This is a recount of my experience at the Lame Duck Dec. 3rd Joint Finance Committee public hearing. Many of you have heard me speak before. Usually when I speak, I’m filled with hope, happiness, and optimism. My testimony during public comments at the Extraordinary “Lame Duck” Session on Monday, Dec. 3rd – was the exact opposite of this. Still full of passion, but just not my usual positive outlook.
11:00 am – Arrived at the Capitol excited to be participating in democracy.
11:30 am – First person to turn in paperwork to give public testimony. I asked the clerk if people would be called in order – she said “yes”. I’m excited to be the first person to speak. And, I secured great seats in the Joint Finance Committee room 412 East; still filled with hope that maybe we (the public) can make a difference and that maybe the bills aren’t as bad as how I interpreted them when I read them.
12:30 pm – The public hearing is supposed to begin; but we are advised, it won’t start until 1pm
1:15 pm – we are still waiting, when all the sudden the media runs out of the room; turns out that Rep. Robin Vos and Sen. Fitzgerald are going to hold a press conference. Why would they hold a press conference for when the Joint Finance Committee hearing is supposed to be happening, especially when Rep. Vos will be presenting his bills at the public hearing right? WRONG - - the shenanigans are beginning to unfold.
1:55 pm – The hearing finally starts. Rep. Robin Vos author of AB-1069, AB-1070, AB-1071, AB-1072, and AB-1073 is a NO SHOW. There is no legislative council present. The only people there to answer questions are the Legislative Reference Bureau. The shenanigans grow – why wouldn’t the author of the bills show up for the committee hearing? That isn’t how the process is supposed to work. In fact, bills are usually not considered if their author cannot attend the hearing to speak about it. So what is going on here? Oh yeah, that’s right – this is a blatant power grab and this is just a checkbox to make the power grab happen.
My sadness for what is happening grows as I listen to the thoughtful questions from Rep. Taylor, Rep, Shankland, Sen. Johnson, and Sen. Erpenbach. And although I read the bills, listening to Rep. Taylor, Rep, Shankland, Sen. Johnson, and Sen. Erpenbach ask their questions (while the other committee members sleep, check their phones, and ignore the answers) I realize how much worse the bills are than I originally thought.
And to top it all off; there are no fiscal estimates on the costs of these bills. What is clear is that the bills will cost the taxpayers a significant amount of money in lawyer fees, per diems for the JFC/legislature to meet more, cost more in legislative overhead, cost more in bureaucratic red tape, cost more through an inefficient government, etc. – surely the bills will not be voted on until the cost is known - - nope; not the case… the Democrat members of the JFC and public in attendance are told repeatedly these bills are going to happen and are in "our best interest".
The reality hits me; this really is just for show, democracy will not be happening today. This is just a checkbox on the Republican-led legislature’s coup to power. The Republican committee members are indifferent to any of the answers given by the Legislative Reference Bureau. They are going to pass this, they don’t care what anyone’s concerns are or how the bills intrude on the checks and balances of a representative republic. They have no regard for the Wisconsin Constitution – they only care about themselves and their party/personal power gain.
4:50 pm – Finally, they say they are moving to public comments. I get ready – and then my name is not called. What? I was the first person to submit my slip, the two people who submitted their slips after me are called. Where is my slip? I go ask Capitol staff, they check in with Rep. Nygren, then I’m still not called. I flag down Sen. Erpenbach, and ask him to check on when I’ll be called. I continue to listen to others plea for this process to slowdown or stop – but the Republican JFC members are apathetic to those making comments.
It brings me back to being sexually assaulted - first softly saying "I don't think this is right", then a little stronger "I don't want to do this", then "please stop", "I'd really like you to please stop", "please stop", then screaming "STOP" - but it didn't matter then, and it doesn't matter now at this public hearing. The power hungry feed off the pleas of their prey.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't yell "STOP". We must always fightback and speak-up when something is not right. We must always fight for our democracy. We live in the greatest nation because we, the people, have fought to make it this way. We cannot sit idly by even during a power-grab where we are powerless. We must go on-the-record in opposition.
