Covid Emails with State Rep

My first COVID email to my State Rep was non-partisan. He replied with a partisan email and I was irritated that he did. I sent him the following:

With respect, Representative XXXXX
The moment you used the word “Republican” below, I knew you weren’t on my side. I knew you didn’t care about the people of your District or the State of Wisconsin. Instead you care about your partisanship and you care about making Governor Evers pay politically for his decisions.
I am sick to death of legislators making every damn thing about politics and the optics of a situation. We have a crisis and you put partisanship above leadership. You put partisanship above compassion. You put partisanship above your representation of the common man in your district.
I don’t want you to do anything.Forget my first letter completely. You go do what your handlers want you to do.
I haven’t given up on you yet but every once in a while you might want to nip the Republican hand that feeds you. Remind them you are a Wisconsin dog first and a Republican dog second.
With respect,

 

COVID Email Reply From State Rep

Here is my State Rep’s reply:

Thank you for your thoughts on Governor Evers’ extension of his Safer at Home order through May 26. These are truly unprecedented times, and input from the district on this issue has been incredible.

Wisconsinites care for our neighbors, and even if we were worried, we listened to the Safer at Home guidelines to make sure that we kept each other safe. The fact that our hospitals are still mostly empty is testament to everyone doing their part in a difficult time. However, the actions we needed to take have had consequences that have impacted all of us – economic insecurity, mental health crises, and the grief of not being able to see our loved ones.

A crisis needs leadership, and the extension of this order does not show the kind of forward thinking that will bring Wisconsin out of this crisis successfully. Governor Evers owes every Wisconsinite some explanations:

·         He must tell us what statistics he is using to measure our progress and decide what actions to take.

·         He must tell us what actions his Department of Health Services (DHS) is taking proactively to reduce the harm of this pandemic.

·         He must explain why he is refusing to re-examine what kinds of businesses must stay closed and how he is making those decisions.

·         He must explain what he plans to do with the approximately $2.2 billion that Wisconsin will receive from the federal government’s stimulus package.

From day one of this crisis, Republican leaders have offered our help and our goodwill to the Governor. We passed a bill to ensure that he has the tools he needs to bring Wisconsin out of this disaster. We have recognized that we must all work together for the good of the state. Instead of working with us, he has stonewalled us, refusing to discuss his plans or give us insights into what he thinks it will take to re-open Wisconsin’s economy.

Now, Republicans must consider our options. The Senate has not yet confirmed DHS Secretary-Designee Palm, and it should seriously consider whether her actions have merited the position. We also demand that the Governor explain himself and his goals: even if we are not “out of the woods,” we need to know what the road map looks like.

State law is clear: Governor Evers can use DHS to take drastic action without consultation with the Legislature. However, we cannot and will not accept silence and arrogance when people in our districts need action.

Please know that I am working with my colleagues daily to explore every avenue we have to push back against the Governor’s overreach and make sure that we are putting all of our citizens first. At the entrance of the Governor’s Conference Room in the Capitol, the ceiling is painted with the motto “The will of the people is the law of the land.” It’s time Governor Evers understands what that truly means.

Sincerely,

StayAtHome: Emails with Wisconsin Rep

Four weeks ago I sent my State Representative and my State Senator an email protesting the extension of the Wisconsin StayatHome Order. My State Representative is a good man whom I’ve met several times and he replied promptly. I haven’t yet heard from my State Senator.

The next few postings are about the content of those emails.

Email #1:

