Opponents of Gov. Scott Walker’s welfare overhaul package, which includes what would be some of the nation’s toughest work requirements for food stamp recipients, said Wednesday that the proposed changes would be counter-productive and make it more difficult for the poor to get out of poverty.
Walker’s proposals were the subject of a joint public hearing Wednesday, two weeks after the two-term Republican incumbent called for the Legislature to take up the measures in a special session. An Assembly committee planned to vote on them today, a quick turnaround that could make them available for passage in February.
Democrats and other opponents argue the changes were moving too fast without consideration of what they would mean to the poor people affected.
But Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos co-sponsored nine of the bills, a signal that they’re poised to move easily through the GOP-controlled Assembly. He said that increasing the work and job training requirement for able-bodied adults and, for the first time, parents on food stamps would help get them back in the workforce.
“Public assistance was never intended to be permanent, and this package will help us do our part in moving more people into the workforce and preventing fraud and abuse,” Vos testified.
Republican state Sen. Chris Kapenga, another co-sponsor, said his parents were on food stamps and he grew up in poverty. That personal experience, along with learning the value of hard work by hauling manure on a pig farm, taught him the importance of holding down a job, he said.
“You can’t get there if you’re not working,” Kapenga said. “It’s the only solution.”
Walker has defended the package as a way to get everyone who is able to hold down a job into the workforce. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is 3 percent, which is tied for its lowest on record, and employers have long complained of having a worker shortage to fill available openings.
But opponents say they will actually make it harder for people to get out of poverty. Those registered against the bills include the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, Hunger Task Force, the Wisconsin Council of Churches, the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health and Kids Forward.
Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, was the only group to register in support of the work requirements for food stamp recipients.
The bills heard Wednesday would:
The current requirement has led to about 25,000 able-bodied food stamp participants finding work and more than 80,000 cases of members who lost their benefits through December.
“We don’t think someone driving a brand new Cadillac or Lexus should be on public assistance,” Kapenga said.
On Monday, students from Janesville’s Catholic schools held a carnival that summed up their values.
All of the games were Scripture-related, and the carnival itself connected the older students with their younger buddies—and all of the students with each other.
The carnival kicked off Catholic Schools Week, an annual celebration where the schools emphasize their Christian faith and Catholic traditions.
The week started off on a sad note with the announcement that St. Patrick’s School will close at the end of this school year. The school, which has been providing Catholic education in Janesville for more than 150 years, has struggled with declining enrollment and increasing costs.
Janesville has three other Catholic schools—St. Mary’s, St. William and St. John Vianney—and all serve students from pre-K to eighth grade. Most schools have seen a slight increase in their enrollments.
Our Lady of the Assumption School in Beloit also offers pre-K through eighth grades.
Along with the carnival, school activities this week include an afternoon dance, spirit days, student vs. teacher volleyball games and a collection of soup for local food pantries to celebrate the “Souper Bowl.”
“The feeling around the school is like a homecoming week,” said St. Mary’s Principal Matt Parish.
But faith is central to all of the events, just as Catholic identity is “at the core of all our classes and subjects,” Parish said.
That identity includes the traditions that are important to Catholicism, said Chris Silha, principal at St. John Vianney, whose students sometimes walk to the church next door to pray the “Hail Mary” at funerals.
“The customs and traditions we have as Catholics help us to bring our belief alive within us,” Silha said. “They help us bring meaning to what we do and believe.”
At St. John Vianney this week, older students created a living rosary, with each student representing one of the rosary’s beads. It was an opportunity for all the students to pray together and for older ones to teach the younger ones about the rosary tradition.
It also gave students a chance to reflect on the Scriptures. Each of the five decades of the rosary is devoted to an event in the life of Christ, such as the presentation of Jesus in the temple or the wedding feast at Cana.
At Beloit’s Our Lady of the Assumption, the school celebrated family contributions with “Mornings with Mom” and “Doughnuts with Dad,” said Principal Trevor Seivert.
Parents and children also attended a special kids’ Mass last Sunday.
Like other Catholic schools, Seivert said the Beloit school teaches about social justice, which calls for equality, diversity and supportive environments for all people. The schools also try to offer students opportunities to turn those principles into action.
The values students learn at school “help keep them grounded,” Seivert said.
In an extraordinary public break with the White House, the FBI warned Wednesday that it has “grave concerns” about the accuracy of a disputed Republican memo on secret surveillance during the 2016 campaign that President Donald Trump has promised to release.
