November 27, 2014

Baldwin says House can still act on immigration

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin says the House can still act on immigration reform – if chooses to. The Wisconsin Democrat said President Barack Obama acted on the issue because House Republicans chose not to.

“Today marks the 512th day since the U.S. Senate passed, on a bipartisan basis, comprehensive immigration reform, and so any cry of ‘not enough time’ strikes me as disingenuous,” Baldwin said.

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan told the Washington Post that House Republicans only needed a few more weeks. “We’ve gone to the president and said, ‘Give us time to do immigration reform, to work on the issue this year. We want to get this done.’ And this is the reaction he has to that? He had two years with a super-majority of his own party, and he didn’t lift a finger. And now he won’t give us a few weeks?”

“We still have some days left before the end of the year, and I would certainly urge the House of Representatives to act,” Baldwin said. “These are prioritizations that the president has announced. But the only real solution – as he said – is for Congress to step up. It’s time for the House to act.”

Senator Ron Johnson says president ‘picking a fight’ on immigration (AUDIO)

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)

A U.S. Senator from Wisconsin is accusing President Obama of using an “executive fiat” to tackle immigration reform, and warns the move could result in a strained working relationship with Republicans for the coming session of Congress.

The President on Thursday night announced an executive order that would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the country, while shifting the focus to deporting criminals who illegally cross the border. Republican Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) says there are serious questions about whether he has the legal authority to even take those actions. “He said as much over the past two years that he did not have the power to act in the manner he is,” argues Johnson.

AUDIO: Sen. Ron Johnson on immigration executive order (:35)

Johnson says it’s unfortunate that Obama has chosen to start off his relationship with the new Republican majority by “picking a fight,” which he believes will only make it difficult for the GOP to work with the White House on a legislative solution. Johnson says “I really do think there can be some pretty broad agreement on how we treat those individuals who are here, many through no fault of their own, but you have to do it in the right order.”

Johnson says the first priority needs to be securing the nation’s borders, which he hopes to address next year when he takes over as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

U.S. Senate confirms Pamela Pepper as U.S. district judge for Eastern District of Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s U.S. Senators are both pleased by the appointment of Judge Pamela Pepper as U.S. Federal District Judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Pepper, of Milwaukee, was confirmed Thursday by the Senate to replace Charles Clevert.

The 50-year-old Pepper was appointed by President Obama in May, one of three candidates recommended by a state selection panel headed by Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin. She was a federal prosecutor and a private defense lawyer before becoming a federal bankruptcy judge in 2005. She’ll soon leave her post as Milwaukee’s chief bankruptcy judge.

Johnson said Pepper’s intellectual curiosity and adherence to the rule of law would serve the people of Wisconsin’s eastern district well. Baldwin said Pepper will be an “outstanding judge.” She was among 20 judicial nominees that Democrats were trying to confirm before the current session ends next month. Had she not been approved by then, Pepper would have had to go through the complete confirmation process again.

DOA projects Wisconsin revenues to fall short of spending requests

Budget requests from Wisconsin government agencies exceed expected state revenues in the next two-year budget cycle. Those numbers will be a starting point for Republican Governor Scott Walker and GOP legislators as they begin the task of putting together a state budget – one they hope will include a tax cut.

According to agency requests and revenue estimates released Thursday by the state Department of Administration, the “ask” is $2.2 billion more than what will be taken in through state taxes for 2015-2017.

But DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch and state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos make it clear – state agencies will not get everything they want. Huebsch called that a “flawed assumption” and Vos said the requests reflect a “wish list . . . that’s not going to happen.”

The co-chairs of the state’s budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance, State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and State Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette), also released a statement. “These numbers are an exercise based on agencies wish lists which will not find their way into the Governor’s budget,” it read in part. “For example, (Department of Public Instruction Superintendent) Tony Evers $700 million dollar increase despite the fact that our most expensive districts are among our lowest performers.”

Huebsch, in a letter to Walker and state lawmakers, stated that general purpose revenues are expected to increase by $392 million in the first year of the budget cycle, and $618 million in the second year, for a total take of $1.4 billion.

Wisconsin school administrators release policy proposals

A lobbying group representing school district administrators in Wisconsin has unveiled an education policy wish list. About 100 administrators gathered in Madison on Wednesday to present a set of detailed recommendations.

John Forester is with the Wisconsin School Administrators Alliance said the recommendations, contained in a 44 page document, are from a working group that began tackling the issues in late April, looking for “evidence based” solutions. “Our members late last session became increasingly concerned that education policy was being developed on ideology and emotion, and not on evidence,” he said.

Forester concedes that not every recommendation will get support from Republicans in the legislature. “We understand that this is a difficult environment fiscally, and we also understand that a number of the things that we are recommending probably won’t rise up high on their agenda.”

They include things like greater investments in early childhood education to more money for technology and innovation. All will face close scrutiny in the Republican-controlled legislature.