With respect, Representative XXXXX
Why is Wisconsin shuttering ALL of its citizens for another month?
One size does not fit all. What is good for Milwaukee County (with a population density of 3,800 people per square mile) does not work for Barron County (with a population density of 52 people per square mile).
If you live in Barron County, you are already shuttered in place.
Can we get a break, please?  After four months of an invasive pathogen, our county has had 6 cases of confirmed COVID-19. Zero deaths. We have already flattened the curve by living here.
Look, we have to learn how to live with this disease. It will be around for three more years minimum. Here’s what should be talked about:
a) Counties with less than 100 people per square mile and a low infection and death rate should have a much more open lifestyle. The more people per square mile, the more restrictions should be in place.
b) every building the public enters should have a sanitation station and signage that says all who enter must sanitize. Same as when they leave.
c) every building the public enters should have a posted “public area sanitation plan” for people entering to decide if that plan is sufficient for their safety.
d) Face masks should be required by anyone, everyone, within 50 feet of a building that the public enters. If you are in the woods or parks or outdoors jogging, no face masks are required if you are with family members. If you are in the same places with strangers, then face masks are required.
e) If a person wears a mask and gloves, no social distancing requirements are required but they are encouraged.
f)  Protect all nursing homes and places where healthcare workers are present. Everyone wears PPE ( gloves, masks, disposable garbs), a sanitation plan is posted, a screening process is utilized for those who wish to enter.
g) Workplaces: sanitation plans are required. Masks and gloves and sanitizing stations available for employees and may be required PPE by management.
h) Counties with more than 500 people per square mile and a high infection rate should have shuttered-in policies for non-work hours. Counties with more than a thousand people per square mile should have 24-hour shuttered-in policies.
i) Meetings and gatherings of non-family and non-colleagues: Sanitization stations, sanitization plans, masks, gloves, and in some cases garb.
j) Neighbors and children playtime: Give some guidance on this, please. Sticky kids (snotty, dripping, drooling, leaking) cannot play outside. All kids come in and change clothes and wash up before roaming the house. Home sanitization plans make a lot of sense. Why not develop them?
The issue isn’t to prevent any possible case of spreading the virus, the issue is to reduce the likelihood of spreading the disease while living a normal lifestyle.
Tell the rest of the legislature to start treating people like adults. Give us the plan, give us alternatives, and get the heck out of the way so we can live our lives in peace and freedom.
Protect the elderly and the immune-compromised. Why is that so hard to do?
Let’s get people back to a somewhat normal lifestyle. You and your legislative friends can move mountains, can you also make some plans to live with this disease until there is a cure and a vaccine?

Wisconsin Republicans and the Law

By now everyone in America is aware that Republican leadership in Wisconsin legislature complained to the Wisconsin Supreme Court that the renewal of the Wisconsin Stay At Home order was unconstitutional.

The first emergency order came from the Governor and it was uncontested by the Republican leadership.

“Evers declared a public health emergency on March 12 using a state law that grants governors the power to address emergencies resulting from “a disaster or the imminent threat of a disaster.” The governor’s declaration authorized DHS to “take all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent and respond to incidents of COVID-19.” The Legislature can revoke the governor’s powers, but even if lawmakers don’t act, they expire after May 11.”

The extension of the original order, however, did not come from the Governor. It came from the Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm. And she came to her job through an appointment. An emergency appointment that was never confirmed by Wisconsin Legislature. The Republican leadership does not like her and has since demanded that she be fired. This led to the complaint to the Wisconsin Supreme Court that an unelected and unconfirmed Cabinet Secretary was using the power of the law to shutter Wisconsin businesses.

“But it was Palm — not Evers — who issued Wisconsin’s initial Safer at Home order on March 24 and then extended the order until May 26 last week. Palm used the authority given to her under a different set of laws designed to manage communicable diseases. Those don’t require the governor’s approval, and they don’t expire with his emergency order.”

Section 252 of Wisconsin statutes grants powers to the DHS related to communicable diseases. Those powers include the ability to shutter businesses.

The conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court have now ruled that DHS order by Cabinet Secretary Andrea Palm is illegal. This is judicial activism at its worst.

In an unusual twist, the Republican leadership requested the ruling but they also requested that the effect of the Supreme Court ruling be delayed one week while working out new rules through the legislative process. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ignored this request and immediately blocked the Wisconsin Stay at Home order issued by Palm.

Which now leaves Wisconsin in limbo with no state-wide rules and each County can enact Public Health rules as they see fit.

This means nobody is going to pay attention to the County Health Departments’ “guidance” as law.

As you can imagine, the bars in northern Wisconsin are full of people drinking and cajoling and breathing infected air. A spike in Wisconsin’s COVID infection may be expected in four to seven days.

The nature of that spike and the deaths related to it is all on the heads of the Wisconsin Republican leadership and the Wisconsin Supreme Court who decided to meddle in Public Health and the powers granted to the Department of Public Health by law.

Politics kills people. We will know soon enough how many and for how long.

