Friday, January 24, 2014

State of the Union Rebuttal:
Why it is NOT from our region this time

cross-posted from MN Political Roundtable:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, left, applauds as Christopher Barber of Two Rivers, a welder at Ariens Co. in Brillion,leaves the podium during Walker's State of the State address at the state Capitol in Madison on Wednesday.
Walker didn't know that Barber is a registered sex offender with two feloniesand three drunken-driving offenses. / AP[/caption]

When Michele Bachmann made her cray-cray-KaRAYZEE -eyed rebuttal on behalf of the Tea Party, it was not well received. In point of fact, pretty much all of the right wing rebuttals have crashed and burned, although perhaps not as badly as the CD 6 representative from Minnesota's efforts.

 In an attempt to get it right for the right wing, this time we have not only the official GOP rebuttal, but TWO additional Tea Party replies, who were named earlier this week. One of those who had been touted as a potential rebuttal speaker did not make the cut -- Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin.

Walker has terrible numbers, the kind of failures in areas like job creation that don't fare well, although it seems that the radical right is perfectly willing to overlook those failures at other times. I would argue that instead, given the many scandals following around Governor Chris Christie at the moment, there is a new and additional scandal following Governor Walker like a long, dirty wet piece of toilet paper stuck to his shoe, after his own recent state of the state address in Wisconsin. Presumably the GOP is now distancing itself from their troubled and scandal-ridden governors, including Walker for appearing with a convicted felon sex offender.

As covered by the Manitowac Hub (Manitowac is the county where Chris Barber, the convicted felon resides, in Two Rivers) notes:
Barber wore his welding helmet and work gloves on stage. He waved to the audience in the Assembly chamber as he left the podium and Walker turned around and applauded.
“Every time we help someone find a job, it makes for a strong home, a stronger community, and a stronger state,” Walker said during his speech as Barber and the others stood behind him.
Walker didn’t know that Barber is a registered sex offender with two felonies and three drunken-driving offenses. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported on his criminal record Thursday.
Online court records show that Barber was convicted of third-degree sexual assault in 2005 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Clearly, Barber got out early, presumably for good behavior. And now, after helping to make Scott Walker look good, he is likely to be fired, and to have a harder time getting employed anywhere ever again after receiving national attention for his criminal background, in spite of apparently otherwise staying out of trouble and not re-offending. He will be lucky if he can continue to live where he has resided up until now. It is fair to say his life has been ruined, affected far more than the life and image of Scott Walker.

This year, Minnesota joins the states with "Ban the Box" laws, that make it easier for former felons to rejoin society and especially the work force after completing their sentences. Wisconsin does not have such legislation, and Walker has been vocal about opposing it, in spite of the logic that former criminals cannot exist in limbo and will not become productive members of society if they are ostracized and so severely stigmatized they effectively have no life going forward. From the August, 2013 NELP Resource Guide:
In a recent National Employment Law Project (NELP) report, we estimated that 65 million Americans or one in four adults have a criminal record that may show up on a routine background check.
At the same time that the numbers of workers with criminal records have risen, the background check industry has expanded and overall, more employers are now using background checks as an employment screen than ever before. This resource guide documents the cities and counties that have recognized the devastating impact of these trends and taken steps to remove barriers to employment for qualified workers with criminal records,specifically by removing conviction history questions from job applications --a reform commonly known as “ban the box.”
In contrast to the intelligent, enlightened, and compassionately progressive approach we have taken here in Minnesota, Governor Walker and Republicans have chosen alternatively to persecute and attempt to infringe on the civil rights of former felons.

For example, there was this from Project Vote in 2008:
Project Vote asks WI for Clarification on the Eligibility of Former Felons to Help Register Voters
October 15, 2008
WASHINGTON, DC – In response to “accusations” by the Republican National Committee that voter registration drives in Milwaukee had employed former felons to help collect voter registration applications, Project Vote today sent a letter to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board seeking clarification of apparently conflicting legal guidelines regarding whether former felons are in fact allowed to help register voters. As reported in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on October 2, Sean Cairncross, chief counsel for the Republican National Committee, attacked the community organization ACORN for employing “at least seven felons as voter registration workers” in Milwaukee during the course of ACORN and Project Vote’s joint voter registration effort, which succeeded in registering over 31,000 low-income and minority voters in that city.