The FBI said it only had a “limited opportunity” to review the classified four-page memo prepared by aides to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., a close Trump ally who chairs the House Intelligence Committee.
“As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” the nation’s premier law enforcement agency said in a two-paragraph statement.
The public pushback escalates a bitter conflict between the White House and senior officials at the Justice Department, who approved the FBI statement, as well as senior figures in the intelligence community, who have previously warned that release of the classified GOP memo could endanger national security.
The FBI warning—which Nunes dismissed as “spurious objections”—raises the stakes in the growing Republican effort to discredit the criminal investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller into whether Trump or his aides collaborated with Russian meddling in the election or obstructed justice.
FBI leaders have clashed with presidents in the past, but usually behind closed doors. Historians struggled Wednesday to find a precedent for the bureau’s public challenge to the White House.
“It’s like a neon billboard blinking, ‘Danger, don’t you dare do this,’” said Douglas Brinkley, a Rice University professor who studies the presidency. “This is a sign of war.”
The FBI decided to go public after FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is supervising Mueller’s investigation, failed to convince the White House or House Republicans that the GOP memo is misleading and its underlying classified material should remain secret.
Wray was allowed to read the classified memo in a protected room Sunday but was not given an opportunity to suggest changes, according to two officials familiar with the process. He asked to make his case in a private briefing with House committee members, but that offer was declined.
The FBI statement was not issued in Wray’s name but from the bureau itself, an effort to defend an institution that Trump and his allies have said is part of a “deep state” conspiracy of entrenched national security officials to take down the president.
Trump has said the FBI’s reputation was “in tatters,” and he publicly berated FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who stepped down Monday before he had planned to retire. Trump also has repeatedly belittled Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the nation’s top lawman recused himself from the Russia investigation last year.
The latest clash is likely to erode Trump’s relationship with Wray. The president appointed Wray as FBI director after he fired James Comey last May for what the president later said was “this Russia thing.” Comey’s dismissal sparked a national uproar and led to Mueller’s appointment as special counsel.
Despite Wray’s concerns about the memo, the GOP-led House committee voted along party lines Monday to release it. The committee voted against simultaneously releasing a written rebuttal from Democrats, who contend that the GOP memo deliberately misstates facts for partisan purposes.
The decision then moved to the White House, and Trump told a lawmaker after his State of the Union address Tuesday night that he was “100 percent” planning to release the memo. On Wednesday morning, John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, said on Fox News Radio that the memo “will be released here pretty quick, I think, and the whole world can see it.”
The memo reportedly asserts the Justice Department misinformed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain a secret warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, an adviser in Trump’s campaign who had business ties to Russia, and that it shows the FBI has an anti-Trump bias.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who is ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said he expects Trump to release the memo.
“There is only one criteria for the president,” he said. “Not what’s in the national interest, not what’s in the interests of justice, but what’s in his narrow personal interest.”
Later Wednesday, Schiff said Nunes “secretly altered” the memo before he sent it to the White House for review.
In a letter to Nunes, Schiff wrote that “material changes” were made to the document.
“The White House has … been reviewing a document since Monday night that the Committee never approved for public release,” Schiff wrote in his letter.
He did not say precisely what had changed in the memo or why it was significant.
A spokesman for Nunes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The accusation was the latest twist in the saga over the memo, which has become one of the more hotly contested sideshows to the special counsel investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 campaign.
At issue is whether the FBI accurately described to the secret court information supplied by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence operative.
Steele had researched Trump’s connections to Russia for Fusion GPS, which was hired by Democrats to conduct opposition research, and his file later was leaked to the media in a now-notorious dossier.
Democrats and law enforcement officials say the four-page GOP memo “cherry-picks” information from a much longer application to the FISA court. Those documents typically run 50 to 60 pages, officials said.
On Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the Nunes memo raises “legitimate questions about whether an American’s civil liberties were violated,” but he warned his colleagues against using it to target the special counsel.
“This is a completely separate matter from Bob Mueller’s investigation, and his investigation should be allowed to take its course,” Ryan told reporters Tuesday.
Local • 3A, 6A
Retailer closing Beloit store
Bon-Ton Stores announced Beloit’s Elder-Beerman store will close under a plan for the retailer to shed 47 stores over the next 10 to 12 weeks. The store at the Eclipse Center is one of nine in the state the Milwaukee-based company will close as part of a restructuring plan announced last year. Janesville’s Boston Store, one of Bon-Ton’s Wisconsin holdings, is not listed among the closings.
