Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials

November 4, 2019 GMT

Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Nov. 3

Stop stalling, send homeless bills to governor

What is the state Senate waiting for?

Winter has arrived early in Wisconsin, and the state budget includes $7.5 million in additional funding for Republican-led efforts to help the homeless. Yet the GOP-run Senate is sitting on eight bills that would advance the state’s first coordinated and comprehensive action plan to provide stable housing, called “A Hand and A Home: Foundations for Success.”

The Senate has only one floor session scheduled for the rest of the year. The Senate will meet to pass bills Tuesday.

Inexplicably, Senate leaders including Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, have failed to include the popular and bipartisan homeless bills on Tuesday’s agenda.

The Senate should approve bills to help the homeless Tuesday. This includes Assembly bills 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125 and 144. Find your senator’s contact information here: go.madison.com/senators. Or call the legislative hotline at 800-362-9472.

An estimated 20,000 people — including many children — are living out of cars, in tents or on the street, a special report by the Wisconsin State Journal and other newspapers across the state showed last month. These fellow Wisconsinites, who are struggling without a place to call home, need a hand up from their quiet suffering.

Instead, the state Senate is ignoring their plight and a bipartisan commitment to reduce homelessness in an effective way. That’s shameful.

Voters across the state should call their state senator and urge swift passage of the “Hand and A Home” bills. Voters also should urge the Legislature’s budget committee to quickly release the money to help desperate people find stable housing this winter.

This isn’t just a Madison problem. This is a challenge facing the entire state. And Wisconsin, unlike neighboring states, spends and does far less to help the homeless.

State government is at a critical point in addressing this costly and morally distressing problem, as the recent special report — “Homelessness in Wisconsin — State at a crossroads” — showed with telling statistics and stories from across the state. The reporting project sprung from a symposium last summer, led by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, which is now encouraging further action from lawmakers, business people, service providers and others.

The eight bills, all of them co-sponsored by Republican senators, would:

— Provide short-term grants or loans to defray housing costs.

— Help struggling people find housing.

— Create more beds at emergency shelters.

— Pay for skills training to escape homelessness.

— Assist landlords with repairs to low-cost housing.

— Expand grants for housing and related services.

It’s time to get these sensible solutions done. No more excuses. No more political games. All of these bills have cleared the Assembly, and most have earned unanimous votes from key committees.

Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald, who is running for Congress, should lead on this critical issue. He should prioritize these smart, effective and bipartisan bills now.

This should be easy. The Republican-run Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers already agreed to include this money in the state budget.

The Senate should act Tuesday to help the homeless get out of the cold and on their way to better lives.


Kenosha News, Oct. 29

After a year, it’s time for Congress to act on trade pact

Vice President Mike Pence came to Kenosha County last week to push Congress to vote on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which was signed in November 2018.

It’s President Donald Trump’s plan to replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement with a renegotiated trade pact. And it will help Wisconsin, Pence said over and over.

“Last year, the state of Wisconsin alone exported more than $22 billion in goods to Mexico and Canada. Do the math, everybody. The USMCA is a win for Wisconsin and a win for America,” Pence said in comments at Uline Warehouse in Pleasant Prairie.

Companies like Uline, which employs 6,000 workers and has become one of the largest distribution companies in North America, are looking for action on this bill, and for good reason.

“We’re very proud to have Uline chosen to host this very important event,” Dick Uihlein said. “There are many companies, just like Uline, that have operations in all three countries (United States, Mexico and Canada). It’s crucial we have a free and fair trade agreement set up to handle this.”

USMCA was negotiated to replace NAFTA, which was enacted in January 1994 under President Bill Clinton and has been blamed for heavy job losses in manufacturing in particular.

And it is stuck in the partisan gridlock that is Washington, where leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell work to prevent issues from coming to membership votes.

U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wisconsin, talks at every opportunity that he’s in Washington to work with people and get things done. His remarks at the Pence rally were consistent.

