Tag Archives: wisconsin

Wisconsin woman faces charges after wolf-dogs, horses rescued

A northern Wisconsin woman is expected to face charges after 38 wolf-dogs and 14 horses were seized from the Crandon area.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says authorities had received complaints about the owner breeding wolf-dog hybrids — the result of breeding a wolf with a domestic dog.

Residents also complained about the animals frequently escaping and posing a public safety risk.

The ASPCA says it helped with removing, transporting and sheltering the animals.

WSAW-TVreports members of an ASPCA team found the wolf-dog hybrids living in deplorable conditions, many kept on chains without access to proper food or water and suffering from various untreated medical conditions.

Some were found running loose on the property.

Responders also found horses apparently suffering from malnutrition.

Here’s the statement from the ASPCA:

At the request of the Forest County Sheriff’s Department, the ASPCA is assisting with the removal, transport and sheltering of approximately 38 wolf-dog hybrids and 14 horses from a property involved in an animal cruelty investigation in Crandon, Wisconsin. The ASPCA is also assisting with evidence collection, forensic exams, veterinary care, and triage of animals on scene.

The owner was arrested on cruelty-related charges, and other charges are expected to follow. The arrests and seizure are the result of an investigation that began after local authorities received numerous complaints from local residents about the owner breeding wolf-dog hybrids on her property and animals frequently escaping, posing a public safety risk.

A wolf-dog hybrid is part dog and part wolf—the result of breeding a wolf with a domestic dog. Most wolf-dog hybrids are extremely timid and unpredictable, making them generally unsuitable and potentially dangerous pets.

Upon arriving at the scenes, members of the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team found wolf-dog hybrids living in deplorable conditions, many kept on chains without access to proper food or water and suffering from various untreated medical conditions. Some were found running loose on the property. Responders also discovered horses who appeared to be suffering from neglect and malnutrition. Deceased animals were also found on the property.

“We’re stepping in because the basic mental, social and physical needs of these animals are not being fulfilled and they are suffering from a very poor quality of life,” said Tim Rickey, Vice President of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response. “Our immediate goal is to remove these animals over the next few days and provide much-needed medical care and treatment at our emergency shelter.”

The ASPCA will continue to work through the weekend to establish humane traps to capture loose hybrids and transport them to an emergency shelter at an undisclosed location. The ASPCA will provide daily care, behavioral evaluations and enrichment for these 50+ victims until disposition is determined by the court, and your support is urgently needed.

The animals in this case have been betrayed by the only humans they may have ever known. Your most generous gift today will enable us to continue to be there for these and other victims of animal cruelty across the nation at a moment’s notice, so please act now.

On the web

Video of the rescue.

 

The enchanting aesthetic of Seasaw

By Joey Grihalva

Last month I attended my first concert at Milwaukee’s Back Room @ Colectivo while the cafe was still open. I learned that the Back Room is setup as such that you can hear the music if you’re just hanging out in the cafe. However, what you miss by not being in the Back Room is an intimate atmosphere with great acoustics.

Madison based folk-pop duo Seasaw opened the show that night. Had I just been hanging out in the cafe I would’ve missed the joyful and endearing looks that Seasaw’s Eve Wilczewski and Meg Golz shared while playing.

I would’ve also missed the beautiful, sparkling, multi-colored sequin top worn by Wilczewski. Not to mention, I would’ve missed the duo’s impressive Autoharp skills. All told, Seasaw delivered a spirited set before Indianapolis sister act Lily & Madeleine took the stage.

The chemistry between Wilczewski and Golz is so tight that you might think they’re actually sisters. In fact, the ladies have been creating music together for more than six years now. However, for most of that time they were living in different cities.

In the summer of 2015, Wilczewski and Golz united in Madison. Seasaw has since become a premier Wisconsin indie act, particularly with the 2016 release of their album Too Much of a Good Thing.

Eve Wilczewski at the Back Room (Photo by Melissa Miller)

Eve Wilczewski grew up in Oak Park, a western suburb of Chicago. She began playing violin in the second grade and took part in orchestra programs through high school. Her parents were big supporters of the arts and avid music fans. They brought Wilczewski to concerts by Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, The Who and Fleetwood Mac.

“My mom would take me to a music lesson that was 45 minutes away every single week. She put in that time to make sure I had a quality instructor. Without that support, I don’t think I would’ve gone as far as I did with violin,” says Wilczewski.

