The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has apparently prioritized turtle safety as a big issue this summer – they are asking motorists to stop their cars and pull turtles off the road if they see them:
Turtle nesting is underway in Wisconsin
MADISON â€“ Anyone traveling Wisconsin roadways has likely seen the broken shells and other soft pieces of a once living turtle. Some are of the small painted turtles, while others are large snapping turtles. Their misfortune is the result of them trying to cross the road to find food, mates, or especially at this time of year, suitable nesting sites.
Turtles grow slowly in northern climates, according to Bob Hay, an amphibian and reptile biologist with the Department of Natural Resources…
â€œIf you see a turtle on the road — and only if itâ€™s safe to do so — carefully pull over and help the turtle to the side of the road it is facing,â€ he says, but cautions that people should never put themselves or other drivers at risk when stopping.
When helping an aggressive turtle — such as a snapping turtle — off the road, the safest way to avoid being bitten is to gently drag it across the road by it tail, leaving the front feet on the pavement. It may help to use a stick that the turtle can bite, allowing one to grab the tail more safely.
So let’s just back up, here.Â First of all, the only way I’m helping a turtle is if the turtle agrees to drag me to the hospital when I get hit by another car.
Secondly, as mentioned in the release, turtles are mean.Â There isn’t a turtle that would hesitate to peel your wig back if it had fingers.Â And free will.Â So when a turtle bites your finger off, are you supposed to lay on the road and wait for a bunny rabbit to come by and sew it back on?Â Is that the natural order of roadside assistance?
Plus, everyone knows that the best way to protect turtles is to allow them to carry concealed firearms.
The best part of the release is the final line:
People should also be aware that the turtle season is closed until July 15 each year, so picking turtles up off the road as pets or for food is illegal. Anyone who observes this being done should contact the DNR hotline at 1-800-TIPWDNR (1-800-847-9367).
Now wait – I’m expected to pull over and save a turtle, but what do I get in return?Â I can’t either eat him or put a little army helmet on him and have him play with my G.I. Joes?
Filed under: Legislation — Christian Schneider @ 12:53 pm
Senator Mike Ellis and Representative Dean Kaufert have teamed up on an important new bill, which will allow the police to view library surveillance video without a court order. The need for the bill stems from this episode, which they describe in the co-sponsorship memo:
An incident at the Neenah Public Library highlighted the need to change the statute. The Neenah Public Library had video recordings of a man self satisfying himself between book aisles, but were unable to turn that video over to police to investigate without a proper court order.
When I first read that, I said, “self-satisfying? Was he eating a delicious Italian sub sandwich?” Because I would find that very satisfying. Then it hit me what it really meant, and I said “Ohhhhhhh…..”
(I often talk out loud to myself at work.)
Anyway, rather than passing a whole new bill, we just need to call in Carl Monday. (A classic)
Filed under: Elections — Christian Schneider @ 11:06 am
In April, Former Democratic Attorney General and noted big oil apologist Peg Lautenschlager issued an opinion that reflectsÂ much of the WPRI report’s findingsÂ on Governor Doyle’s proposed oil company tax.Â In the memo, Lautenschlager argues theÂ proposed tax on oil companies, and the accompanying pass-through provision, is likely unconstitutional.Â Â She says:
The burden on interstate commerce is clear: the tax is difficult to administer; it will impact the terms of long-term contracts with refiners; it will cause fuel to flow to less costly, less cumbersome markets, and will exacerbate the problems, and expense, of having to supply needs through spot market purchases.
Naturally, these are all things that people generally know.Â But what’s interesting is Lautenschlager’s newfound desire to say them.Â It’s unknown how this memo got to the hands of the newspaper, but one might suspect Lautenschlager enjoys being a thorn in the side of the Doyle Administration (since Doyle supported a primary candidate, Kathleen Falk, against her).
This also signals an interesting trend with the former Attorney General.Â One of her final acts as AG was to issue an opinion that said the much-debated constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Wisconsin actually won’t do much at all.Â After saying all along as a candidate that the amendment would be a disaster for gays in Wisconsin, Lautenschlager counseled the City of Madison that it really won’t do anything to affect domestic partner benefits.
Now, with this big oil tax memo, she takes on a centerpiece of the Doyle budget.Â As pre-election Attorney General, she likely often disagreed with Doyle on policy, but couldn’t say so.Â Now, it seems, those constraints are off.
These new memos hint atÂ a woman that may have been conflicted between her private beliefs and public duties.Â In fact, I demand she get her own Lifetime Network movie: “Silent Conflict: The Peg Lautenschlager Story.”Â Â As soon as she could no longer run for re-election, and therefore didn’t have to court the liberal wing of her party, Lautenschlager has begun to sound very much like a moderate.Â Whether that moderation would have helped her before the election will never be known.
Another interesting portion of the Cap Times article is the reaction of the union leader quoted in response to the memo.Â He doesn’t dispute anything in the memo, he merely says he didn’t want the public to see it.Â
Today, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign issued a “report,” which will no doubt be reported as incontrovertible fact in newspapers across the state.
