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Tony Evers says he will 'take any steps possible' to prevent GOP plan to take away his power

MADISON

Gov.-elect Tony Evers said he “will take any steps possible” to prevent Republican lawmakers from removing key powers from his new administration.

Republican lawmakers are to hold a hearing Monday on a sweeping plan to weaken his authority. Both chambers could vote to approve the measures Tuesday.

“I view this as a repudiation of the last election. I will take any steps possible to assure the people of Wisconsin that I will not invalidate those votes,” Evers told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in an interview Saturday. “And frankly, I’m encouraging citizens across the state of Wisconsin to help me in that effort.”

Following the defeat of Gov. Scott Walker in the Nov. 6 election, Republican lawmakers have put forward a slate of legislation that would provide more power to the state Legislature and prevent Evers from having authority over key areas of state government.

“The last election changed the state in a way that apparently the Legislature has decided to not accept,” Evers said. “They are putting their interests in front of the people of the state of Wisconsin.”

The sweeping legislation would also limit early voting and move Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential primary at a cost of some $7 million in an effort to make it easier for conservative Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly to win his contest that year.

Another provision could allow Republican lawmakers to prevent the state from getting out of a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, something Evers has promised to do.

The legislation would also restrict Evers’ power over rules used to implement state laws and limit his flexibility in how he runs many public benefits programs.

Republican legislative leaders say the plan will re-balance power between the legislative and executive branches—a dynamic they say was tipped in Walker’s favor by their own action. In the 2010 election, the party gained full control of state government.

“Maybe we made some mistakes giving too much power to Gov. Walker and I’d be open to looking at that to see if there are areas we should change that,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, told reporters a day after the general election.

In unveiling their plan, which would provide more legislative authority over state agencies and remove key powers from Evers and incoming Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, GOP leaders said the plan prevents Evers from undoing laws passed under Republican control.

Evers said the GOP plan goes far beyond simply protecting past Republican policies and attempts to prevent the decision by voters to elect Democrats to state offices from becoming reality.

“Frankly, it’s another embarrassment for the state of Wisconsin,” Evers told the Journal Sentinel. “The people of the state certainly indicated we needed to move beyond rancor and politics as usual. And what is the first thing that’s happened? Rancor and politics as usual. I don’t think the people of this state will take this well.”

When asked if he would consider legal action against the plan if lawmakers move forward, Evers said, “Everything’s on the table.”

“We’re exploring options—all of them,” Evers said. “But we hope not to take them. We hope legislators will rethink their strategy.”

Part of focus is on jobs agency

One provision would give Republicans more control of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the state’s job creation agency, which Evers has pledged to dissolve and reconstitute.

Under the GOP plan, Evers would lose the ability to choose the leader of the WEDC and lawmakers would get more appointments to the board that oversees the agency. The board, not Evers, would get to pick the agency’s leader.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said Sunday on Madison’s WKOW-TV that Republicans want to make sure Evers doesn’t cripple the agency by withholding appointments to its board.

Despite the clash before Evers takes office, Steineke said he believed the Legislature and Evers could work together over the next four years.

“I think there’s great possibility we can find common ground on a lot of different issues,” he said. “(Voters) wanted divided government. We’re going to find a way to work together.”

Appearing Sunday on WISN’s “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” Evers said he still plans to disband the jobs agency, but may pursue the change through stand-alone legislation rather than the state budget. He said the state’s approach to economic development needs to be more comprehensive.

“It has to be a 72-county thing,” he said.

Comparisons to North Carolina

Democrats are comparing the Wisconsin Republicans’ plan to one signed in 2016 by GOP Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina after he was defeated by a Democrat.

The legislation passed by the North Carolina Legislature weakened incoming Gov. Roy Cooper’s authority over the state’s election system and reduced the number of the governor’s appointments. The matter ended up in court, and was found to be unconstitutional.

Walker has not answered questions about whether he would support the measures being considered by lawmakers.

A hearing is planned for 12:30 p.m. today and opponents have promised to pack the state Capitol for it. GOP lawmakers plan a committee vote on the measures as soon as the hearing is over and to take the measures up Tuesday in the Senate and Assembly.

“I think that gives people a wrong impression of how government should work,” Evers said on Gousha’s show.

The lame-duck session comes as Evers assembles his cabinet and prepares to introduce a state budget early next year.

Evers told Gousha he was committed to finding $1.4 billion for schools over two years—a figure Republican lawmakers consider too high. Evers said he could fashion a schools plan that did not raise taxes, but in answer to a question said he would “possibly” support higher sales taxes.

Impact on ACA lawsuit

One measure included in the GOP’s lame-duck plan would remove Evers’ power to approve actions taken by Kaul and give that power to the Legislature’s GOP-controlled budget committee.

