November 1, 2014

Bill Kramer pleads no contest to sexual assault charges

Bill Kramer

Bill Kramer

The former Assembly Republican leader accused of sexual assault has agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors.

State Representative Bill Kramer (R-Waukesha) entered a no contest plea this week in Waukesha County Circuit Court to two misdemeanor counts of fourth degree sexual assault. In exchange, prosecutors have dropped two felony sexual assault charges.

Kramer, a Waukesha Republican, was accused earlier this year of assaulting a woman outside of a GOP event in 2011. The accusations surfaced just days after he was accused of harassing two women during a conference in Washington DC. The revelations prompted Assembly Republicans to strip him of his leadership title, although lawmakers stopped short of removing him from office. Kramer is not seeking reelection.

A trial on the charges had been scheduled to begin next week. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for November 25th.

Wisconsin Assembly Republicans looking to next session (AUDIO)

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester)

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester)

The election is still two weeks away, but Republicans in the state Assembly are already turning their attention to the next Legislative session.

Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and fellow GOP lawmakers outlined their ‘Forward Agenda‘ Tuesday at the Capitol. Vos said “the centerpiece of our agenda is really making sure that we focus on jobs and the economy. We want to create a better climate to grow jobs, we want to train workers for the high demand jobs that we know we are seeing all across Wisconsin, we want to help people find jobs faster so they can get back to work and support their families.”

The plan also calls for targeting public assistance fraud and reducing government regulations and red tape. Vos said “we’ll come back in January, we’re going to have an aggressive agenda ready to go on the floor, working together to try and move Wisconsin forward.”

AUDIO: Speaker Robin Vos on the Forward Agenda (1:01)

In a statement, Assembly Democratic leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) accused Republicans are “doubling down on the same failed agenda that has left Wisconsin dead last in the Midwest in job growth and facing a staggering structural deficit.” Barca added that it “appears Republicans have no intention of prioritizing support for our public schools, ensuring affordable health care coverage or many other important issues that are the building blocks of a strong middle class.”

Budget panel to consider funding for Wisconsin voter ID awareness efforts

The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee (File photo: WRN)

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (File photo: WRN)

Lawmakers will consider a request next week for funding to promote the state’s voter ID requirement.

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing for next Tuesday on a request from the Government Accountability Board for just under $461,000. The agency wants to use the already-appropriated money to run a public awareness campaign on the state’s voter ID requirement, which will be in effect for the November 4th elections. A federal appeals court said last month that Wisconsin could enforce the law, which had been on hold for over two years because of court injunctions.

A joint statement from the Republican co-chairs of the committee says they look forward to the agency’s presentation, and that they are encouraged the request did not include adding state employees to help with implementation of the voter ID law.

The GAB plans to use many of the same materials that were prepared in the initial roll-out of the voter ID law in early 2012, which were pulled after the first of several court injunctions were issued blocking further enforcement of the requirement. The agency says it has updated materials to reflect changes ordered in a state Supreme Court decision on the law earlier this year.

Latest audit of Wisconsin jobs agency shows concerns over records

File photo

File photo

A new state audit shows Wisconsin’s job creation agency did not keep records to justify its spending on travel, salaries, and grants during its first two years.

The report from the Legislative Audit Bureau contains a fiscal review of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the public-private agency Governor Scott Walker created in 2011. Auditors said previously identified processing errors within the agency have been fixed, and there’s a new tracking system in which expense numbers upload directly into the agency’s accounting network. That reduces the chances for errors.

The audit showed that spending on 223 administrative items were not properly documented to indicate whether the items were reasonable, or even approved. The auditors also looked at 44 grant payments to businesses, economic groups, and local governments. They turned up processing errors, and a lack of supporting documents. The review covered 2011-2013 and noted that $1.7 million in job creation loans to businesses had not been paid back by the end of last year.

Agency CEO Reed Hall said his department now has a policy on documenting spending, and it plans to review its loan portfolio.

Concerns raised about campaigning lobbyists

File Photo

File Photo

The head of a government watchdog group is weighing in on a move by Assembly Republican leaders to recruit lobbyists to campaign for candidates.

Recent reports revealed several lobbyists have been included in emails sent out by Legislative leaders, which ask them to go knock on door in certain areas to help promote Republican candidates, talking to voters and dropping off campaign literature.

Jay Heck of Common Cause says some voters might consider it unseemly, if not wrong, that paid lobbyists are helping candidates. He says lobbyists already have tremendous influence at the Capitol, and getting them involved in the campaigning process seems very “counterproductive and ill-advised.”