It has now been 12 days since Wisconsin was statutorily required to pass a state budget, yet Scott Walker and legislative Republicans continue to beat their ideological drums and bicker behind closed doors. Despite controlling the Assembly, Senate and Governor’s House, much like Washington, Wisconsin Republicans cannot seem to agree on anything, except the fact they don’t want to work with Democrats.
As the delays drone on, Wisconsinites are the ones paying the price. Road projects will get delayed and our public schools will have to operate on outdated and insufficient funding. I will keep trying to reach across the aisle and am ready to work with my Republican colleagues to solve this impasse, and will continue to keep you updated on the budget status.
Bipartisan Vote Against GOP “First Amendment” Legislation
In an unusual turn of events last month, a stand-alone Republican member voted with Assembly Democrats in voting against Assembly Bill 299, authored by Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) and Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum). This horrible bill, which the sponsors insist is needed to protect the First Amendment on UW college campuses without a single example of any invited speaker not being able to speak, actually violates the First Amendment rights of our campus communities and imposes severe penalties, including expulsion, on those “interfering” with another’s First Amendment right. What this means, who knows?
While Rep. Bob Gannon (R-Slinger) and I rarely agree on much, we both believe this legislation would have a chilling effect on speech for both liberal and conservative students, faculty and staff.
While my Republican colleagues could only point to incidents in other states, this clearly was a manufactured crisis intended to fan the national political flames and demonize higher education in Wisconsin. From my time at ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), I know that the right-wing is now focused on advancing laws under the guise of protecting the First Amendment with policies that actually limit free speech and protest.
Despite passing the Assembly, the Senate is yet to even schedule a public hearing on the bill. We will continue to monitor the progress of this legislation. I spoke out vigorously against this bill, and cited a plethora of instances of Republican legislators regularly violating the first amendment rights of the public and their democratic colleagues. To view my entire floor speech on Assembly Bill 299, click HERE.
Last week, the UW Board of Regents unanimously adopted a “guidepost” on free speech protections. It does not include the same penalties, including student suspension, that are included in Assembly Bill 299. To read more about the Regents’ resolution, click HERE.
Despite Being Struck Down by Lower Courts, US Supreme Court Stays Opinion About an Unconstitutional Law that Harms Pregnant Women
Last week, the US Supreme Court lifted an injunction of the so-called “Cocaine Mom” law. This means that Wisconsin will be able to continue to enforce this devastating and blatantly unconstitutional law while the state’s appeal is pending. In April, a federal district court judge struck the law down as unconstitutionally vague. The 7th Circuit is scheduled to hear the appeal next.
This is one of the worst experimental policies ever enacted in Wisconsin, and it’s had devastating results. Pregnant women who try to do the right thing in seeking prenatal care are thrown in jail for having an honest discussion about drug use with their healthcare provider, without even having an attorney. All of the evidence shows that women end up being denied the very thing they were seeking – healthcare they need to have healthy pregnancies and babies.
Unfortunately, legislation that is detrimental to women’s health is commonplace in the Wisconsin Legislature, and we need to be on red alert to laws such as this moving forward. Republican legislators are willing to ignore all empirical evidence and enact laws that are designed to harm and degrade women. I am hopeful that the “Cocaine Mom” law will eventually be permanently enjoined and I will remain on the lookout for other laws that damage women’s health.
President Trump’s Outlandish Election Records Request
Recently, President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission requested highly detailed voter data from a majority of states, including Wisconsin. Specifically, the Presidential Commission asked for election participation data going back to 2006, including names, birthdays, and the last four digits of Social Security numbers.
Initially, the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) wisely declined to provide all of the information requested by the Presidential Commission because state law prohibits WEC from releasing a voter’s date of birth, driver license number or Social Security number. There are limited circumstances in which this information can be shared with law enforcement agencies or agencies of other states, but according to the administrator of WEC, Michael Haas, the “Presidential Commission does not appear to qualify under either of these categories.” The Presidential Commission will be allowed to purchase Wisconsin’s entire statewide voter file, which is public, for $12,500. This file contains a voter’s name, address, and voting history.
The Presidential Commission has now asked Wisconsin and other states to hold off providing any voter data until a lawsuit brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center is resolved. WEC has indicated they will await further word from the Presidential Commission.
This request from the Presidential Commission is the latest attempt to perpetuate a “voter fraud” narrative that has no basis in fact. This same narrative was used as an excuse for Wisconsin implementing one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country, even though the state was unable to present any substantial evidence of voter fraud. I am concerned that the Presidential Commission will look for additional ways to disenfranchise voters. As a member of the Assembly Campaigns & Elections Committee, I will continue to advocate for initiatives that facilitate voting, and speak out against false narratives that aim to weaken the integrity of our elections.
Assembly Republicans Refuse to Schedule Hearing on Progressive Tax Reform
If I had a quarter for every time my Republican colleagues talked about cutting taxes, Wisconsin would no longer have a budget deficit! Yet, despite their “enthusiasm” about “reforming” our tax code, they are refusing to schedule a public hearing on Assembly Bill 200 which would give middle class families a significantly larger tax cut while raising taxes on the most wealthy in our state. Assembly Bill 200 was a product of the Progressive Workgroup, which I chair, that is comprised of at least two dozen Democratic legislators and is working to develop and promote innovative and progressive public policy.
In Wisconsin, 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).
The tax cut proposed in AB 200 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. We pay for these 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.
The Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. John Macco (R-De Pere) has refused to respond to my requests for a public hearing. Let’s show him we cannot be ignored! I encourage you to write his office and request that they schedule a public hearing as soon as possible! Contact information available HERE.
Taylor Co-Sponsors “BadgerCare for All” Legislation
Last week, I joined several of my Democratic colleagues in sponsoring “BadgerCare for All” legislation which would allow individuals and small businesses to purchase BadgerCare coverage on the health insurance exchange. The bill also requires that individuals receiving health insurance through a BadgerCare buy-in program have access to the same premium supports available to those who purchase private insurance on the exchange.
Given the uncertainty and chaos at the federal level, it is our responsibility as state elected officials to work together to increase access to affordable health care. We cannot sit idly by while Washington Republicans either do nothing or emerge from behind closed doors to pass harmful legislation that would strip health care coverage from millions of Americans.
Late last month, the Marquette University Law School Poll revealed that over 54 percent of Wisconsinites want to keep/improve the Affordable Care Act. While my GOP colleagues continue to pander to their conservative base, I will continue to work towards passing meaningful legislation that makes healthcare in Wisconsin more affordable and accessible.
To learn more on the “BadgerCare for All” legislation, click HERE.
Back to ALEC
Many of you know that so many of the harmful policies we have seen and continue to see in our state aren’t coming from the people of our state, but rather out of state interests, mainly dominated by the big corporations pushing their profit agenda through powerful entites like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Since 2013, I have been monitoring this group and attending their conferences, where I will once again travel to next week. Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s appointee to lead the Department of Education is the keynote speaker. Note that recently Secretary DeVos has refused to implement protective policies for students who have been swindled for expensive, for-profit colleges. She is best known for leading the effort to privatize public education. I will provide a full rundown after the conference and have an idea of the bills we will soon see in Wisconsin!
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. I hope you all are getting to take a summer break!