“Republicans control the Assembly 60-39 and the Senate 18-15 and are in a good position to hold on to them in the fall election.
Funding roads with new revenue would face steep challenges. In a recent interview, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) was cool to the idea of raising the gas tax or implementing new vehicle fees, even if they were part of a measure that reduced the overall tax burden.
Instead, Vos wants the state to start tolling on highways.
“I have consistently been a supporter of tolling,” Vos said. “As people drive, they should pay. It makes perfect sense.”
That, however, would require a change in federal law. Observers say Congress is unlikely in the short term to grant states such as Wisconsin the ability to use tolls the way that Illinois and some other states do. Vos said he remained optimistic Congress would give Wisconsin that power and noted he is focused on it over other revenue-generating ideas.
But Walker’s transportation secretary isn’t exploring tolling because the state doesn’t have the ability to implement it even if it wants to do so.
Wisconsin does have the ability to put in place limited tolling on new lanes, known as “hot lanes.” Under such a scenario, a highway might have two untolled lanes and one tolled lane that drivers could opt to pay to use when traffic was heavy.
Walker in the past has embraced hot lanes, but Gottlieb ruled the idea out for now because he said there are no road projects under consideration where they would be feasible. Installing the infrastructure for the tolled lanes would be costly and traffic levels would not be at a level where enough drivers would choose to use them, Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb declined to weigh in on other specific funding ideas. In its report, the commission backed raising the gas tax by 5 cents, to 37.9 cents per gallon; charging drivers 1.02 cents per mile they drive; and increasing registration fees for commercial vehicles by 73%.”
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson wants OSHA to back off on family farms
“Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson has two words for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Back off.
The Oshkosh Republican says OSHA is overstepping its authority by imposing regulations on family farms over which it has no jurisdiction.
Congress has passed laws specifying that farms with fewer than 10 employees are exempt from OSHA regulation, but the agency has issued violations to smaller farms, saying their grain operations are not exempt.”
Wisconsin eyes Everclear, strong liquor ban in ’14
“Jeff Wielichowski drowned in his family’s pool two summers ago after drinking a mix of Gatorade, Red Bull and Everclear with some friends.
At 190 proof, or 95 percent alcohol, Everclear packs more than twice the punch of the best-selling brands of whiskey, vodka and gin. And at about $18 per bottle, it has long been a popular ingredient in boozy punches served at parties in and around college campuses.
That may change soon in Wisconsin, where Wielichowski’s mother, Luanne Wielichowski, has channeled her grief into pushing state lawmakers to ban the sale of high-potent liquors like Everclear. A bill that would ban the sale of alcohol that’s 190-proof or higher is gathering bipartisan support in the Legislature and could be voted on early next year.
Luanne Wielichowski said she’s hopeful the bill could be passed in 2014.”
“The end of 2013 brought a measure of closure to a long-running Milwaukee police scandal, though some say the officer — and his cohorts — who repeatedly and illegally shoved his fingers up black male suspects’ anal cavities got off with a light sentence considering the flagrant nature of his abuses.
The ringleader was identified as officer Michael Vagnini, a white man who routinely targeted black males as young as fifteen for sadistic — and blatantly illegal — anal searches.
One victim said that another officer put a gun to his head while Vagnini administered a choke hold, touched his scrotum and fingered his anus. Another man was probed so violently that he bled.
Wisconsin law clearly prohibits police officers from administering cavity searches. Only medical professionals may do so, and only when authorized by a warrant.”
Via The Daily Caller
“State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said he hopes lawmakers early next year will reconsider some of the changes they made to the state’s new law requiring DNA collection from anyone arrested for a felony.
Van Hollen, a Republican, wants the biological samples to be sent directly to the state Department of Justice rather than left temporarily in the offices of the state’s 72 county sheriffs and other local law enforcement where bureaucratic headaches could develop.
The attorney general has strong backing from sheriffs around the state. But with few days remaining in the legislative session early next year, it will likely prove challenging to pass any bill — especially one on a touchy subject like taking suspects’ DNA.
In an interview, Van Hollen said that his office had worked carefully with Republican Gov. Scott Walker to put together a proposal that went to lawmakers as part of the governor’s budget bill in February. “
“Gov. Scott Walker announced a new timber harvest initiative Thursday that will target the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and kick off a plan to spur economic growth in the struggling industry.
The initial $49,000 from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. comes after complaints from loggers and forestry experts who say the 1.5 million-acre national forest is being mismanaged partially because of a shortage of federal harvest planning.
“The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest contains a valuable resource that, right now, is underutilized – millions of feet of timber just waiting to be harvest in an environmentally sensitive, sustainable way,” Walker said in a prepared statement. “This is another way to ensure forestry remains a vibrant part of Wisconsin’s economy.””
“Legislation that would require police to get a warrant before tracking a citizen’s cellphone has bipartisan support in the state Assembly.
The bill creates legal perimeters for authorities who want to locate a suspect electronically. It would still allow investigators to act quickly in an emergency.
Democratic Rep. Melissa Sargent says privacy is of concern to her constituents in her Madison district as well as those in conservative areas, including Brookfield, represented by her Republican co-sponsor, Rob Hutton.
Sargent tells the Journal Sentinel many people are surprised that government officials can and do conduct such electronic surveillance. The proposed legislation comes after reports that the National Security Agency has been tracking the locations of hundreds of millions of cellphones around the world.”
77,000 Lose Their Health Insurance In Wisconsin, State Mails Out Paper Applications So They Don’t Have To Use Obamacare Website…
Roughly 77,000 people in Wisconsin will lose their publicly provided health insurance, a form of state-run Medicaid, at the beginning of next year, but haven’t been able to buy health insurance on the federal exchange. The state’s current solution: Mail them paper applications.
As Oshkosh Northwestern Media reports, some enrollees in BadgerCare, the state’s insurance program for low-income Wisconsinites, are being moved off the program because they’re now eligible for subsidies on the federal exchange. The state is declining the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which would have covered some of the former BadgerCare recipients.
Via Weasel Zippers
“Health-care premiums in Wisconsin will almost double under Obamacare, compared with their current rates, according to a report from the MacIver Institute.
The state’s free-market think tank figured the average premiums of the insurance plans the Obamacare exchange offers for several categories of Wisconsinites: 27-year-olds, 50-year-olds, and a family of four from data found on a federal database. The institute then compared those rates with the average premiums on the private market, using figures from eHealthInsurance.com.
MacIver found that rates will jump significantly, especially for the young: A 27-year-old will see premiums more than double in one county in 2014, and see his rates go up by 93.6 percent in Madison, 91.2 percent in Milwaukee, and 72.6 percent in Eau Claire.”
Via National Review
” In New York and California thousands of residents have successfully enrolled for insurance through their state’s Exchange Website but in Wisconsin it’s a different story.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Mitch Ryan. Like many people, Mitch Ryan has not been able to get on the Exchange because of glitches in the Health Care website.
“This is something that should have been taken care of prior to being rolled out on October 1st,” said Ryan.
According to the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance less than 50 people have enrolled. But some health clinics say it’s less than that. Trish Sarvela with Partnership Community Health Center said she only knows of a few. “Less than a handful,” she said.”
Via Weasel Zippers