 

How to operate a government building during the COVID-19 crisis

Here are my thoughts on the operation of a government facility during the COVID-19 crisis. It’s time we start talking about living with the risks instead of avoiding them with Stay-At-Home orders. If you have a better process than local control, let me know. —-ReasonableCitizen

Living with COVID-19 is a reality. This operational plan doesn’t prevent all possible occurrences of public transmission of COVID-19; however, it reduces the risk that a mass outbreak will occur as a result of a single infected person.

Top government officials within a function or a facility should be responsible for establishing an Infection Control policy for employees and citizens it serves. In addition, an Infection Control Committee should be established in functions or facilities that have more than 30 employees. The size and scope of the Committee should also be determined by top government officials. The purpose of the Committee is to reduce the propensity for an outbreak infection when conducting government affairs. The purpose is not to prevent all possible infections; these infection risks occur naturally in our environment. The Committee is to reduce, not eliminate, the risks that one infected person may infect many others.

Infection Control Policy should include:

1. Developing a Function or Facility Sanitization Plan

Strike Zone Sanitization: Sanitize all horizontal surfaces in the Strike Zone that the public or employees may touch when entering, conducting their business, or exiting the building. The Strike Zone is between the knees and shoulders of an average height adult. Sanitize all Strike Zone areas of vertical surfaces like doors and windows and trim, which the public or employees may encounter.

Frequency of Strike Zone Sanitization: Door handles, customer windows, and public work counters/surfaces: every two hours. Trim and other Strike Zone areas before and after the work shift.

Equip all customer-facing personnel with disinfectant to clean as often as they feel it is necessary.

Establish a Sanitization Station at public entrances/exits for the public and employees to sanitize when entering and leaving a government building.

2. Reducing human-to-human (H2H) droplet transference:

Employ transparent plastic shielding between employees and the public at all public-facing windows and counters.

Employ masks and gloves where appropriate. Changing as needed throughout the day.

Implement a “No Sticky People” policy for employees and the public. People with runny noses, sneezy, coughing, drooling, or leaking bodily fluids are not permitted to enter unless they have an appointment. They should be escorted to and from the appointment area wearing appropriate PPE. A designated meeting area for Sticky People is preferred but not required.

3. Signage and Cautions: Deploying signage throughout the facility explaining the Sanitization Plan for the building and the No Sticky People Policy. The signage should remind everyone that personal responsibility to prevent infection is just as crucial as Sanitization Plans for the public-at-large. People should be told they are in control of themselves. They may choose to accept risks for themselves; however, they should also be mindful of risks to others. Because the nature of COVID-19 allows for asymptomatic transmission, all adults are encouraged to protect their mucosal areas from virus infiltration.

4. Protecting personnel:

  1. Government employees should be provided with the necessary PPE for the performance of their responsibilities. Such PPE is determined by top government officials in conjunction with the Infection Control Committee.
  2. Personnel may employ additional personal protection as they feel necessary to perform their responsibilities. If those additional protections interfere with other departmental employees or the departmental work, the department supervisor will provide coaching and set PPE standards for the ongoing performance of the department. The employee has the right to appeal those standards to Human Relations and Infection Control Committee for adjudication. A decision by HR and the Infection Control Committee is binding on the employee.
  3. Social distancing policy is to be utilized in areas where the public-at-large has access. Social distancing rules may be relaxed in non-public areas of the building, as determined by the Infection Control Committee and top government officials. Meeting rooms and conference rooms should have the sanitization schedule posted in a visible location.

5. Change the operational nature of government and citizen interaction:

  1. Provide phone assistance with e-form completion and provide web-based tutorials on the use and purpose of government services.
  2. Change the business hours for all governmental public-facing activities from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Retain the hours for non-public-facing activities as appropriate. These hours may assist employees in finding convenient and suitable childcare and provides greater opportunity for flexible work hour arrangements. This will also ensure citizens are able to fit government services into their daily schedule as many working Americans work 8-5 pm.

6. Special Conditions and Rules:

Cafeteria and restaurants: Within a government facility, cafeterias and restaurants are subject to the policies established by the Infection Control Committee and may include: sanitization efforts sufficient to prevent the transmission of surface-to-human infections, droplet protection for sanitized utensils and dinner ware, droplet protection for foods and condiments, and caution signage that advises and informs users of the risks in utilizing the food service, i.e., increased human contact and increased risk of infection.

Handling of money: It is the responsibility of government facilities to accept traditional monetary method of payment employed by citizens. Traditional methods are checks, money orders, cash, credit cards, and e-technologies that represent the traditional methods. The Infection Control Committee is charged with reducing the infection risk associated with each type of payment.