The “analysis” purports to show that business interests have given $12 to state candidates for every $1 labor organizations have given over the same time.Â It says:
WDC found business interests made $67.4 million in large individual and political action committee contributions compared to laborâ€™s $5.8 million between 1995 and 2006 to candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and the legislature and legislative leadership committees.
That must be the explanation for our Democratic Governor and State Senate.
Of course, WDC never says what they consider to be a “business” interest, since they don’t list their methodology.Â Â A candidate once complained to me that his mother gave him $100 and was listed as a “business” since she owned a tree pruning farm and had to list that on the report.Â For all we know, “business” could be anyone with a job.Â At the very least, who they describe as “business” is extraordinarily subjective.Â Are university professors “labor?”Â How do we know?
There also may be practical reasons why union contributions are underreported.Â For instance, one has to report their employer if they give a contribution of over $100.Â Could it be possible that union members tend to give in amounts less than $100, so their employer isn’t listed?Â One contribution of $125 would show up as being from a “business interest,” while twenty contributions of $50 (from different donors) would not.
Also, there may be substantial differences in the way unions and businesses collect funds for contributions.Â Union members often don’t have to bother with making contributions, since the union collects a portion of their check every month.Â That money often goes to pay for independent expenditures (which the WDC report conveniently ignores), and isn’t reported anywhere.Â Business interestsÂ tend to collect money from employees (“bundling”) and contribute via conduit, which are reported as individual contributions.
WDC’s firstÂ chart supposedly shows that union contributions dropped in the 2006 gubernatorial election cycle.Â Are we seriously supposed to believe that unions spent lessÂ in elections last year than they did in 2002?Â Or is the bulk of that money going to front groups like One Wisconsin Now and the Greater Wisconsin Committee, who don’t report their donors?
What’s particularly galling is that this analysis punishes individuals who follow elections law and report their contributions.Â The reporting system is intended to show who is giving and how much they’re giving, in order to gauge how much influence they have.Â If WDC wants to make accusations on that basis, that’s fine.Â But to ignore spending by labor (and business, for that matter) via unreported channels and call this an “analysis” is absurd.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that the AFL-CIO wrote a check out to the WDC, but we’ll never know because they don’t disclose their donors.
I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in our office building that eats the Pearson’s Nut Rolls out of the vending machine in the basement. I can see where people would think they’re gross, but I’m a sucker for nougat.
Anyway, yesterday I noticed the price of said nut rolls has jumped from 70 cents to 80 cents. That would be a 14.2% increase in one day. Then I noticed a piece of paper taped to the top of the vending machine that explained it:
The surge in energy prices has made processing and transportation from our suppliers significantly more expensive.
So, the vending company is passing on the increase in gas prices on to me, a loyal salty nut roll consumer. This is an outrage. Businesses should be able to recoup their operational costs on the backs of customers. Isn’t Governor Doyle proposing banning the vending company from passing the gas price increase on to my snacks?
You can see the whole vending company letter here.
George Will takes on Wisconsin’s minimum markup law on gas in this column today. He says:
Pelosi and others who just know, evidently intuitively, the “fair” price of gasoline must relish what has happened in Merrill, Wis., where Raj Bhandari owns a BP gas station. He became an outlaw when he had what seemed, to everyone but the state’s government, a good idea. He gave a discount of 2 cents per gallon to senior citizens and 3 cents for people who support local youth sports programs.
But Wisconsin’s Unfair Sales Actrequires retailers to sell gasoline for 9.18 percent above the wholesale price. The state’s marvelously misnamed Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has protected consumers from Bhandari’s discounts by forcing him to raise his prices. Some customers now think he is price gouging.
Some Wisconsin legislators are considering changing the Unfair Sales Act to allow retailers to discount gasoline to benefit things those legislators think should be benefited. In Madison, Wis., as in Washington, D.C., it is considered eccentric to think that government should butt out, let people buy and sell as they please, and let markets equilibrate.
Filed under: Education — Christian Schneider @ 11:17 am
Yesterday, a motion was offered in the Legislative Joint Finance Committee to remove the requirement that teachers in the Milwaukee Public Schools live in the borders of the city.Â The motion failed with all the Democrats on the committee voting against it.
In 2006, Scott Niederjohn and Mark Schug wrote an instructive report on the teacher residency requirement, and argued for its elimination.Â That report can be viewed here.
Filed under: Education — Christian Schneider @ 11:36 am
Today, the Wisconsin Legislature’s budget-writing committee took up the contentious issue of K-12 school funding.Â School funding is the single largest appropriation the state makes, eating up nearly half of all state general purpose expenditures.
One of the most contentious elements of the school finance formula is the level at which the state allows local school districts to increase spending on a per pupil basis.Â The state sets a limitÂ ($257 for 2006-07) that school districts can increase their per-pupil spending.Â Then the state fills in some of that increase with state aids, and the remainder is made up through increased property taxes.
