Tuesday, March 4, 2014

When Legislature Hits Local Controls, Look To Special Interest Strings

Town governments in Wisconsin are fighting against fast-tracked, GOP-backed legislation that will prevent or restrict local officials and the citizens who elect them from regulating sand mines that impose health, safety, transportation and budget risks literally - - in the ground, air and water - -  at the grassroots.

That's because mining companies have gotten control of the legislative process, just as they did when a bill to benefit one out-of-state-open pit iron mining company was jammed through the Legislature at the expense of local governmental and even treaty-protected controls across the Bad River watershed in Northwest Wisconsin.

A fine summary by State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout:

This bill is far more dangerous than its earlier cousin. It will set precedence for every other mineral deposit in Wisconsin. Do we want sand mining next to Lake Delton? 
Industrial mining has its place. But it is a place that must be determined by the people who live in that neighborhood. Taking away the community’s ability to say ‘no’ is taking away local control.
Nobody likes Big Brother, they say.

But he's been hitting Milwaukee with extra-special mandates for years, such as a special 60-year-old legislated growth-busting freeze on the city boundaries.

Other communities have annexation powers, and borders are negotiated.

Not at Milwaukee's edges, benefiting suburban growth, influencing housing, transportation and transit decisions, and development, too.

Milwaukee has also been drained of millions of dollars since the passage of a law with then-Gov. Tommy Thompson's support that forces Milwaukee taxpayers to pick up one-half of the salaries, plus some benefits, of two senior Milwaukee Police Association (union) officials at a cost of more than $200,000 a year.

That law saves the union money internally and lets it redirect dues revenues towards other things, like legal fees, or contract negotiations, or lobbying - - and the union has done well by the Walker administration which exempted its members from Act 10's public employee take-home pay reductions and further rewarded them by ending local residency requirements so their members could move to nearby suburbs.

Another example of the GOP's current wave of legislated local pre-emption: rolling back any local law establishing a higher minimum wage, thus cutting some workers' wages and local governments' ability to respond to what its constituencies want.

Where and when will this interference and arrogation from On High and Far Away run its course?

There was a time when Republicans put their purported philosophies into action by opposing Big Government mandates that told local taxpayers and their elected officials how to set priorities and spend money.

But with special interests calling the GOP's tune, and especially with a gerrymandered Legislature serving Scott Walker, those days are gone.

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