December 21, 2014

Resuming relations with Cuba could be good for Wisconsin

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI)

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI)

President Obama’s decision to restart formal relations with Cuba has drawn both criticism and cheers. Wisconsin 3rd District Congressman Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) is cheering the change, saying the old policy didn’t work.

Kind is also optimistic about that opening Cuban markets would benefit Wisconsin businesses. “This could also be good for Wisconsin’s state economy. I mean, farmers, manufacturers, they’ve been begging to get into the Cuban market in order to sell more goods. That would mean better paying jobs being created here in Wisconsin, so let’s give it a try.”

Kind says it’s obvious that there has been 50 years of failed policy. He says it does not make sense to continue on the same course. He’s optimistic that a new diplomatic, economic, and tourism invasion might lead to the type of changes America would like to see in Cuba.


Van Hollen reflects on 8 years as Attorney General

Attorney General JB Van Hollen (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

Attorney General JB Van Hollen (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

When he leaves office early next month, Wisconsin’s top cop says he’ll do so with no regrets.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen decided not to seek a third term this past November and will step down when Republican AG-elect Brad Schimel is sworn in next month. After eight years in office, the Republican says he’s proud of what he’s been able to accomplish. “I don’t leave with any regrets, other than leaving itself. I like public service. This will be the end of 22 years in public service, certainly a full career by anyone’s standards.”

In fact, Van Hollen says part of the reason he decided not to seek another term was that he has accomplished much of what he set out to do when he was first elected.

Among his achievements during two terms as Wisconsin’s attorney; reducing a DNA backlog at the state crime lab, expanding efforts to go after criminals who prey on children, and launching a campaign to combat a heroin epidemic that threatens many in the state.

There have been some criticism for Van Hollen, of course. Most recently, that focused on his continued defense of Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The provision was struck down by a federal court earlier this year and the state Supreme Court rejected an appeal of that decision. Despite the loss in court, Van Hollen argues opponents of the ban should be pleased that the court battle took place, because it provided some degree of finality on the issue.

As for the future, Van Hollen says he’s not against the idea of running for another public office at some point in the future. At least for now, he has ruled out a run for the state Supreme Court in the spring. “I’m not opposed to it. I put a lot of thought into it and I’m not saying it won’t happen in the future.” However, he added that his focus for now is going to be on his family, which will be easier to do while working in the private sector. Where that job might be is something Van Hollen says is a decision he will focus on after his term ends.

Wisconsin may regulate kickboxing

The Wisconsin legislature may tackle regulations for kickboxing. The state has long regulated boxing, and in more recent years, mixed martial arts. But state Senator Dave Hansen said there’s been a problem. “We established rules and regulations for MMA, and it does not apply to kickboxing, so a number of promoters moved into kickboxing where they could hold events at much less cost,” said the Green Bay Democrat.

Hansen credits the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with bringing attention the issue. One kickboxer has died, and a cognitively disabled man was coaxed into fighting. “Originally we thought we could just simply roll it into the MMA law, but now we’ve been told the sport would require its own set of rules,” said Hansen, who notes that Republican state Representative Joel Kleefisch has also voiced support for legislation. Hansen is optmistic that a bill will be drafted in the upcoming legislative session.

Businesses join fight against Wisconsin right-to-work proposal

File photo

File photo

More than 300 private sector business interests are joining forces to fight an effort to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state. The Wisconsin Contractor Coalition includes a variety of private employers and skilled trade representatives. Spokesman Steve Lyons says members agree with Governor Walker that the state is facing more pressing issues and the debate would only be a distraction from those.

They also believe a right-to-work law amounts to government intrusion. Lyons says “this is a contract between a private sector trade association and the company they work with. For government to interfere in that we think is bad public policy.”

Right-to-work laws typically prohibit requiring union membership as a condition of employment. Lyons says studies from groups both for and against those laws have found they lowered wages and benefits in states that adopted the policy. He warns that many employers are already saying they can’t find enough skilled workers to fill nearly 70,000 vacant positions in the state, and the possibility of reduced wages and benefits could make that even harder.

Lyons also notes that many smaller businesses appreciate the services unions offer in terms of getting workers ready for jobs. He says they enjoy the benefit of private dollars helping to make sure workers show up already trained and ready for the job.

Republican lawmakers have indicated they plan to advance right-to-work legislation in the spring. Lyons says the coalition’s focus right now is on informing the public and lawmakers about why that’s the wrong move for the state. He expects more businesses to join the group in the coming weeks.

Obama’s Cuba decision brings mixed reaction in Wisconsin

White House

White House

We’re hearing mixed reactions from a couple of Wisconsin Congressmen regarding President Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba Wednesday.

Seventh District Republican Sean Duffy is opposed to the move. Third District Democrat Ron Kind supports the change.

Duffy is glad to see American Alan Gross returned, but points out he should never have been imprisoned in the first place. The Foreign Affairs Committee member says, “The President has once again extended his hand to a leader who raises a fist in return.” adding, He has offered a commitment to a significant shift in U.S. Policy without any guarantees that Cuba will follow suit.” Duffy points out that last week, 240 dissidents were arrested in Cuba during human right protests, showing the Castro regime has no genuine interest in changing it’s ways anytime soon.

Kind supports, “Normalizing relations with Cuba that will ease restrictions between our countries and put an end to 50 years of failed policy.” He says, “It doesn’t make sense to have economic relations with a Communist nation like China, yet stay closed off to a nation just 90 miles off our coast.” Kind wants Congress to end the embargo altogether and fully open up this new market to U.S exports, which would be good for Wisconsin farmers and for job creation.