Paul Adair is a 21-year Germantown resident, retired scientist, writer, and lecturer.
Vice President Joe Biden frequently repeats the truism, "Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.” A corollary to this sentiment is, "Don't tell me what you value. Show me what laws you passed and I'll tell you what you value."
The GOP has held both our state legislature and the Governor's mansion since the Republican wave of 2010. We have had three and a half years of Republican domination of state government. This has given us plenty of opportunity to see what our elected GOP officials believe is important enough to write into law. We can now clearly see what the state Republican leadership really values; what they really believe in.
Governmental Control of Reproduction. It is no secret that Republican officials are against a woman's right to control her reproductive destiny. State GOP politicians have maintained a constant effort to chip away at a woman's right to choose. Several anti-abortion laws were enacted in 2011. One defunded a family planning program. Another banned abortion services from being covered by insurance policies purchased on the federal health exchange.
The strongest push came in 2013, when Act 37 packaged requirements for mandatory ultrasounds (the wand-up-the-wazoo provision) with a decree that doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. This restrictive law ranks right up there with those from the most backward Southern states.
A More Polluted Environment. Wisconsinites take great pride in our natural resources. Pristine lakes, clean air, and beautiful woods improve our recreational opportunities and quality of life. However, there has been a concerted GOP effort to erode our state's environmental protections.
For example, a bill was passed in the 2011 session relaxing rules that protect state wetlands. The legislature's first order of business in 2013 was to enact a mining permit process that was written by the mining company it was meant to oversee. This law was so lax that the Army Core of Engineers could not work with our DNR on the permitting process.
A state law passed early this year allows phosphorus polluters up to 20 years to meet emission standards. Other laws passed by the GOP include no longer requiring vapor recovery systems at gas stations and relaxed permit rules for fish farms. All of these actions add up to a serious GOP assault on our environment.
Privatization of Public Schools. Under GOP rule, Wisconsin's public schools have gotten worse and worse. Politicians have vilified our educators, causing a mass exodus of experienced teachers. From FY 08 to FY 14, state funding has dropped by $1,038 per pupil, more than every other state but Alabama.
While defunding our public schools, state officials have been pleasing large contributors by expanding taxpayer subsidies of private schools. Our voucher program has greatly grown in Milwaukee, Racine, and statewide. And 2013 Act 20 gives a huge state tax deduction for private school tuition, costing the state an estimated $30 million in revenue.
Ending Local Control. On issue after issue, including the establishment of charter schools, regulation of sand mining, overturning living wage laws, and ending worker residency requirements, Republicans have assumed statewide hegemony over areas that were once subject to local control.
A law was enacted to specifically make it more difficult for Milwaukee to build a downtown rail line. Another dictates the term and pay of Milwaukee County supervisors. Although talking a good game about desiring local control, the actions of GOP lawmakers speak otherwise.
Locking-in Political Control. Probably the most consistent and sustained effort by the GOP majority has been an attempt to tilt the political playing field in their favor; to lock-in their current control. One of the first things that Republicans did upon gaining power was to go after major sources of Democratic campaign funds. Trial lawyers are major Democratic donors, so tort "reform" was enacted. And Act 10 was blatantly about killing public employee unions, a major source of Democratic strength.
Then laws were enacted to make it more difficult for major Democratic blocks to vote. Young people vote Democratic, so no more registration efforts at high schools. Residency requirements were increased from 10 days to 28, making it more difficult for college students. And photo ID was passed, under the guise of stopping an imaginary problem, to make it more difficult for the poor to vote. Early voting was drastically curtailed, affecting highly effective Democratic GOTV activities.
One of the most heinous and transparent power grabs was the GOP's covert and partisan redistricting plan. This plot was so effective that, despite the Democrats collecting thousands more Assembly votes in 2012, they are a 39-60 minority in that body.
So based on their actions, we are able to conclude what Wisconsin Republicans value. They want government control of a woman's reproductive choices. They want a dirty environment, with less control of polluters. They want to harm public schools and promote taxpayer funding of private ones. They want to minimize local control, in favor of control by Madison politicians. But most of all-an area where they have spent most of their time and effort- they want to lock-in their political control of our state.