Childcare for Employees: It’s the responsibility of the employee to provide safe custody and care for his/her children during normal business hours. The supervisor of the department may grant, upon request and suitability, flexible hours and flexible work conditions to employees with safe-childcare obstacles.

Closure of childcare facilities present such an obstacle. Supervisors are not required to provide alternatives to childcare obstacles but are requested to be flexible where possible.

The closure of schools does not present an obstacle to safe childcare. It is common for schools to close for three months of the year and to have specific dates in which schools are closed while a government facility is open. These are standard closures under normal conditions for parents to problem solve their childcare needs. The COVID-19 crisis does not require additional childcare mitigation.

State of Wisconsin seeks more election control

The movement by professional politicians to control local elections continues its trajectory to perhaps destroy Democracy as we know it.

Both professional political parties have staked out their long term strategies to minimize surprises in elections. For Republicans, this means minimizing the get-out-the-vote efforts that favor Democrats and for Democrats it means resisting any and all efforts to challenge or restrict their voting block.

Just as gerrymandering controls ‘areas’ of voters, this new control over absentee voting limits the hours available to types of voters to cast ballots. What types? The ones that can be motivated just a few weeks before elections to shift the gerrymandered vote to the other side. It also impacts the nursing home voter, the hospitalized voter, those without transportation, and those with unusual work schedules.

Here is one description of how this affects towns in Wisconsin. In case you don’t know, many towns have part-time Town Clerks.It is their responsibility to conduct the voting process. While the law applies to Towns, Villages, and Cities, it is towns with part-time Town Clerks that have this special problem.

Not the best news to report. Apparently, there has been a change in the law and we will no longer be allowed to just list “by appointment” for our part time clerks in the Type E Absentee notice. I’m waiting on specific guidelines from GAB as to if there is a minimum number of hours that have to be listed and any other requirements. Just want to give you heads up. This won’t be an issue for those of you who already list your hours but it does affect the rest of you. You might want to talk with your colleagues to get their take on this…

  Here are some of the options that were listed by Diane at GAB:

  • Allow absentee voting during all office hours
  • Allow absentee voting during specified hours
  • Allow absentee voting during specified hours and by appointment at other times
  • Allow absentee voting by appointment during specified hours

  Here is the statute:

6.86 Methods for Obtaining an Absentee Ballot:

(1) (b) Except as provided in this section, if application is made by mail, the application shall be received no later than 5 p.m. on the 5th day immediately preceding the election. If application is made in person, the application shall be made no earlier than the opening of business on the 3rd Monday preceding the election and no later than 7 p.m. on the Friday preceding the election. No application may be received on a legal holiday. An application made in person may only be received Monday to Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day. A municipality shall specify the hours in the notice under s. 10.01 (2) (e) (which is the Type E Notice).

  In sum, one way or another, you’ll have to lock yourself down on the hours that you’ll be conducting in-person absentee voting, or making appointments, and stick to them, and it must take place during the 10 day in-person absentee voting period sometime between Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., and no more than 45 hours a week.

Towns with part-time Town Clerks had great flexibility to meet a voter at the Town Hall on a weekend or any time that both could agree to be there and take care of this absentee voting. This appears to be gone now. It also appears that Town Clerks that have full time jobs plus part-time Town Clerk responsibilities will be most impacted by this set of changes.

(The Type E notice is for absentee voting. See here.)

Residents who planned to vote before they left town for a month or a week may find themselves limited in their use of the absentee ballot.

In summary, more local controls where none are needed. Another milestone in limiting voting to certain types of voters.

Removing local control over the siting of cell towers

Goodbye local control over the siting of cell towers in Wisconsin.State statute 66.04040 removes all vestiges of town or municipality control unless the political unit of government has zoning authority. This removes almost all towns and some villages from local control over the siting of cell towers. It vests some authority to the county but limits that authority severely.

Ok, so why is this happening? Why is the Wisconsin state legislature removing local control over so many items?

#1. The frac sand industry took a shellacking when the travails of the Town of Cooks Valley with the frac sand industry became public knowledge. Using blogs and the Wisconsin Town’s Association as megaphones, the word quickly spread to town officials that if you want to control your destiny, you better adopt ordinances to control the industry before it comes to your town. Numerous towns enacted protective ordinances modeled after Cooks Valley’s to ensure they did not lose air, water, or lifestyle quality in their towns. The frac sand industry sought to fight the issue in court and the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled with the towns and against the industry.