“Speaker Pelosi must bring USMCA to the House floor for a vote,” he said. “Improving access to Canada and Mexico’s markets will help manufacturers and farmers sell their goods, increase workers’ wages and grow their industries. USMCA is a win for Wisconsin.”

Pence said he came to Wisconsin “to turn up the heat” on Wisconsin’s U.S. Rep. Ron Kind and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Kind, a Democrat who represents western Wisconsin, told the Associated Press that “gains achieved for Wisconsin dairy farmers, workers and families do not exist unless this deal is fully enforceable.” House Democrats are working to ensure the deal meets that standard and is waiting for the Trump administration to “step up and finalize” it, he said.

Baldwin, D-Wisconsin., told The Associated Press she will look at the final legislation when it comes to the Senate to make sure the pact “stops the outsourcing of Wisconsin manufacturing jobs and is a fair deal for our workers.”

It’s time, after a year, that Democrats and Republicans take time to debate any disagreements and then vote this up or down. Companies like Uline and workers across America deserve support.


The Journal Times of Racine, Oct. 28

Executive orders shouldn’t replace working with Congress

Back a few years ago, soon-to-be-president Donald Trump excoriated then-President Barack Obama for issuing executive orders to implement his policies, calling them “major power grabs of authority.”

“The country wasn’t based on executive orders,” Trump told a South Carolina campaign rally in 2016. “Right now Obama goes around signing executive orders. He can’t even get along with the Democrats, and he goes around signing all these executive orders. It’s a basic disaster, you can’t do it.”

That was then, this is now.

News reports in October counted up Obama’s executive orders and compared them to President Trump at the same point in their presidencies. The president has so far issued 130 executive orders; Obama issued 108 in his first three years. (He would ultimately issue 277 before he left office.)

On its face that would look like a flip-flop by President Trump, and there is probably a bit of truth to that — but it’s much different to make comments on the campaign trail than it is to sit and make decisions in the Oval Office.

Executive orders have the force of federal law, but they can face challenges from the Supreme Court and from Congress. There are also presidential memorandums which are similar, but typically only affect one or two federal agencies.

But the truth is that executive orders are ephemeral — they are political short cuts that can be undone by the next president and the next administration with the stroke of a pen on the next executive order.

The simple fact is that both Trump and Obama have been pikers in the issuance of executive orders.

President Franklin Roosevelt, by comparison, issued 3,721 executive orders over his 12 years in office. Woodrow Wilson issued 1,803; Calvin Coolidge, 1,203; Theodore Roosevelt, 1,081; Herbert Hoover, 968; Harry S Truman, 907; William Howard Taft, 724; Warren G. Harding, 522; Dwight D. Eisenhower, 484; Ronald Reagan, 381; William J. Clinton, 364: and Richard Nixon, 346.

There is nothing inherently unconstitutional about executive orders if they fall within the powers of the presidency, but there have been some egregious directives in U.S. history. FDR used one to initiate the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II (which was upheld by Congress) and Truman tried to end a steel workers strike during the Korean War and that order was overturned by the Supreme Court.

What this tells us is that presidents throughout our history have used executive orders to pursue their policy agendas without doing the hard work of negotiating with members of the House and Senate to compromise and create long-lasting laws that withstand the years and work for all Americans.

It is much easier to pose for a photo-op with one of those presidential signing pens in hand and tell Americans they have gotten the job done. They haven’t; in many cases they have only whipsawed federal agencies in changing course for four or eight years until the next administration comes in. Two executive orders by President George W. Bush changed an executive order by predecessor Bill Clinton — and Clinton’s order had modified an executive order by Ronald Reagan which had replaced one by Jimmy Carter. Obama eliminated them all with an order of his own.

Instead of a signing pen, these presidential directives should be signed with pencils — with erasers on one end.

It’s time to give up the photo ops and the political posturing, and go to serious negotiation and respectful give and take between the president and Congress that bring more lasting results and better serve the country.