While summer is well underway, the Legislature continues to plug away at its work. The Assembly was in-session this Wednesday for nearly 8 hours and I had three committees meet this week alone. Here’s a brief update on some of the goings-on!
GOP Votes to Advance Bill to Rewrite U.S. Constitution
During our Assembly floor session this week, Republican legislators voted to blow open the U.S. Constitution by advancing a series of bills that call for a Constitutional Convention for the purpose of advancing amendments for a balanced budget. Article V allows for the convening of such a convention if petitioned for by three-fourths of the states, which has never been accomplished. If these bills pass the State Senate, Wisconsin will become the 30th state, out of 34 needed, to call for such a convention.
I have followed this effort, led by a handful of out of state right-wing groups funded by several billionaires, since my first escapade attending the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2013. ALEC has made calling for such a convention a top priority. This strategy is problematic for several reasons, as I have previous written about and you can access HERE. One of the biggest problems is that there is really no way to limit the scope of such a convention. Legal and constitutional scholars, including UW-Madison’s political science professor Howard Schweber, have observed, “The danger is that a true Article 5 convention arguably has no limits. We’re in very unchartered territory here. . . Once such a convention is called, it’s very plausibly argued that it can do anything. The outcome could be quite radical.”
The delegate selection process adopted yesterday by the majority party ensure that most of the delegates will be Republican. Finally, economists and advocates fear that constitutional amendments geared towards requiring a balance budget will tie the federal government’s hands in times of national emergencies and economic downturns.
These bills are especially ironic because Republicans hold the majority both in Wisconsin and at the federal level. The fact that they feel the need to call a Constitutional Convention to “get things done” reveals that the items they want to alter go against the will of the people who elect them. Considering that the majority party is struggling to pass a state budget and have increased debt payments in the transportation budget to constitute over 20 percent of revenues, perhaps they should get our own state in order first.
Kenosha “Pay More, Get Less” Health Care Town Hall Meeting
With nearly 23 million people on the verge of losing health insurance and Republican leadership invisible and unavailable to the public, members of the Women’s Health Workgroup, of which I am a Co-Chair, held a health care town hall meeting in Speaker Ryan’s home district last week. Called the “Pay More, Get Less” Town Hall Meeting, members of the Workgroup, composed of Democrats in the Assembly and Senate, traveled to Kenosha to meet with the same residents that Paul Ryan seems to forget he represents, and to talk about the uncertainty of health care in Wisconsin and the real health challenges Wisconsin families are facing.
Thank you to the over 70 individuals who attended the Town Hall and shared their very personal stories. We heard about families with loved ones battling addiction who would lose coverage under the new health care bill, individuals who had pre-cancerous cells detected during a life-saving cancer screening at Planned Parenthood, and hard-working families scared about losing health coverage for pre-existing health conditions.
While our Republican federal delegation is failing Wisconsin families, Governor Walker, Speaker Vos and Majority Leader Fitzgerald, are playing the same games. We have an opportunity at the state level to step up to the plate and be the adults in the room while Congress sits in gridlock. Sadly, we’ve just seen more of the same partisanship and playing politics instead of working to make healthcare more affordable and accessible for Wisconsin’s families.
If you’d like to watch the full Town Hall, please visit my Facebook page and view the taped Facebook Live feed. To read our press release on the Town Hall, click HERE. To read a synopsis of the event from the Kenosha News, click HERE.
Honoring Gun Violence Awareness Day
Earlier this month, my colleagues and I introduced a resolution proclaiming June 2nd as Gun Violence Awareness Day in Wisconsin. Gun violence happens indiscriminately in rural, urban, and suburban places, as well as in Democratic and Republican districts. This violence takes place in the most ordinary, everyday places – movie theaters, college campuses, night clubs, elementary schools, and baseball fields.
Ironically, the Permitless Carry Bill (Senate Bill 169) received a public hearing the same week as Gun Violence Awareness Day. This bill will eliminate the current requirement for training and background checks prior to carrying a concealed weapon, eliminate Wisconsin’s gun-free school zones law, and reduce the minimum age to carry a concealed weapon from 21 years old to 18 years old. It is not surprised that due to this “anything goes” attitude, research has demonstrated that permitless carry laws are associated with higher rates of aggravated assault, robbery, rape, and murder.
Instead of pushing legislation that will make Wisconsinites, including law enforcement, kids, and communities, less safe, my colleagues and I, through the Wisconsin Gun Safety Coalition, are focused on enacting policies that increase safety, including requiring universal background checks and reinstating the 48 hour waiting period for handgun purchases. Join me in honoring Gun Violence Awareness Day by standing up for common sense gun safety legislation and by being vocal opponents to harmful bills such as the Permitless Carry Bill.
To read an op-ed on Gun Violence Awareness Day from me, Rep. Melissa Sargent, Rep. Lisa Subeck and Rep. Terese Berceau, click HERE.
Dear GOP, It’s Not Working
Earlier this month, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel released the following article, “Job creation slowed sharply in Wisconsin in 2016, raising questions and worries” outlining the latest jaw-dropping data on the decline of wages and jobs in Wisconsin between 2015 – 2016. Disturbing trends from the latest data include an overall decrease in private sector wages in Wisconsin, with manufacturing wages plunging 5.3%, in addition to Wisconsin having the worst job creation performance since the 2008-09 recession. Wisconsin has consistently lagged behind the national average in terms of manufacturing job growth, sitting at 1.4 percent, compared to 2.1 percent nationally.
In 2011, Governor Walker and legislative Republicans enacted the Manufacturing and Agriculture Tax Credit (MAC), the largest corporate tax giveaway in Wisconsin history that does not require the creation of one single job and allows companies to outsource jobs while still receiving a tax windfall. Under the MAC, 88 percent of the multimillion dollar giveaway goes to people making more than $500,000, with 11 multi-millionaires making more than $30 million each receiving nearly $22 million in tax funds. Sadly, this most recent data, considered the ‘gold standard’ for evaluating job creation, demonstrates what we have known all along – MAC does not work.
Earlier this year, I joined over half of my Assembly Democratic colleagues in introducing progressive tax reform legislation (Assembly Bill 200) that provides substantial, targeted tax relief to middle class families and ensures that millionaires and big corporations pay their fair share. The proposed tax cut is specifically targeted to individuals making less than $60,000/year and families making less than $100,000/year. The proposal includes the elimination of MAC. Given the latest economic report and the growing budget impasse, I wrote to Assembly Ways and Means Committee Chair John Macco last week requesting a public hearing on this legislation as soon as possible. I will continue to push for the scheduling of this bill.
Participate in the Wisconsin Science Festival
Over the last six years, UW-Madison, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and the Morgridge Institute for Research have worked together to host the Wisconsin Science Festival, a four days event featuring venues across Wisconsin that connects people with science, technology, engineering, art and math. The festival provides hands-on activities, speakers and panel discussions, as well as entertaining events at restaurants/pubs, community centers, schools, museums, libraries, etc.
This year the Wisconsin Science Festival will be held November 2-5, 2017 at dozens of sites across Wisconsin. If you are interested in hosting an event, you can complete an easy on-line application to host an event. To learn more about hosting, click HERE. The deadline for submissions is July 7, 2017 and the application can be found HERE.
It appears as though the hot, humid weather will be sticking with us through the weekend – so please stay cool and keep hydrated!
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