#2 It is so much harder to get the Supreme Court to invalidate laws than anything else so crafty industry professionals began lobbying legislators  to enact legislation that removed town authority and placed authority in state laws. When state laws pre-empt local towns from taking any direct action against the industry companies, it forces towns to sue the state government if towns want any power at all. The advantage to industry is that state authority and legislators are a defense against town action. Good gig if you can get it. And they did.

#3 People want to be let alone but today’s industries terraform the surroundings into inhospitable places to live. From high capacity wells that drop the local water table to farmland run-off that causes a loss of aquatic plants and an increase in algae blooms, local people are tired of industries creating problems that cannot be solved locally.

#4 The transmission of useful information through social media to local officials means that industries no longer have years to operate with invisible/hidden tactics that take advantage of small town officials who once were not aware what was happening 100 miles away.

So the cell tower industry chose to pre-empt local control and establish state authority for the application and siting of cell towers. A smart move on their part to limit the ability of local authority to do anything about it.

2. If a political subdivision has in effect on July 2, 2013, an ordinance that applies to a class 2 collocation and the ordinance is inconsistent with this section, the ordinance does not apply to, and may not be enforced against, the class 2 collocation.

3. A political subdivision may regulate a class 2 collocation only as provided in this section.
4. A class 2 collocation is subject to the same requirements for the issuance of a building permit to which any other type of commercial development or land use development is subject.
The passage above from 66.0404 says precisely what it means: 1. If a local town already has an ordinance , this law negates that ordinance. 2. The local town is not permitted to get creative in how it controls the siting of cell towers, its power is limited to what the statute specifically gives it.  3. Local officials cannot create a new requirement for cell tower ‘permit applications’ different than any other commercial development or land use permit applications.
Sneaky law. It snubs local authority like a red-headed step child.
Too late to do anything about this attack on local control. Barron County’s cell tower ordinance has been killed by 66.0404 and the only thing that Barron County can do now is write a pablum-oriented ordinance in compliance with state law.
Forget the fights about abortion and immigration, our liberty is at stake. I have said many times that local control is being usurped by the feds and by the state. At the federal level, we are the Federal States of America instead of the United States of America. At the local level, we are simply becoming vassal political units with the responsibility to carry out state mandates and no authority to create ones ourselves.This loss of freedom and liberty to choose for ourselves is what makes the current state of affairs so heinous.
The Freedom to Choose is the foundation of liberty. Controlling the list of what we can choose from is tyranny and oppression.
We are up the river without a paddle if this momentum to remove local authority continues.
When the feds centralize power over the state and the state centralizes power over municipalities, nothing good can come from it.

 

More opposition to taking away local control

Wisconsin Towns Association (WTA) voted Monday to oppose SB 634 that seeks to take local control away from small towns and villages.Please contact your state senator and send him/her an email today. The Wisconsin legislature is trying to ran this bill thru just like they tried the last one a few weeks ago. Your email will help prevent this from being forced through. Tell your Senator that you oppose SB634 and that small towns should retain local control over nonmetallic mining operations.

Here are just a few of the problems with SB634 per the WTA:

While Sec. 1 through 9 of SB 632 and AB 816 provide language to codify the doctrine of “diminishing assets for non-metallic mining,” the bill expands the doctrine beyond “single ownership” of a parcel to contiguous land “under common ownership or control” of the person who owns the land or controls the land on which mining was occurring, to include “leasehold interests.” This language is of great concern to people living in the proximity of industrial sand mines in Wisconsin, because unlike the traditional gravel pits on 40 acre parcels or adjoining 40s, industrial sand mines are in the hundreds of acres even exceeding 2,000 acres in some cases. It is our belief that the diminishing asset rule created by the court cases did not contemplate the use of leasehold interests for the size of industrial sand minds that exist today, that would be allowed to be “grandfathered in” under the diminishing asset rule as written by these bills.