Wilczewski’s father made her cassette tapes and would often play them in the car. She remembers the first few being all Beach Boys, with others including music by the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. For “Show and Tell” Wilczewski brought in the song “Lola” by The Kinks, a controversial track at the time, especially for a second grader.

While in middle school, Wilczewski and her mother moved out to the small town of Freeport, Illinois. This is where Meg Golz grew up, but the ladies didn’t meet until after high school.

Meg Golz at the Back Room (Photo by Melissa Miller)

Meg Golz’s house was full of music. Her mother is a classically-trained opera musician and singer, while her father plays piano. Golz tried many different instruments in her youth, from cello to percussion to guitar to choir. She utilizes this variety in her performances with Seasaw.

“When I was a kid I remember hearing lots of Paul Simon and Billy Joel. And the Top Gun soundtrack for some reason. I remember having a blow up air guitar and dancing around to that soundtrack like all the time,” says Golz.

Golz and Wilczewski first became friends while working together at an Italian restaurant in Freeport. As Wilczewski puts it, she was “bullied” into playing music by Golz, who had previously been in a band called The Westerlies with her brother.

Shortly after they met, Golz moved to Madison to attend the Madison Media Institute, where she received a degree in audio engineering.

“We were long distance for that whole time when we were starting the band,” says Wilczewski.

“Then when I moved to Madison in the summer of 2015, it just so happened that I moved into a house that had a partial recording studio in the basement. We were going to record the album anyways, so it was just very serendipitous,” adds Wilczewski.

‘Too Much of a Good Thing’ album art

Golz and Wilczewski mainly write songs independently and then bring them to each other to arrange and craft them into a final piece. Their infectious 2016 album — Too Much of a Good Thing — is a testament to their growth and abilities as songwriters.

Seasaw’s performance at the Back Room was their fifth time performing in Milwaukee. However, there were a few more shows in the works.

“Three times in a row we had to cancel in Milwaukee. There were either weather problems or sickness or car trouble,” says Golz.

These unfortunate events yielded an uncanny result Seasaw ended up playing their first ever Milwaukee show at Summerfest 2016. The duo took part in the Emerging Artist Series on the Johnson Controls World Stage. Seasaw won the fan favorite vote, awarding them gear that they now use in their live performance.

Since their memorable Milwaukee debut they’ve played Club Garibaldi, the inaugural Milwaukee Fringe Fest, and Riverwest FemFest. A few years back they even played opening night of Mile of Music at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

Wilczewski and Golz’s endearing onstage banter was was well-suited for a performance at Green Bay’s Meyer Theatre opening for comedian Paul Reiser. In their young career, Seasaw has shared the stage with Lucius, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, Run River North and Dead Horses.

Seasaw kicked off their latest tour in Madison earlier this month. The tour took them to the 2nd annual Daytrotter Downs festival in Davenport, a Paste Magazine live session, Union Hall in Brooklyn, and a dozen stops along the way.

During their Back Room set Seasaw performed a stirring cover of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So.” The ladies repertoire also includes “Dearly Departed” by Shakey Graves, “The Boys Are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzy, “Mercedes Benz” by Janis Joplin, and “Stone’s Throw From Heaven” by Madison freak-folk legend Josephine Foster.

Golz and Wilczewski so enjoy doing covers that they formed a Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover band with Golz as her idol Karen O and a White Stripes cover band, which debuted last Halloween. They’re bringing back the Stripes band for a performance in Madison at the Crystal Corner Bar on Saturday, March 25.

“It’s a pretty friendly scene and people support each other,” says Wilczewski of the Madison music scene.

“There’s a lot going on. There are so many musicians in Madison,” adds Golz.

“And festivals to showcase the musicians. And when bigger names are coming into town they pull from the local talent, which is really nice. So you’re getting put on a bigger stage. There are a couple radio stations that are really supportive too,” says Wilczewski.

[ IN CONCERT ]

Thursday March 23, Seasaw will open for Mason Jennings & His Band at the Majestic in Madison. 

Saturday March 25, Seasaw will perform as ‘The Right Stripes’ (The White Stripes cover band) at the Crystal Corner Bar in Madison, as part of ‘Tribute Night.’ 

