Email date: 6/4/09
In this update:
1. Bill nixing legal double standard for state officials OK’d
2. Reform making headlines
3. Since when are white elephants and missing public records not news?
4. Loan sharks fighting to keep free rein in Wisconsin
Democracy Campaign-backed legislation aimed at putting a stop to privileged treatment for state politicians when it comes to how they are held accountable for following the law was approved this week by the Assembly Judiciary and Ethics Committee on a 6-4 vote.
Assembly Bill 62 ends what has been called a "home-court advantage" for state officials. When ordinary citizens are accused of a crime in Wisconsin, they are prosecuted in the county where the crime is alleged to have occurred. But when state legislators and other public officials are accused of breaking ethics and election laws, current law entitles them to be prosecuted in their county of residence. AB 62 eliminates this double standard.
Another reform bill that is on the move is Assembly Bill 245, which establishes a one-year "cooling off" period between the time when state legislators leave office and when they can start lobbying their former colleagues. The Democracy Campaign testified in support of the bill at a public hearing Monday, but urged committee members to make Wisconsin’s law as strong as those in six other states that require a two-year waiting period before departing lawmakers can become lobbyists. Wisconsin Radio Network was at the hearing, and you can listen to the coverage here.
Also in the news was the Democracy Campaign’s most recent public forum on judicial election reform. To read the La Crosse Tribune story about Monday night’s forum, go here.
Used to be that a messed-up state project and a four-month delay in gaining access to public records would have the Capitol press corps swarming. Now such outrages fly under the radar undetected. This further evidence of journalism in retreat is the topic of our latest Big Money Blog.
Used to be that lenders who charged outlandish, triple-digit interest rates were known as loan sharks. Now they’re called payday lenders. And despite an average interest rate of 525% on the money they lend, they are flourishing in Wisconsin because they are almost totally unregulated here. A bill has been proposed to cap interest rates at 36%, and the industry is waging all-out war against it. Their weaponry is the conventional arsenal for political battle - a stable of well-connected lobbyists and campaign contributions and lots of them. Read more about it here.