of this vital initiative that provides an additional layer of protection and safety to victims. The vast majority of states have already passed this legislation and I am thrilled that Wisconsin has now joined them. Put simply, this program will save women and children’s lives.
Last week, the Department of Justice announced that entry into the program will begin on April 1. To learn more about the program, visit www.SafeAtHomeWI.gov.
Budget Listening Sessions
Over the next month, Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison) and I will be holding budget listening sessions across the 76th Assembly District. We will provide a brief breakdown of the Governor’s budget and then will open it up for discussion and questions. We hope that you can join us!
April 13, 7:00 – 8:30 PM, Ingraham 222 (1155 Observatory Dr, Madison, WI 53706)
April 25, 7:00 – 8:30 PM, Goodman Community Center (149 Waubesa St, Madison, WI 53704)
April 27, 7:00 – 8:30 PM, HotelRED (1501 Monroe St, Madison, WI 53711)
As always, if you have questions or concerns on any state legislative issue, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 608-266-5342 or via email at Rep.Taylor@legis.wi.gov.
Rep. Chris Taylor
76th Assembly District