5:20 – I’m finally called; and I’m beyond frustrated. I know my comments will fall on deaf ears – despite the fact that I received 10,182 votes; they still feel my voice doesn’t matter. I don’t represent the “right” side. The partisan power-grab is Anti-American, and in my opinion, unconstitutional - it violates basic civics lessons and is an intrusion by one branch of the government on another. I’m speaking to protect democracy; to ensure we have a representative republic. And only the minority seems to care – and that is what I was feeling when I testified at the Extraordinary “Lame Duck” Session on Monday, Dec. 3rd
WATCH MY TESTIMONY HERE - At the end you will see people waving their hands in the air - this is how you clap and show support during public comments; as the public is not allowed to make any noise until they are called to testify.
Dear Mr. August,
I consistently hear from residents how they would like to see the politcal parties work together to improve their lives and how they don’t feel heard; that those in power (in particular you) don’t listen to them. And what you are doing right now with this “extraordinary session” is the perfect example not listening.
You work for the public, not your party, high dollar donors, or PACs – the PEOPLE of this wonderful state are your employers. The voters resoundingly elected Democrats to every statewide office on November 6th. Wisconsin residents made it clear they want to see positive change and bipartisan work.
This anti-democracy legislation would never have been proposed if Walker had won. Because, if it was just and right, it would have been proposed and passed during an actual session, not an emergency session after an election.
We both know this is true, because on 10/27/18 when you were asked by the Kenosha Journal Times “do you believe the governor has too much authority” you stated "I believe the Legislature has done much to create a strong system of checks and balances between the branches of government."
You are abusing your power; instead of writing/supporting policies for the good of the state; policies that would be relevant regardless of the party in power; you are writing/supporting policies to specifically give your committees and the legislature more authority (power).
This is not how the three branches of government are supposed to work – the Wisconsin Constitution created a separation of powers of the three branches in which other branches are NOT to intrude. You and the legislature are currently intruding and you know it.
Changes should be made because they are the right thing to do, because they are long-lasting changes needed for a sustainable government, not because one party is upset with the outcome of an election.
Clearly Wisconsin residents want change; not the same policies of the last eight years; that is why they voted for a new Governor and a new Attorney General. Respect the voters.
The unprecedented gutting of the power of the Attorney General, the adding and rearranging of council appointments, and the complex provisions that will virtually tie every state agency into bureaucratic knots will make it almost impossible for most of them to do their jobs effectively. You claim to want less government yet these bills make more government and make an ineffective government.
Under these bills, the power to defend the state in lawsuits, and the power of the executive branch agencies to enforce laws and rules will be shifted wholesale to the legislature, especially your soon-to-be be almost omnipotent Joint Committee on Finance. You (the legislature) are not supposed to be the executive branch; our state constitution specifically designated three separate branches that are to balance each other. You are taking away the balancing and it is appalling.
Additionally, the changes to the presidential primary date (AB1071) and the limiting of absentee voting is unacceptable, and a clear attempt to squash voter rights. In addition to just being wrong, you are wasting taxpayer money to do this. I thought you wanted to decrease our taxes?
This is a low point for Wisconsin state government. Attempting to cripple the authority of the incoming administration is exactly the type of self-serving politics the Wisconsin people rejected in November. Stop destroying our constitutional checks and balances for your (the legislature's) own selfish gain.
Instead of trying to steal power, how about you propose bills that align with your campaign promises to improve access to affordable health care (which is the opposite of AB1072 & AB1073), protect pre-existing conditions for EVERYONE (no loopholes i.e. 63 day exceptions), strengthen our public schools, and fix our roads (opposite of AB1069 & AB1072). We the people expect our state leaders to work together to carry out a smooth transition.
Respect my vote and the vote of many of your other constituents. I look forward to your prompt reply to my concerns.
Katherineserve the people of Wisconsin.3