That could mean the campaign promise from the two Democrats to withdraw the state from a federal lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act could be blocked by lawmakers.

Evers said Saturday he’s “very concerned” about that prospect.

“Certainly that is something that was part and parcel to this last campaign and there’s no question the governor and I were on different sides of that issue,” Evers said. “I also think that’s one of the reasons I won.”

Republican lawmakers also hope to take up legislation that would ensure protections for pre-existing conditions, but Evers said on WISN-TV the bill is “cosmetic” because if the Affordable Care Act goes away, the state cannot impose rules for pre-existing coverage on self-funded private health plans.

Evers campaigned heavily on moving away from what he characterized as a divisive political atmosphere over the last eight years. He said Saturday he still believes that’s possible, despite the legislation to weaken his power.

“Yes I do. That’s me. That’s part of my DNA. Regardless of what happens here, we’ll still make sure we’ll reach common ground,” Evers said. “That’s what voters wanted. They want less fighting.”

A wide-range of changes

Other provisions under consideration would:

  • Move the 2020 presidential primary from April to March. That’s aimed at ensuring there is lower turnout during the April election for state Supreme Court, which would make it easier for conservatives to maintain their court majority.
  • Limit early voting to two weeks. A similar limit was found unconstitutional in 2016, and Democrats have threatened to take legal action again.
  • Give lawmakers—instead of the attorney general—control over how court settlements are spent.
  • Allow the Legislature to substitute the attorney general with taxpayer-funded private attorneys—picked by lawmakers—when state laws are challenged in court.
  • Make it easier for lawmakers to hire private attorneys at taxpayer expense when they are accused of violating the open records law or other statutes.
  • Eliminate the solicitor general’s office, which oversees high-profile litigation.
  • Modestly lower the state’s income tax rates next year to offset about $60 million in online sales taxes from out-of-state retailers that Wisconsin recently began collecting.
  • Require Evers to get permission from lawmakers to ban guns in the state Capitol or make other changes to security provisions there—including increasing the number of police officers who patrol the statehouse.
  • Bar judges from giving deference to state agencies’ interpretations of laws when they are challenged in court. That could make it easier to win lawsuits challenging how environmental regulations and other laws are being enforced.
  • Make it much more difficult, in numerous ways, for the Evers administration to put in place rules that implement current and future state laws. Lawmakers, meanwhile, would gain greater power to block any rules that Evers manages to put in place.
  • Require state agencies to file quarterly reports on their spending.
  • Require the Evers administration to report if the governor pardons anyone or his aides release anyone from prison early.
  • Force Evers to get permission from the Legislature before asking the federal government to make any changes to programs that are run jointly by the state and federal governments. That would limit the governor’s flexibility in how he runs public benefits programs. If the Legislature’s budget committee determined the administration was not implementing recent changes to those programs, it could reduce funding and staffing for state agencies.
  • Require Evers to go along with a plan aimed at reducing premiums for insurance plans offered through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces for individuals.
  • Increase the number of members on the Group Insurance Board, which oversees state health benefits, from 11 to 15. The proposal would allow leaders of the Legislature to appoint the additional members.
  • Channel federal money into a smaller number of state road projects, so that other projects could avoid having to comply with federal environmental and wage laws.

Submitted Photo 

Brett Getzen, left, president of musical instrument maker Getzen Co. in Elkhorn, donated a new trumpet to U.S. Army Reserves trumpeter Matt Miller, center, after Getzen found out Miller’s was stolen in Milwaukee recently. Miller and his wife, Chelsea, right, originally of Janesville, live in Sun Prairie.


Local
Two hours of bells, a year of giving

“I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time … as a good time; ... men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely.

—Scrooge’s nephew Fred, to his Uncle Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

JANESVILLE

From Thanksgiving to Christmas, people’s hearts and wallets open up.

But poverty exists year-round.

That’s the challenge for charities such as the Salvation Army: How do you keep the spirit of giving, both of time and money, going throughout the rest of the year? As it is now, a significant part of the Salvation Army’s fundraising goes on in the 30 or so days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We asked Salvation Army staff and volunteers about the phenomenon and for ideas on how to spread that spirit of giving throughout the rest of the year.

Christmas traditions

The Salvation Army’s Major Tom McDowell said that the tradition of holiday giving has been around for “a century or two” and was greatly influenced by the cultural phenomena of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

“It’s clearly connected to the Christmas story—our western culture is greatly influenced by that,” McDowell said. “I think Charles Dickens was linking the desperate effort of survival with the Christmas story.”

There’s a historical link between the Dickens story and people seeing the holidays as a time to help your fellow man, McDowell said.