Section 10 on page 7 and 8 of the bills would still allow towns and villages to adopt licensing ordinances but these ordinances would apply only to nonmetallic operations that begin operation after the adoption of the ordinance. Pre-existing nonmetallic operations would not be subject to new ordinances. The biggest concern about this section is that if a town or village adopted a licensing ordinance, they would not be able to amend that ordinance as it applies to any new operations that started after the original ordinance was in place. This is of concern in relation to industrial sand mining because as new technology and health impacts may be identified, if the original ordinance does not address these new issues the ordinance can not be amended to apply to existing nonmetallic operations. We believe there needs to be recognition that if new technology and health concerns arise in the future that local governments should be allowed to amend their ordinances to incorporate reasonable regulations that will protect public health and safety.

In Section 10 at lines 12 through 23 of SB 632 and AB 816 these bills would apply the diminishing asset protections to “off-site nometallic mineral processing facilities” and “off-site transportation facilities related to nonmetallic mining.” This is a vast expansion of the court doctrine that originally decided upon facts of a gravel pit on two forty acre parcels. The expansion of “off-site facilities” goes beyond what is necessary to protect nonmetallic mining in this state. In addition, according to Legislative Counsel’s comments, lines 22 and 23 of page 8 of the bills will require that any existing ordinances of “off-site facilities” must have been written separately from the nonmetallic mining ordinances that may have been written in the past. This is a new standard which has not been contemplated until this bill was introduced. This will dramatically limit towns, villages, and cities in regulating existing “off-site facilities.”  Lines 18 to 21 on page 8 even extend these protections to “off-site facilities” at the time the application for such a site is submitted. Many of these “off-site facilities” have never been contemplated by local governments, thus these bills will in effect limit any new ordinances or amendments to regulate these “off-site facilities.”

On page 10 of SB 632 and AB 816 at Sec. 17, lines 10 through 12, there is language to give registered nonmetallic reserves the same grandfathering protections as the court doctrine of diminishing assets. While registration of nonmetallic mining has been in the law since 1997, these bills will give such protections to possible nonmetallic mining sites that may not open for nearly 20 years out. By that time, again, new technology and health impacts may warrant updated ordinances, which these bills prevent for even the sites that only have been registered, but not even opened. Also the word “prevent” on line 11 on page 10, could be problematic, because it appears to allow new ordinances to apply to registered nonmetallic reserves that have not yet opened, but it will raise the question whether a licensing ordinance “prevents” the operator from operating on the registered land. Some companies have already said that limitations in some ordinances such as hours of operation, birm requirements, blasting requirements will “prevent” the site from operating economically to the optimum. The term “prevent” will invite litigation on whether a company is prevented from operating or only being regulated to protect public health and safety.

SB 632 and AB 816 in our opinion go beyond what the court doctrine enunciated in the earlier court of appeals decisions intended. The expansion of the doctrine to licensing ordinances and “off-site facilities” is beyond what the courts would hold as it applies to industrial sand mining as is occurring in Wisconsin at this time. These bills are not needed to protect the nonmetallic mining industry, in particular the industrial sand mines of the state. No existing ordinances have prevented any industrial sand mines from operating once approved.  We ask the legislature not pass SB 632 and AB 816.

Call or write your state senator today. Go HERE.

Thanks for taking action on this important issue.

Reasonable Citizen

The Pledge of Allegiance

How often do you say the Pledge of Allegiance? I say it at least once a month but usually more often. It is part of the culture when working in small town government.

Many of us know that the Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Christian socialist in the late 1800s  and that the words “under God” were added in 1954 through a Joint Resolution of Congress. There is a great history about the Pledge and well worth reading.

What I did not know are the groups that have objected to the Pledge from the beginning. The Jehovah Witnesses thought it was idolatrous to salute the flag and pledge allegiance. The Unitarians accept the Pledge prior to 1954 but not since the words “under God” were added. And, of course, the atheists object to anything that recognizes – or acknowledges – a higher power than themselves.

Of interest though is this:

A bill, H.R. 2389, was introduced in Congress in 2005 which, if enacted into law, would have stripped the Supreme Court and most federal courts of the power to consider any legal challenges to government requiring or promoting of the Pledge of Allegiance. H.R. 2389 was passed by the House of Representatives in July 2006, but failed after the Senate did not take up the bill. This action is viewed in general as court stripping by Congress over the Judiciary. Even if a similar bill is enacted, its practical effect may not be clear: proponents of the bill have argued that it is a valid exercise of Congress’s power to regulate the jurisdiction of the federal courts under Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution, but opponents question whether Congress has the authority to prevent the Supreme Court from hearing claims based on the Bill of Rights (since amendments postdate the original text of the Constitution and may thus implicitly limit the scope of Article III, Section 2). Judges and legal analysts have voiced concerns that Congress can strip or remove from the judicial branch the ability to determine if legislation is constitutional.[32]

Because of the Pledge of Allegiance, some wanted to take away the Constitutional right of the Supreme Court to make any ruling about the Pledge. That has to be the highest order of irony around.

