In Wisconsin’s Spring primary, a relatively empty ballot led to a relatively light turnout but determined a rather important race to the future of Wisconsin politics. In many places across the State, the only contest that faced voters in the booth was the 4-way supreme court primary between incumbent Justice David Prosser, and challenger candidates Joanne Kloppenburg, Marla Stephens, and Joel Winnig. In the end, Prosser sailed through and came out on top and his challenger is assistant State Attorney General Joanne Kloppenburg who came in second. Kloppenburg will now aim to take out Prosser in the April 5 Spring election.
Kloppenburg, who has a ton of legislative experience dating back to the mid-1970’s, fashions herself as a true independent, nonpartisan voice in the supreme court race:
“My approach is to be independent and impartial and that is, to not to prejudge cases,” she told wisconsinvote.org. “Justice Prosser’s has said that he will complement the work of the Governor and the legislature and that he will be the conservative justice. Joel Winnig has said that he will be the progressive justice who will help to change laws on the court, and Marla Stephens has said she will be an advocate. And I believe that those approaches are wrong. I have been in front of many judges, I as the litigator and the advocate. The judge doesn’t advocate for one side or the other. The lawyers advocate for what is right and what is true but the judge administers justice and decides without prejudging, without deciding if there is a conservative side to a case or a liberal side to a case and applies the law to the fact independently and impartially.”
Meanwhile, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has made good on two more his promises, one being the passage of legislation that requires a 2/3rds vote of the State legislature for tax increases and the other bill, signed into law last week, that replaces the Wisconsin Department of Commerce with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a public/private entity with the transition being overseen by Commerce Secretary Paul Jadin. The no-tax increase sets up one of the philosophies for which the Governor promised he would put in place to reform the State budget: No tax increases to cut the deficit. However, one of the Governor’s main proposals associated with rolling out his budget repair bill has created a furor among State workers: The proposal to decrease collective bargaining agreements among all public sector union workers with the exception of fire and police workers, as well as State inspectors. The Governor proposed that public union workers pay more into their health and pension plans to alleviate the spending of taxpayer dollars in light of the budget deficit that has grown to 3.6 billion in this session and while some are opposed to that reform, the majority of protesting union workers are upset about the collective bargaining restrictions.
In the proposal, collective bargaining rights would be curtailed to only wage increases and these would be capped at the rate of inflation unless decided by public referendum of Wisconsin voters. Unions would also not be able to require non-member public sector workers from having to pay dues or “fair share” payments into the Unions for work performed, would have to take a yearly vote in order to maintain their status as a union, and would not be able to force employers to collect dues for them.
On Tuesday, The Wisconsin Department of Administration estimated that 10,000 protestors had amassed at the Capitol during Joint Finance Committee public hearings on the proposal with 3,000 protestors inside the capitol. The hearings went on well into the night Tuesday and lasted into Wednesday morning.
Madison City employee and union steward Rick Marx told the Wisconsin Reporter:
“It’s one thing to decide that he believes that public workers need to be able to give more money at the bargaining table with their benefits, but it’s another thing to decide that he’s going to eliminate any of our ability to bargain for any of our working conditions.”