Dickens story impacted more that people of faith.

“It was culture-wide, even though it originated in the Christmas story,” McDowell said.

McDowell believes that people respond to the kettles because they are reminded of their own blessings.

The kettle tradition started in 1891 when San Francisco Salvation Army Capt. Joseph McFee wanted to host a Christmas dinner for the poor. He drew from his days as a sailor in England. When a person was in need, a large pot was place on the docks for donations. McFee put up a large pot on a ferry landing, and the tradition was born.

Volunteer time and money

Jon Gordon, the chef who has run the Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving dinner for many years, is used to the phenomenon. Every Thanksgiving, the kitchen is full of people who want to serve, and he is grateful for every one of them.

But Gordon, who runs other charitable events throughout the year, always wants to remind those folks that help is needed year-round, not just at the Salvation Army, but elsewhere as well.

The Salvation Army has a full lunchroom Monday through Friday, said Patrice Gabower, volunteer and special events coordinator. In the summer, the Salvation Army sees more families with children because kids are no longer getting breakfast and lunch at school, she said.

“People are their most generous from Thanksgiving to Christmas,” said Patrice Gabower, volunteer and special events coordinator. “But people are still hungry on March 1 and on July 1.”

Gabower acknowledged it’s difficult for working people to volunteer during the week. Some companies, such as Kerry Ingredients in Beloit, allow their employees to work a certain number of volunteer hours while still on the clock, she said.

One of the easiest ways to give is to designate a small amount of money to be withdrawn from your bank account every month. Most charities offer such an option.

A $10 donation once a month adds up to a $120 annual donation.

McDowell is encouraging people to make another choice: Ring bells for two hours and raise $120 or more.

The bell ringers get the satisfaction of giving while the spirit moves them. Even more important, a couple hours of bell ringing draws more people into the spirit of the season, McDowell said.

Ringing examples

That’s what David Gabbey has found.

“I love to see people ring with their families, showing their kids how to help the poor,” Gabby said.

Gabbey, who refers to himself as “the dancing pumpkin,” has pledged to ring bells for 180 hours outside of Wal-Mart. More than that, he hopes to raise enough money to earn himself a place on the plaque at Salvation Army headquarters.

“I want to double the amount,” Gabbey said.

Gabbey feels called by God to serve in this way.

At Woodman’s bakery entrance, Samantha Lampe plays Christmas carols on her cello instead of ringing a bell.

She and her sister have been working at the kettles for about 10 years, starting in their high school years.

It’s just something they enjoy doing—and they encourage others to take it up.

McDowell thinks that it’s the beauty surrounding Christ’s birth that sparks that sense of giving and concern for others.

“The closer you get to the story, the more understanding you will have of not only the child, but what Jesus as a man required of his disciples,” McDowell said. “That brings you closer to the heart of God and what he intended us to be. Am I my brother’s keeper? Certainly you are.”


Death notices and obituaries for Dec. 3, 2018

William L. Haney II

James Peter Kealey

Marilyn J. Kuhl

William E. Miess

Marilyn M. Murray

Richard Kenneth Wendtland


Crime
Two dead in Darien shooting

DARIEN

Two people are dead and another hospitalized after a gunfire incident reported shortly after midnight Sunday at a Darien apartment building.

“There is no further danger to the community,” said Delavan police, who also police the village of Darien, in a news release.

Police released no names, pending notification of next of kin.

Police said they received a call of shots fired at 127 N. Walworth St., which is Highway 14, in the village of Darien and found two males dead.

One male’s body was found outside, and the other inside an apartment, according to a news release.

A female suffered a gunshot wound, and she was taken to a hospital, where she was expected to make a full recovery, according to the release.

The body found outside had a “possible self-inflicted gunshot wound,” according to the release, while the male found inside had more than one gunshot wound.

A remnant of yellow police tape was seen in front of one of the apartment complex’s three buildings Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t clear which of the four apartments in the building was where the shooting happened.

A neighbor in a neighboring building who declined to give her name said she left her apartment around 10:15 p.m., noticed nothing amiss, and returned about 40 minutes later when she saw a man on the ground next to a van in the parking lot.

The woman at first thought someone was working on the van, something she has seen before, but “it was funny the way he was lying there. … It didn’t seem right,” she said.

The woman said she wasn’t sure what to do, but she didn’t call to report it.

Sometime later that night, she received a call from police, asking if she was OK, she said.

The neighbor said the three-building, 12-unit Monarch Apartments was normally a peaceful place where people keep to themselves.

Another neighbor, Bob Rogers, was out of town when the incident happened, but he heard that one of those killed—the one found inside—was someone he knew.

“I was shocked,” Rogers said.

Rogers said he had never seen the man he knows at the complex.