[ FULL TRANSCRIPT ]

(I sat down with Eve Wilczewski and Meg Golz after their performance at the Back Room @ Colectivo on February 16.)

WiG
I’ll be honest, I don’t know very much about you ladies. I know you played FemFest and did a Hear Here Presents, right?

EVE
Yes and before that we had played Summerfest, we were one of the Emerging Artists. We won the fan favorite vote, which was pretty awesome because we got a bunch of gear that we were actually using tonight. So Milwaukee has been so good to us.

WiG
I take it that wasn’t your first gig in Milwaukee, right?

EVE
We played Fringe Fest, but which was first?

MEG
Summerfest was first.

WiG
Wow. That was your first Milwaukee gig ever?

EVE
Yeah. That’s pretty badass.

MEG
We’ve tried to play Milwaukee before but there were either weather problems or sickness problems or car trouble. Three times in a row we had to cancel in Milwaukee.

EVE
We made some winter dates to come here but there was a blizzard both of the dates. Also we were sick so we just couldn’t make the drive.

WiG
And how long have you been playing as Seasaw?

MEG
Six years.

WiG
Madison based?

EVE
Yep.

WiG
Madison born?

MEG
Nope, I was born in Freeport, Illinois and…

EVE
I’m from Chicago.

MEG
We met in Freeport though working at an Italian restaurant. That kind of started the whole thing.

WiG
Did you go to Madison for school then?

MEG
I went to the Madison Media Institute. So I moved up here pretty much right after we met. And then Eve came up here…

EVE
In 2015.

MEG
So she’s been up here for about a year-and-a-half.

EVE
So we were long distance for that whole time when we were starting the band. And then when I moved to Madison in the summer of 2015, it just so happened that I moved into a house that had a partial recording studio in the basement. We were going to record the album anyways, so it was very serendipitous that there was this half finished part of the house. So we recorded the album pretty much right when I moved to Madison.

MEG
I have my degree in audio engineering so I did all of the engineering. And we had a friend mix it and a different friend master it.

WiG
Boom boom.

EVE
So Madison’s been good to us too.

WiG
I’m curious, tell me more about this trip to the Moose Lodge with your grandma that you mentioned during your set tonight.

EVE
So my grandma has this membership to a Moose Lodge. It’s odd to me because she goes there by herself, which is very awesome and sweet that she has the courage to just go to the Moose Lodge by herself. We always try and humor her and go to the Moose Lodge whenever we’re in town. For some reason she really enjoys this place.

They have fish fry on Friday. So the song is called “Gone Fishin’” because we always had a fish fry and the idea appeared to me. The Moose Lodge is a totally weird place where there’s like this little tiny band and it’s mostly senior citizens, but a lot of little kids running around and screaming. There’s two different rooms with stages, like blue carpeting on the walls. Very bizarre. And of course there’s a huge moose.

WiG
Kind of like a Supper Club?

EVE
Yeah. At the time I was dating someone and it was brand new, so the song is one of the only genuinely happy songs I’ve ever written because I was just in the mood. I was so freshly dating this person and in my head I thought that it was such a great relationship. In retrospect it was probably the worst relationship I’ve ever had.

But at the time I was just so into it. I was “Gone fishin’ for fun and I caught a big one.” My sister always teased me that I was searching for fun all the time, so I just sarcastically wrote that into the song. We had fun for a little while, but then it fizzled.

WiG
Things fizzle.

EVE
It fish-zled.

MEG
Nice!

WiG
What instrument was that that you were both playing?

MEG
The Autoharp. It’s like a harp, but you push buttons, so it’s automatic.

WiG
What did you do to the tom, the drumhead?

MEG
There’s some fabric over it to dampen it and give it kind of like a more punchy sound.

WiG
Did you have some sort of block on top of it too?

MEG
It’s a washboard. We used to mic the washboard on a separate thing under my keyboard, but it’s just so much extra hardware around my body that we decided to just streamline it and put it right on the drum.

WiG
On the new album is it just you two doing all the instruments?

MEG
We had my brother help a little bit with some drums and some bass, and a little bit of guitar. We had one friend play slide guitar on a track…

EVE
He played a solo on one part, but we played almost 90 per cent of the instruments.  We have a couple of guest artists that played some additional stuff. On “Ex-Girlfriend” there’s someone playing slide guitar who’s one of our good friends. Then Evan plays electric on one of them. Meg’s on the drums most of the time except for where there’s symbols.

