The Republican Revolution Part II
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has a really big agenda for Wisconsin. It reads like a papal encyclical.
You’ve heard the phrase: State governments are the “laboratories of democracy.”
Starting in January, the Republican-led Assembly wants to be the most ambitious laboratory for change in the Capitol. Its agenda will push and challenge not only Democrats, but even fellow Republicans Gov. Scott Walker and Senate Republicans.
Two weeks before Tuesday’s election, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos unveiled the Assembly Republican Agenda for the 2015-16 session. It read like a papal encyclical, issued to all other Capitol GOP bishops, vicars and acolytes.
It assumed, whether Walker won a second term (he did) and no matter which party controlled the Senate (Republicans kept control), that Assembly Republicans would be the Capitol’s R&D, marketing and branding headquarters. On election day, the Vos agenda became more important, since voters gave Assembly Republicans their biggest margin of control since the 1950s – up to 63 of the 99 Assembly seats
At least 16 Assembly Republicans will be new, exploding with energy, ideas and idealism. And there’s no shortage of zeal among the GOP Assembly veterans: Thirteen of them will vie for six leadership team spots Monday. The only sure things are that Vos will remain speaker and Rep. Tyler August speaker pro tem; nine others are scrambling for the three next leadership spots.
Overall, Capitol Republicans agree on the need for new tax cuts, removing limits on the number of choice students who attend private schools at state expense, accountability benchmarks for schools, and replacing Common Core educational standards with “Wisconsin-based standards.”
But other changes Assembly Republicans listed in their Agenda for the 2015-16 session may have surprised Walker and Senate Republicans, including:
*A new requirement that school districts “keep a majority of their operating expenses in the classroom.”
*UW System: New rules dictating on how much faculty members should actually teach, and a “review of courses offered to identify possible inefficiencies that make it more difficult for students to enroll.” How many of the 26 UW System campuses now teach Art in the Renaissance, for example?
*“A reasonable cap on the amount of revenue the state can raise, and only voters should decide when to lift that cap.” Assembly Republicans will discuss whether a constitutional amendment is the best way to impose that cap, Vos added in a WisconsinEye interview.
*New campaign-finance rules letting companies contribute directly to campaigns – a change that incorporates federal and state judges’ rulings that effectively removed contribution limits to candidates and parties. That will be part of a “course correction” remake of the state Government Accountability Board, which enforces campaign-finance and ethics laws. The GAB has been “riddled with criticisms about overreaching and inconsistent standards,” according to the Assembly GOP Agenda, and Vos has already made clear that GAB executive director Kevin Kennedy has got to go.
*New tax deduction: Letting all taxpayers, whether they itemize deductions or not, “deduct their charitable contributions.” And, Assembly Republicans also want taxpayers to be able to “deduct up to 100 “certified hours of volunteer work” per year.
*Public-aid EBT cards: Assembly Republicans want all public benefits to “be administered through an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card system” and “cards should be programmed to automatically decline at places like casinos, liquor stores or strip clubs.”
*Unemployment benefits: Making job searches required to keep collecting unemployment benefits “more meaningful” by telling workers jobless for 12 weeks to sign up with “temporary” help agencies. They could still collect jobless benefits, however.
*Prison inmates: “Creating a program to help secure temporary employment for inmates before release” from prison or jail.
*Cell phone “kill” switches: Requiring the sale of cell phones with kill switches would protect personal data, if a phone is lost. “The kill switch will enable the phone’s rightful owner to remotely disable it and clear its sensitive information,” the agenda explained.
Despite the aggressive agenda, Vos laughed when questioned about whether he’s pushing it to prepare for a 2018 run for governor. “I hope to stay (speaker) for a good long while,” Vos said. “This is where good public policy happens.”