News – February 3, 2011

Recall Efforts Begin


3/3/11 – Efforts are underway to seek recall elections against 13 Wisconsin senators, as the controversial union rights bill remains stalled. Yesterday, Democratic organizers filed papers with the state to begin recall petition drives against all eight Republican senators who are eligible to be recalled, including Glenn Grothman of West Bend and Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac. The petitioners need between 11-thousand and 21-thousand signatures, depending on the number of votes cast last fall in each of the senators’ districts. Only those who have served at least a year in their current terms can be recalled, meaning Scott Fitzgerald and Jeff Fitzgerald couldn’t be touched until next year.  Last month, local groups started recall efforts against Democratic senators Bob Wirch, Jim Holperin, Spencer Coggs, Dave Hansen, and Minority Leader Mark Miller. And a Utah group has been in the process of petitioning for recalls against the other three Senate Democrats who are eligible.


Testimony Continues in Capitol Access Case


3/3/11 – A judge in Madison said he was ready to remove over 100 protestors who were camping in the State Capitol last night. But he decided against it after attorneys talked him out of it. Dane County Circuit Judge John Albert has been hearing testimony on a request by the State Employees Union to end the Walker administration’s policy of limiting visitors to the statehouse – and making people show passes or state-their-business to police. Judge Albert said he wanted to test the Administration Department’s claim that public access would return to normal if the protestors were gone. But assistant attorney general Steve Means said the protestors should get a chance to be heard before booting them out. And unions’ attorney Peg Lautenschlager said they might not take the removal order seriously, saying the state ignored a temporary court order to end the restrictive policies. So the judge said he would keep hearing testimony and rule on the issue today.


Fox Lake Approves Sewer Lateral Policy

3/3/11 – Officials in Fox Lake last night approved a resolution that will require residents to replace the sewer line running from their house to the street. In an effort to reduce flooding associated with sanitary sewer overflows, utility officials have identified the need to replace many of the sewer pipes that runs from a private residence to the city-owned sewer line. The policy says residents will be required to hire their own private contractor and secure their own funding. While costs will vary depending on the length of the lateral, estimates are in the $3000 range.  Rather than testing every property, City Administrator Bill Petracek says they will identify problem laterals only during major street projects, when the water main is replaced or if discovered during routine, day-to-day maintenance. There are three such projects planned for this year and testing will be done to determine if the ten affected property owners need to repair or replace or do nothing with their laterals.  Last month the council signed-off on the letter that will be sent to homeowners identifying their laterals as “defective and leaking.” It gives them six months to have a licensed plumber repair or replace pipes, or risk penalties.


Cutback in Pension Checks for State Workers


3/3/11 – Retired state-and-local government workers will get smaller pension checks for the third year in a row, as they continue to reel from the 2008 financial collapse. Starting in May, monthly benefits for those who invest in the State Retirement System’s Core Fund will be one-point-two-percent less each month. That follows a cut of one-point-three percent last year, and two-point-one percent in 2009. All 156-thousand people in the system get at least half their pensions from the Core Fund. About 35-thousand retirees invest in the more aggressive Variable Fund – and they’ll get an 11-percent increase from that pot. The state’s investments are still recovering from a 26-percent drop in 2008, when the nation’s financial markets collapsed. The State Retirement Fund serves state-and-local employees except those who work for the city and county of Milwaukee. Those places have their own retirement systems.


Insures Would No Longer Pay for Birth Control Under New Budget


3/3/11 – Wisconsin health insurers would no longer have to pay for birth control under Governor Scott Walker’s proposed new state budget. The Republican Walker wants to un-do the requirement approved two years ago by former Governor Jim Doyle. Democrats had tried for over 10 years to make insurance cover birth control prescriptions. And they were finally able to do it when they had control of the entire Legislature and the governor’s office the past two years. Planned Parenthood and various public health groups supported the measure, which took effect last year. Catholic and pro-lifers opposed it