You don’t have to say the Pledge of Allegiance if you don’t want to. It is a free country. But if you do say the Pledge then say it loud, with pride, and emphasize every word of it. I only want people who believe in the Pledge (and believe in this country) to actually say it. It has more power coming from believers than from those coerced into saying it. If others do not believe it, then let them be silent. I don’t want to hear what they have to say anyway.

Reasonable Citizen

The Battle for Local Control of Sand Mine Regulation is underway…

Wisconsin Sen. Vinehout speaks out about Wisconsin Senate Bill 632. This is the second attempt to strip power from local communities and control what happens through lobbyists in Madison….-Reasonable Citizen

Sand Mine Bill Strips Local Powers, Community’s Ability to Say “No”

Should communities be able to prevent development of sand mines? Can communities set rules if sand mine operations are inadequate to protect nearby residents?

A new “communities cannot say no to sand mines” bill is making its way through the Legislature. The bill introduced by Senator Tiffany, chair of the Senate Mining committee, appears on the fast track. It could be up for final passage in both houses less than two weeks after it was unveiled.

The bill freezes in place the public health, safety and welfare protections for a community as they relate to existing sand mines. If this bill becomes law, the locals wouldn’t be able to write and enforce a new ordinance on any permitted mine during the life of that permit – as long as 25 years.

Much can happen in 25 years.

Local people who have written ordinances say it appears nearly all local ordinances would be invalid under this bill. That’s because the bill also requires ordinances relating to approval of sand mines be split apart from ordinances relating to the trucking of sand from the mine and processing of sand.

Most existing ordinances address the regulation of the actual mine as well as sand processing and transportation.

The combination of freezing in place rules affecting existing sand mines andinvalidating most local ordinances will throw sand mine regulation into legal chaos. The bill creates a huge legal gray area on exactly which ordinance the sand mines would have to follow – the one made invalid by the bill or the new one rewritten to comply with the bill, or none at all.

Finally, this bill sets up a back-door process by which mine owners can avoid new restrictions and open a mine anywhere as long as they register the mineral deposit with local officials.

Changing a little known part of the statute written when comprehensive planning was put in place, this bill would stop a local community from saying ‘no’ to a mine owner who registered his mineral deposit.

Owners or those leasing property where a mine might be developed would be able to register that property with the town or county and have the existing rules for sand mines “locked in” at the time of registration for a period of up to 20 years. In addition locals could do nothing to prevent the mines’ operation.

Many residents from the Town of Dover in Buffalo County wrote me saying the bill seeks to get around recent actions. One landowner explained (and I paraphrase) in the last 10 months Dover officials held more than a dozen public meetings including a community forum attended by a quarter of the town’s population. Last July, in a unanimous vote, town officials recommended the county deny a permit for a 400-acre mine. In October, town officials adopted Village Powers. In January 2014, town officials adopted a Comprehensive Land Use Plan. In February, they adopted a sand mine ordinance resembling that of the Town of Cooks Valley.

While the Town of Dover was doing this work, the four owners of the mine quietly registered their mineral deposits with the county Register of Deeds. A Dover resident wrote: If Senator Tiffany’s bill is passed, it would make all of the work that our town did to protect itself of no avail. Thousands of dollars have been spent by the town, as well as by landowners, so the voice of the town’s people may be heard.  Where do you find democracy speaking and being respected in this bill?

If this bill passes, Dover and other local communities can never say ‘No’.

Just because an underground mineral deposit exists does not mean humans should extract it – at the expense of all of the wealth that exists above ground.

This bill is far more dangerous than its earlier cousin. It will set precedence for every other mineral deposit in Wisconsin. Do we want sand mining next to Lake Delton?

Industrial mining has its place. But it is a place that must be determined by the people who live in that neighborhood. Taking away the community’s ability to say ‘no’ is taking away local control.