New Voices Speak up For Reform

In this update: 1. Senior citizen groups want action on the issue behind all other issues 2. The homogenization of state politics 3. Legislature specializing in gridlock 4. So much time, so little (intention) to do  New Voices Speak up For Reform

Email date: 1/16/08

In this update:
1. Senior citizen groups want action on the issue behind all other issues
2. The homogenization of state politics
3. Legislature specializing in gridlock
4. So much time, so little (intention) to do

A coalition of groups representing senior citizens held a press conference at the Capitol yesterday to talk up their plans for a new push for campaign finance reform.

The groups, including AARP Wisconsin and the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, said "sweeping campaign finance reform is necessary in this state in order to better advance health care reform and other issues critical to the well being of Wisconsin seniors."

They went on to say "the enactment of these reforms would go a long way toward ridding this state of some of the most serious obstacles to the advancement of other issues of great importance to seniors and other Wisconsinites."

Three leading reformers in the Legislature joined the senior groups at the press conference. Senator Pat Kreitlow, who chairs the Senate committee dealing with campaign finance reform, said public hearings on reform legislation will start either the week of February 4 or the following week.

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One of the most pronounced themes in the new book released Monday by the Midwest Democracy Network is how state politics has been homogenized by pathologies that long ago infected national politics but more recently have filtered down to the state level. Reading the book is something of a shock to the system for people in Wisconsin who for generations took pride in the uniqueness of our state’s political culture. What is chronicled in the book’s chapter on the condition of democracy in Wisconsin is virtually indistinguishable from the chapters on states like Illinois and Ohio. As recently as 20 years ago, these stories would have been as distinct and unique as the states themselves were.

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A front-page story in The Capital Times yesterday focused on how each house of the Legislature is busy generating and passing legislative proposals that have no realistic hope of even being considered by the other house. We noticed this trend too, and our research director posted a blog on the subject that helps explain why lawmakers are so fond of gridlock.

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We’re barely two weeks into the new year, and the Assembly Speaker is already saying time is running out on getting anything done in 2008 on key issues that are at the top of the public’s wish list. That’s the subject of another recent post on our Big Money Blog.

We checked and it turns out the Assembly was in session for a grand total of 20 days in 2007. You’d think after delivering a state budget four months late and doing nothing else worthy of mention after that, lawmakers would feel obliged to pick up the pace in 2008 to justify their salaries and per diems. The Speaker is saying think again.