ACORN confirms that it hired former felons to work part-time to collect voter registration applications, and says that under Wisconsin state law felons who have completed their sentences and the terms of their parole are eligible to vote, and that any eligible voter in the state is able to serve as “special registration deputies” empowered to collect voter registration applications. The City of Milwaukee elections office interprets the laws the same way, and state election materials provided to voter registration drives do not say former felons are banned from working on drives.
In an April 4 memorandum, however, the Government Accountability Board (GAB) of Wisconsin offered an opinion that it is unlawful for anyone who has ever been convicted of a felony to help register voters.
“Either their rights have been restored or they haven’t,” says Donald Wine II, election counsel for Project Vote. “Former felons who have paid their debt to society, and are attempting to reintegrate into the community and engage as responsible members in the democratic process, deserve the same rights as any other eligible voter in Wisconsin.”
In today’s letter to the Government Accountability Board in Wisconsin, Project Vote requests that the Board produce the legal justification for disenfranchising former felons who have had their voting rights restored from further taking part in the democratic process by registering voters. Project Vote intends to call on the Wisconsin GAB to end the enforcement of this questionable policy and allow eligible former felons to fully and freely register to serve as special registration deputies.
“It is unjust of the GAB to circumvent state law and arbitrarily implement a policy that precludes anyone ever convicted of a felony from registering voters,” says Wine. "To threaten charges against former felons just for taking part in a democratic process is not only disenfranchisement of these eligible voters, but it is also a sign that Wisconsin is not interested in helping former felons ever fully reintegrate into society.”
And "The Progressive" noted in 2011, the first year Walker took office:
Walker and His Henchmen Try Rolling Back More Civil Rights Protections
Wisconsin state senators considered rolling back even more civil rights on Tuesday as they heard testimony on SB 207, a bill that allows employers to discriminate against people with felony convictions, whether or not the circumstances of those convictions substantially relate to the circumstances of the particular job for which they are applying.
The bill further prohibits any county, city, village, or town from adopting any provision concerning employment discrimination based on arrest or conviction record that prohibits any activity that is allowed under the state fair employment law. This is just one in a long line of other Republican-sponsored bills in process or already passed this year that fly in the face of the traditional Republican values of small government and local control.
When the localities in question contain large numbers of non-white voters and when they make decisions that make it more difficult for businesses to engage in unfair practices or to exploit a vulnerable population, Governor Walker and his henchmen in the legislature have decided to step in and “protect business owners” by bringing down the heavy hand of the state. They’ve gone after local fair housing ordinances, residency requirements for county and city workers, and the paid sick day ordinance in Milwaukee, the largest Democratic and minority base in the state.
(Walker's position, previous to his election as Governor was County Executive of Milwaukee County WI)
The Progressive continues:
SB 207 voids city and county “ban the box” ordinances that enable job seekers with criminal pasts to clear the first barrier to employment and demonstrate their skills, abilities, and experience to prospective employers without having to reveal their conviction record until later in the application process. Milwaukee County’s ban the box ordinance is hot off the press, having passed at a September 29, 2011, County Board meeting, and there is currently an active campaign in Madison and Dane County to pass a similar measure.
The majority of lobbyists registered as working on the bill registered in support, but only three of the eighteen gave verbal testimony today. Organizations like Walmart, Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association, Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, American Family Insurance Group and the Alliance of Wisconsin Retailers did not show up in person to face the testimony of the dozens of opponents who packed the room for the hearing that lasted nearly five hours. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Alberta Darling, left the room as soon as she was finished with her testimony.
Faith-based organizations, workers rights advocates, social justice activists, social workers, people who have served prison time, and ordinary citizens gave eloquent testimony against the bill and in favor of upholding Wisconsin’s thirty-four year old Fair Employment Act (WFEA).
Just a hunch, but I'm betting that Mr. Barber will NOT be voting for Republicans generally, or Scott Walker personally, next time around -- if he still has his voting rights at all. Scott Walker, continuing to take Wisconsin backwards, into a regressive time and place where civil rights are impaired and imperiled, and where the economy is as stagnant as a sewer of standing sludge.

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