Of guns, gays and gas.

By - Jan 1st, 2006 02:52 pm
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By Lefty McTighe

In case you haven’t been paying attention, fellow Wisconsinites, your GOP-controlled State Legislature has been hard at work for you this past December, tackling the pivotal issues that truly matter most.

In a political trifecta that pushes all sorts of emotional buttons, the Republican leadership in both the Senate and the Assembly will have closed out the 2005 calendar year with votes to allow citizens to carry concealed handguns, place a constitutional ban of gay marriage on the November 2006 ballot and end the automatic increase of the state gasoline tax.

If you thought health care, education and job creation were important, well, you are clearly out of step with your lawmakers. You simply don’t share the values and priorities of those you have sent to Madison.

Each of these GOP-sponsored initiatives tug at the heartstrings of the conservative base, mixing Republican catchphrases like ‘tax cuts,’ ‘gun rights,’ and ‘family values’ into one delectable brew served up to the narrow interests of the rabidly right wing. For the rest of us hoping to find a better job, a better school for our kids, or maybe even expanded health care coverage for our family, we will have to wait our turn until the important business of the state gets done first.

But that’s not even the most troubling part of the story. For those of us rightfully outraged by the backward priorities of the Republican legislature, there is another group of folks who should be even more irate: those conservatives who genuinely care about concealed handguns, gay marriage and the gas tax. Because in truth, these bills fail to adequately solve the problems they claim to fix.

These proposals have been shepherded through the Legislature by political flim-flam artists in the Republican leadership who have put their personal electoral success above sound public policy. Not only are they abdicating their responsibility to address real issues that matter to most voters – like health care, education and jobs – they have gleefully played on the worst fears of their conservative base, playing them for suckers and hoping to whip them into a panicked frenzy and send them flocking to the polls. Who benefits from this ploy? The GOP members of the Legislature and the Republican Party of Wisconsin in this November’s elections.

GUNSThe new legislature-approved bill would allow those 21-years and older to carry a concealed gun once they pass a state sanctioned training program. For those who worried that there were not enough guns on the street, hand-wring no more – now it’s legal to walk around the neighborhood strapped.

Of course, there are limits. Lots of them. According to the December 7 edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, these are the places where concealed guns would be prohibited: child care centers, domestic violence shelters, churches, hospitals and clinics, schools, college campuse, police stations, prisons, jails, courthouses, most sporting events, airports, taverns and restaurants where alcohol accounts for more than half of sales. Additionally, public facilities and private businesses can ban concealed weapons on their premises if they do certain things like post signs or maintain storage areas.

So basically, the only place you could actually carry a weapon is walking down the street. There and in a car, which makes perfect sense in case you get into a fender bender – after all, few things go together better than road rage and firearms.

There is actually one other place you can go with your concealed gun: the state Capitol. Ironically, it won’t be illegal to carry under the dome in Madison, so you can pack heat when you meet your legislators and thank them for addressing this serious problem with such an effective bill.

GAYSApparently the sanctity of marriage in Wisconsin is under relentless assault from a tidal wave of gay couples looking to get hitched. It’s shocking that our court system and licensing divisions are able to get any other work done, being so inundated with all these homosexuals coming out of the woodwork, threatening to do what Jennifer Lopez and the roughly half of heterosexual marriages that end in divorce have not yet done – undermine the institution of marriage in our culture.

That’s why our GOP-Legislature stepped up to meet this crisis head-on by passing a constitutional amendment to ban these insidious gay marriages that stand poised to eviscerate the moral foundation of our society.

It’s curious, however, that Republicans have chosen to delay a vote on such an urgent, monumental issue to the November 2006 ballot when they could have very easily placed the gay marriage referendum on the April 2005 ballot. Instead, our dedicated GOP leaders have decided to allow this nefarious problem to fester another 18 months. The fact that Governor Jim Doyle and other Democratic candidates will also be on the ballot in November when conservative voters turn out in droves must be a pure coincidence.

Of course, the discerning voter might ask why such an amendment is even necessary. According to the January 10, 2005 edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Wisconsin statutes and courts have consistently held that marriage in this state is a relationship between a man and woman,” and both Governor Doyle and Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager have confirmed that current Wisconsin law already recognizes marriage as a union between male and female partners. One can only wonder what would motivate our Republican leaders to pass a redundant constitutional ban on gay marriages when current law already prohibits them.

GASFor nearly twenty years, the gas tax in Wisconsin automatically increased every April 1 to match the rate of inflation – without a vote in the legislature. That’s until a group of enterprising Republican legislative leaders invoked the Boston Tea Party and claimed this smacked of ‘Taxation without Representation.” The GOP swung into action, moving quickly to end the automatic gas hikes, and forcing the legislature to vote for such increases in the future starting on April 2006.

What Republicans didn’t advertise was that the automatic gas tax increases were already slated to expire in April 2007. So basically after the grave injustice of automatic hikes had been in place for almost two decades, the GOP decided to act only in the final year of the program. Quite a victory for the taxpayer indeed, and a shining example of leadership on tax cuts. That’s like rooting for a football team after it has won the Super Bowl.

Sanctimonious Republican leaders acted as though the gas tax increases presented a backbreaking burden on Wisconsinites; in reality, the expected increase for 2006 was a just 0.8 of a cent. What’s more, this is not an arbitrary, exorbitant hike; the gas tax increases at a small, incremental level to keep pace with inflation. This ain’t exactly the equivalent of the trillion dollar Bush tax cut here.

DEMOCRACY IN ACTION!No matter how you personally feel about guns, gays and gas, these sham bills sponsored by the GOP leadership demonstrate that they really aren’t serious about these issues. After the posturing and grandstanding, Republican lawmakers can slap each other on the back, go home to their districts and tell their constituents they’ve fought hard to expand gun rights, stood up for family values, and cut their taxes. Their duped conservative voters will swoon like teenage girls at a Beatles concert, thinking – wrongly – that their agenda has been served. And they will march in lockstep to the polls to return these con artist politicians to Madison.

As for the rest of us on the middle-left of the spectrum, we’ll keep waiting for the GOP Legislature to get to work on jobs, education, health care and other real issues, whenever they get around to it.  VS

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