Gun shop robbed of cash
For the second time in two days, a gun shop in the Janesville area has been burglarized. Janesville police officers responded to an alarm at 12:19 a.m. Wednesday at CTR Firearms at 3025 Woodlane Drive, police said. The burglars left with a small amount of cash from the register, but they took no guns.
Club selling Super Bowl tickets
The Janesville Boys and Girls Club will accept bids until noon Thursday for four tickets to Super Bowl LII between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in Minneapolis. An anonymous donor provided the tickets, asking that all proceeds go to the club. The four tickets are valued at $48,000. The seats are on the 20-yard line at club level, and tickets for a Super Bowl pre-party are also included.
State • 2A
Nehlen singles out critics
Paul Nehlen, a GOP challenger to U.S. Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is giving out the contact information of his critics, singling them out for harassing calls and messages. Nehlen, who Ryan beat handily in a primary in 2016 and is challenging him again this year, drew scathing attacks by posting to Twitter a list of his critics and saying most of them are Jewish.
Sports • 1B-3B
Sectional seeding coming soon
The WIAA seeding meetings for girls basketball take place in 10 days, and Division 1’s Janesville Craig Sectional could pose a challenge for coaches who try to rank the teams. Mukwonago and third-ranked Sun Prairie are clearly the top two teams in the sectional, but after that 10 teams are within two or three wins of each other.
A former UW-Rock County basketball coach and the coach’s son were charged Tuesday in Waukesha County Court with battery and disorderly conduct for a post-game incident.
The charges were filed against father and son Jamal M. Mosley, 41, and J’shon N. Mosley, 20, both of Madison.
Both Mosleys assaulted a referee after the game Jan. 3, witnesses told police, according to the criminal complaint.
Jamal Mosley delivered his resignation Jan. 23, said UW Colleges spokeswoman Shawna Connor.
Bill Peyer of Janesville, who coached the now-disbanded UW-Rock women’s team, has taken over the men’s team, Connor said.
During the Jan. 3 game, in which the UW-Rock Rattlers men lost to the UW-Waukesha Cougars by four points, the referee had issued Jamal two technical fouls, according to the complaint.
The following details are also from the complaint:
The referee told police he and the other referees were leaving the gym after the game when he heard Jamal yelling for him to stop. He did not want to talk, so he continued walking.
Jamal told police he chased the referee to get his name so he could report him to the league for improper conduct, but the man refused to give his name, Jamal told police.
Other witnesses heard Jamal Mosley say the referee threw the first punch, something the referee denied. Two other witnesses agreed with the referee.
The referee said that as he arrived at the gym doors, Jamal grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled, swinging him around so the two men faced each other.
The referee said Jamal said: “Regardless of what happened in the game, I want a little respect out of you,” and the referee replied that respect was mutual, and that seemed to upset Jamal.
Jamal then stepped closer, and the referee said he told Jamal to get out of his face, and Jamal replied: “Who’s going to make me, you (vulgarities).”
Then Jamal pushed the referee, the referee raised his hands to defend himself, and Jamal said, “You want to go?” and started punching, the referee said.
“(The referee) stated the first few punches missed him, however, another (person) from the team’s bench came in and punched him from the side, right in the face,” the complaint states.
Jamal hit him two or three times, and J’shon hit him three to four times, and he was soon lying on the floor, the referee said.
Police reported the referee suffered a black eye and a cut on his arm.
A second referee said he was standing next to the first referee and said Jamal raised his voice and then pushed the first referee, who put up his hands to defend himself.
That’s when the punches started, and a second man joined in, the second referee said.
Another witness said the referee never pushed back or threw any punches and said she heard Jamal say later, “Of course, it’s the black guy’s fault.”
J’shon was one of the team’s managers, according to the complaint, but a UW Colleges spokeswoman said he was never hired by UW-Rock, nor was he ever a UW-Rock student.
Jamal gave a second statement to police the day after the incident, saying the referee disrespected him and treated him like a child during the game, calling him “boy” on two occasions, according to the complaint.
When Jamal confronted the referee, the referee puffed out his chest and got into Jamal’s personal space and pushed Jamal, which started the fight, Jamal said, and J’shon tried to break up the fight.
“Jamal stated that once he saw his son get attacked, he ‘lost it’ and blacked out,” according to the complaint.
The charges are misdemeanors that carry maximum penalties of nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine for battery and 90 days in jail plus a $1,000 fine for disorderly conduct.
Initial court appearances for both men are set for Monday, Feb. 19.