MEG
That means my brother played it.

EVE
Meg usually plays a different paired down drum kit.

WiG
I really enjoyed the Weezer cover tonight. What other covers are in your repertoire?

MEG
We love doing Shakey Graves “Dearly Departed,” and we do “The Boys Are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzy.

EVE
We do Janis Joplin “Mercedes-Benz.” We do “Stone’s Throw”…

MEG
That’s by Josephine Foster. She’s a Madison kind of freak folk artist.

EVE
From like 10 years ago.

MEG
But she kind of had a successful career for a while and it’s cool that she’s from Madison.

EVE
Speaking of covers, Meg also started a Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover band and she was Karen O in it and I played the keyboard. And we also do The White Stripes.

MEG
Yeah we do a White Stripes cover band.

EVE
Right after our tour we have another White Stripes show.

WiG
Is that a Madison specific project?

MEG
Yeah we did one on Halloween and it went over pretty well, so we’re doing it one more time.

WiG
Tell me about the Madison scene, I don’t know too much about it.

EVE
It’s a pretty friendly scene and people support each other.

MEG
There’s a lot going on. There are so many musicians in Madison.

EVE
And festivals to showcase the musicians. When bigger names are coming into town  they pull from the local talent, which is really nice. So you’re getting put on a bigger stage. There are a couple radio stations that are really supportive too.

MEG
WSUM the college station is sponsoring our tour kickoff show. We’re gonna be going to New York, so we’re playing 15 dates to New York and back. We’re going to be doing a Paste Magazine live session when we’re out there. We’re going to do a So Far session, we’re playing at Union Hall in Brooklyn, and a couple other cool spots in DC and New Jersey.

WiG
When does that kick off?

MEG
March 2nd is our show in Madison and we’ll be premiering the music video that was digitally animated by our friend Chad Smith. He animated it to be in 3D so you can watch it with the red-blue paper glasses. So we’re going to premiere it live.

WiG
Where is that going to be in Madison?

MEG
The Frequency. We’re excited for that and that will give us the upward push. Then we’re going to Davenport for Daytrotter Downs. They have this awesome festival  with some larger acts.

EVE
Like Gaelynn Lea is coming. She won Tiny Desk last year, she’s been touring like crazy this year.

MEG
So yeah, there’s some bigger names but it’s really cool because it’s mostly Midwestern acts. So they really pay attention to their surroundings and help cultivate that, which is really great. And then we’re heading over to Cleveland and then it kind of continues from there. It’s going to be really fun.

WiG
What are some of your favorite venues to play in the Midwest?

MEG
We love playing the Daytrotter stage. It’s a brand new venue and it’s just beautiful.  The sound system is incredible.

EVE
The sound people there are very knowledgeable and make you sound amazing. If you have really good sound people it’s going to make any venue fun to play. And we’re friends with the sound guy too. He’s a good friend, so that always makes it more fun. We love High Noon Saloon in Madison.

MEG
It’s a lot of fun and the stage is great.

EVE
We had our release show there and we also premiered our “Ex-Girlfriend” video on the projector screen behind us which was fun. That’s an amazing venue that we love playing.

MEG
The Summerfest show was very cool.

WiG
What stage was that?

EVE
I think it’s the Johnson Controls World stage. We played a couple cool places in Iowa too. We played at the Des Moines Social Club, which has many levels of community involvement.

MEG
There’s like an arcade on one floor, a greenhouse on another, a gallery, kitchen classes on another.

EVE
Jazz club…

MEG
There’s a black box theater and yeah, an underground jazz club. There’s like three places you can watch music and there’s all these beautiful painted murals on the wall.

EVE
We played backstage at the Meyer Theatre in Green Bay.

MEG
Yeah, we played at the regular theater and then we also played in a backstage venue which is like a 400 cap. The Meyer Theatre is huge. We opened for Paul Reiser, the comedian from Mad About You, which is kind of funny. It was like a short 20 minute thing.

WiG
How did that go over?

MEG
It was actually really great, it was pretty much sold out, so like a crowd of 800 people.

EVE
And at the PAC in Appleton.

MEG
That was beautiful.

EVE
For the Opening Ceremony at Mile of Music. They picked us as a headline artist to do the welcome show. That was awesome.