Under Governor Doyle’s proposed budget, the revenue cap was set to increase $264 in 2007-08 and $270 in 08-09.Â LegislativeÂ Republicans objected to this spending increase, and offered a motion to limit the increase to $100 per pupil.Â If a school district wanted to go above that limit, they could do so by holding a referendum.Â This approach would save the state money, but would reduce the increase school districts received.
Naturally, Democrats on the Joint Finance committee took exception to the motion.Â Democratic Senator Bob Jauch said, “I have a hard time understanding the Republican compulsion to take a meat axe to the children of this state.”Â Committee Co-Chair Russ Decker said the proposal was like “putting a gun to the head of public education and to students.”
Given this hyperbole, it’s instructive to look at how different the two plans actually are.Â In 2005-06, the average shared cost (amount state and local governments spend) per pupil was $9,169.Â The 2006-07 revenue cap adjustment added $257 to that number.Â That would then be the per-pupil baseline for the upcoming budget.
Below is a chart of total proposed per-pupil spending in 2007-08 under the Doyle plan and under the Republican Joint Finance motion:
When put in context with total per-pupil spending, you can see the gap isn’t really all that large.Â And remember – the GOP plan increases school spending by $100 per pupil.Â However, even this small gap means millions in lost potential new revenue to school districts.Â But to say that a motion to limit the increaseÂ in school district spending is “taking a meat axe” to our children is entertainment at its best.
Â UPDATE:Â WisconsinEye has begun broadcasting Joint Finance proceedings.Â Senator Jauch’s statements can be viewed here, starting at about the five minute mark.
Filed under: Education — Christian Schneider @ 2:33 pm
Sensational column by Patrick McIlheran today detailing some of the school plans being circulated to push for “adequate” school funding in Wisconsin.Â Naturally, any plan demanding “adequate” funding necessarily assumes the amount we currently spend on education is “inadequate.”
This “inadequate” level of funding would be news to the U.S. Census Bureau, who lists Wisconsin has having the 13th highest level of per-pupil spending in America in 2004 at $9,226 per student (see table on page 11 of linked document).Â This isÂ nearly $1,000 more per pupil than the national average, which is $8,287 per student.
10 of the top 11 spending states are in the Northeast – New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maine, and Washington, D.C.Â And if you want to put your kids in the D.C. school district, where funding is closer to “adequate,” then be my guest.
Of course, school spending has risen faster than inflation or Wisconsinites’ income over the past decade or so, especially thanks to referendums letting districts blow the caps. Still, the difference is why districts constantly say they’re cutting even while Wisconsin taxpayers spend 5% more a year on average on schools.
Fixing this means tinkering. The biggest motive for larger change is that, simply, some people don’t think we’re spending enough of our income on schools…
Teachers in Wisconsin complain justly that their raises are paltry, but it’s because spending on benefits, at 57% above the national average, is eating the budget. When taxpayers stop seeing double-dip pensions, as in Milwaukee, or a union-run quasi-monopoly on insurance, they might be inclined to spend 25% more on schools overnight.
Until then, no go. If we change things to jack up spending without fundamentally altering how the money’s spent, it just shifts pain to taxpayers – for no gain.
Someone had sent me the “adequacy” report about a month ago, and I hadn’t yet waded through the 177 pages telling me why my taxes needed to go up.Â So thanks to McIlheran for doing so for us.
The book talks a great deal about how Clinton was able to remain popular despite his prolonged legal troubles.Â In fact, his womanizing actually became his greatest asset, as he was able to relate to regular voters – he had “real people” problems that the public could understand.Â It goes to show that the American public is a forgiving lot – even to the point where if you can show you’ve overcome some vice, it can be a strong talking point in your favor.
That’s where I think the Republican presidential candidates can step it up a little bit.Â They’re all seen as vanilla (both literally and figuratively), rehearsed, and lacking “real people” skills.Â Mitt Romney is like a cyborg sent from the future to dispense conservative talking points.Â You can almost see the smoke coming out of his ears.
Of all the GOP candidates, John McCain comes the closest to being unpredictable, but not necessarily in a good way.Â During an upcomingÂ debate, there’s a reasonable chance that McCain runs over to Mike Huckabee, reaches in his chest, pulls out his beating heart, and vows to meet him at the gates of hell.
That’s why I think it’s in some Republican contender’s best interest toÂ utilize the Clinton blueprint – show that you have some personal failing that you’ve overcome, which makes you more of a real person.Â In fact, I’m rooting for one of the candidates to actually develop a vice during the campaign.
Think how fun it would be at the next debate if Sam Brownback pulled out a bottle of Wild Turkey and started sucking it down in mid-answer.Â Jim Gilmore could fire up a bong, take a hit, and start explaining what the economy has in common with “Dark Side of the Moon.”Â He could then announce he’s going into rehab, but he’s stopping at Taco Bell first.Â Think how much cooler Tom Tancredo would look if he answered while smoking luckies.
Of course, the Democratic frontrunners (Clinton, Obama and Edwards)Â already have the personal stories of overcoming adversity.Â One is trying to become the first minority president, one is trying to become the first female president, and one is married to Bill Clinton.