Wednesday, June 21, 2017

In DC or in Madison, closed-door, GOP-only legislation is bad news

With the state budget still in a three-way logjam between Assembly Republicans, Senate Republicans, and Republican Governor Scott Walker, there were plans for a closed-door summit Tuesday at the Capitol between legislative leaders to try to get things moving on a budget that is supposed to be passed into law within 10 days.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, are set to meet tomorrow with representatives from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau to “discuss a number of outstanding budget issues,” according to Fitzgerald spokeswoman Myranda Tanck.

Tanck declined to name the issues, saying she couldn’t “guarantee they will get to all of the outstanding items nor what exactly will come up.”

Individuals with knowledge of the meeting said K-12 education would be on the agenda, as Assembly Republicans and the Senate GOP try to reconcile differences surrounding per-pupil funding levels and approaches to low revenue limits, among other things.
Notice who’s not part of those meetings? DEMOCRATIC LEGISLATORS AND THE PUBLIC. Sounds just like DC and the TrumpCare bill, doesn’t it?

This has gotten so bad that even some Republicans are going public and saying that WisGOP leadership should clean up the secrective way they have been handling the budget. It’s a draft proposal that’s being sponsored by Rep. Scott Allen and Sen. Steve Nass (!), is intended to limit the last-minute add-ons and notorious “999” maneuvers that seem to be coming more frequently and in larger scale in recent years. These are ideas that more of us from all political persuasions should get behind.
The bill provides that the Joint Committee on Finance may not consider or take executive action on any motion relating to the biennial budget bill unless the motion has been distributed to all members of JCF at least 48 hours before JCF considers or takes executive action on the motion. The motion must also be posted on the Legislative Fiscal Bureau Internet site at least 48 hours before JCF considers or takes executive action on the motion.
That works for me, because these sneak-attack omnibuses are garbage that don’t help anyone but the inner circle of connected individuals that are telling their puppets in the Legislature to insert these things.

However, there is a loophole in this bill that might need to be ironed out.
The provisions of the bill, however, do not apply to a motion that relates to an emergency, as determined by three-fourths of the members of JCF, or to a motion that contains minor substantive differences from a motion that has met the bill's requirements.
The ¾ threshold to define an “emergency” sounds like a lot, but it would simply be a 12-4 party-line vote among the GOPs that currently control Joint Finance today. By that definition, they could just yell “Emergency!” and nothing would change from the secrecy and last-minute omnibuses of today.

So maybe make that threshold be 13-3 (so a minority party member has to say “yes”), or make it only so that items outside of the 2-year budget document are the only ones that can be “emergencies”, so this designation is limited to items such as repairs from a storm, where money needs to be released immediately.

Even with the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity and the Racine Journal-Times offering public support for the “Budget Transparency Act”, I don’t see the GOPs in legislative leadership taking the hint in June 2017. Instead, WisGOP’s legislative leadership is following the example of Mitch McConnell’s GOP Senate and preferring to do their work in the dark, without any input from the other party or the taxpayers that pay their salary.

And just like what’s happening in DC, the GOPs were reporting "progress" in the budget talks, but we in the public have no idea what that really means and no documents that can help us figure out what's changed. You can bet we won't find out until the Joint Finance Committee calls a hasty meeting to cram through much of these outstanding budget issues, and the outcome won't end up helping anyone except for a few self-interested jagbags and their politicians they own.

1 comment:

  1. The bill's first paragraph, you're right, seems reasonable, but the second is awfully vague. Their are "emergencies," like paying for storm damage, but Act 10 was pushed through under the rationale of a fiscal emercency, one which they had created.

    These last-minute omnibus 999 deals are a sham, should not be tolerated, and both parties and the public should know what's happening and able to provide input.

    Claire McCaskill for once had a good idea--fed up with the McConnell/GOP secrecy--and proposed that there could be no vote without a public hearing. That should apply the same way in Madison.