MEG
We’ve played there now three times at all different places and it’s been such a great time. They treat you really wonderful, it’s a lot of fun.

EVE
The PAC was cool. There’s this place Leo and Leona’s. It’s this beautiful barn in the middle of nowhere and it’s just a gorgeous stage. It’s up by La Crosse.

MEG
We just had a music video come out today if you want to link to that or whatever. The video is me doing a dance routine and Eve doesn’t know the dance routine and is trying to mimic my dancing. It’s on a stage with some great outfits and we’re giving it everything we got.

EVE
It was shot in one take so it’s like performance art where I literally don’t know the dance.

WiG
Cool, I’ll definitely include it. Thanks for taking the time ladies.

[I did a follow-up phone call interview a few weeks later while they were en route to Davenport, Iowa.]

WiG
How was the tour kickoff last night?

EVE
The show was awesome. We had such an attentive crowd that really was there supporting all three bands and stayed until the very end to participate in the 3D video premiere. It was a great crowd and they sang along to our cover of “Say It Ain’t So.”

We got a cool video of everyone with their red-blue 3D glasses on, just like staring in awe. It was pretty cute. We were pretty nervous to pull off all the separate pieces that were happening last night, it feels good to accomplish that. It was cool that Chad could be there too, he did the animation.

WiG
What song was the video for?

EVE
It’s for the track called “Light,” which is the last track on the album. It was written by Meg. The video is kind of like a 3D visualization of different light, landscapes, and different kinds of moods. This was just a sneak preview, the video has not premiered online yet.

WiG
Tell me how you got started playing music?

EVE
I started playing violin in second grade and I was in the orchestra program throughout elementary, middle and high school. I picked up the guitar in high school too. I was trained on the Suzuki method, so I played all classical music. I was really more interested in playing like gypsy-type melodies. And I was also more interested in bluegrass, so I kind of branched off and wanted to play the guitar. My mom and dad are big music fans. They’ve gone to festivals their whole life and have been really influential to me in that way. So even though they’re not musicians themselves, they’re really big supporters of the arts.

My mom, for example, would take me to a music lesson that was 45 minutes away every single week. And just put in the time to make sure that I had a quality instructor. If I didn’t have that support I wouldn’t have gone as far as I did with violin. Learning at that early age, second grade, was really great for me because it gave me that foundation so I could then try and pick up the guitar and it would be a little easier.

I played guitar throughout college and then once I graduated that’s when I met Meg and she had already been in a band. I had never been in a band and I had never performed on my own at all, so that was brand new and that was all Meg peer pressuring me. She bullied me into doing it.

WiG
And where did you grow up?

EVE
I grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, little suburb of Chicago. And then in middle school me and my mom moved out to Freeport and that’s where I stayed and then met Meg.

WiG
What were you listening to when you were a kid?

EVE
My dad would make me cassette tapes all the time and we’d listen to a bunch of music in the car. The first cassettes that he made me were all Beach Boys and my dad was a huge Rolling Stones fan. He took me to Stones concerts, so I had a lot of Rolling Stones at an early age, and a ton of Beatles.

Funny story, when I was in second grade, I think we had a Show and Tell day and I brought in my favorite song. It was “Lola” by The Kinks, which is kind of a provocative song for a second grader. But I had no idea what the song is about. And it’s probably like one of my top five favorite songs still today. My mom laughed about it cuz she didn’t know I was bringing in that song, she was kind of dumbfounded. Definitely one of the best songs ever written, so I’m proud of that second grade moment. I’ve been to a lot of shows with my parents. I’ve seen Paul Simon. I’ve seen Bob Dylan a few times. I saw Fleetwood Mac with them. They’ve taken me to all kinds of stuff. Also saw The Who.

[Eve hands the phone over to Meg.]

WiG
I’m just curious about how you got started playing music…

MEG
My mom and dad are both very musical people. My mother’s a classically-trained opera musician and opera singer. My dad plays the piano. So in my house we were always playing or singing music. I took a few piano lessons in grade school, then I started playing the cello in 5th grade. That’s kind of where I spend most of my time learning how to play an instrument. But I was never very good at it and it was discouraging to me, so I decided to join the choir instead my junior year in high school.

Then I auditioned for the varsity choir, which is like the show choir when I was a teenager in high school. I didn’t make it, but I needed that class to get out of gym. So then I decided to learn how to play the drums and I joined the drumline my senior year of high school. That’s where I learned percussion. And then in college I just picked up the guitar and started teaching myself that. In high school me and my brother had a band together.

WiG
And what were you listening to when you were a kid?

MEG
Lots of Paul Simon and lots of Billy Joel. That was on repeat at our house. And the Top Gun soundtrack for some reason. I remember having a blow up air guitar and dancing around loving that Top Gun soundtrack.

WiG
And you grew up in Freeport?

MEG
Yep.

WiG
What was the band with your brother?

MEG
We were called The Westerlies. We mostly did cover songs. We maybe wrote three original songs. But it was really just more for fun.

WiG
That’s a good sort of transition into my next question, which is, what is your songwriting process?

MEG
Usually we write the songs on our own and then we bring them to one another to kind of craft them into the final piece. So like Eve will write something on guitar and then we’ll arrange it and decide what instruments we want to add or play around with and I’ll come up with some harmonies or whatever. So it’s usually a separate process that we then bring together. We’ve written only two or three songs together.

WiG
I guess my last question is where do you want to take this thing, where would you like it to go?

MEG
I think we are trying to take this as far as we possibly can. For both of us it’s been an increasing commitment and passion as we keep throwing our skills and expanding our reach to new people. So if we could keep doing this forever and growing and keep getting ourselves in front of people, I think we would. Our goal is just to do this full-time forever.

EVE
I think for the first three years that me and Meg were making music together, I didn’t even really tell people that I was a musician. I just was like, “Oh I’m in this little band or whatever.” I didn’t really acknowledge it as a piece of my life. So I think now that we have committed so much of our energy and time and ideas to it, it feels really nice to be able to tell people that I’m a musician and we take ownership of that, because all of the pieces are in place. Before we didn’t have our website or social media or enough shows under our belt. It feels like we’ve put in a lot of work and effort and I feel like as a reward for that I get to call myself a musician now. We’re actually doing it. It feels good to be at this point.

WiG
Well, I think you have a really good thing going, best of luck.

Wisconsin GOP moving to call for constitutional convention

Republican legislators want to make Wisconsin the 29th state to call for a convention to add a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, raising concerns among Democrats that the state could help open the door to ultra-conservative proposals that would drastically reshape the nation’s guiding document.

Sen. Chris Kapenga of Delafield introduced a resolution earlier this month that would add Wisconsin to the list of states demanding a convention to adopt the amendment.

Kapenga said in a memo seeking co-sponsors that the national debt could destroy the United States. The debt stood at $19.8 trillion as of early March, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

“Our Founding Fathers repeatedly warned against debt because they realized it was a key driver to the decline of every major civilization,” Kapenga wrote.

He said in a phone interview that he doesn’t believe either political party can solve the deficit. He said he’s worried that countries such as China could decide to stop buying U.S. bonds, making it impossible to fund the federal government.

“Everyone seems to have their head in the sand right now,” Kapenga said. “It’s a strange thing to me that people have become used to these large (deficit) numbers.”

Article V of the U.S. Constitution lays out two paths for amending the document. The U.S. House and Senate, by a two-thirds vote of each chamber, can refer an amendment to the states. Two-thirds of state legislatures, or 34 states, also can request that Congress call a convention of the states. Both methods require at least 38 states to ratify an amendment before it can take effect.

The state convention process has never been used but talk of using one to ratify a balanced budget amendment has been swirling among conservatives for years.

Twenty-eight states have called for a convention to adopt a balanced budget amendment. The November election left the GOP in control of 33 legislatures, leaving them just one state short of being able to force a convention.

Convention opponents have warned the gathering could turn into a runaway proceeding in which delegates propose all manner of amendments.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, a Kenosha Democrat, said American citizens’ rights could be “up for grabs” at a constitutional convention.

“These are unsettling times and there is probably not a worse time to have a Constitutional Convention in our nation,” Barca said in an email.

Balanced budget amendment supportors plan to convene this summer in Nashville, Tennessee, to propose rules for a future convention. Kapenga has introduced a second resolution that would require Wisconsin convention delegates to abide by convention rules the Assembly of State Legislature adopted last summer that limit amendment proposals to the subject for which the states called the proceeding. Kapenga serves as co-president of the ASL, a group of legislators working to develop rules for a constitutional convention. Kapenga also has authored a bill that calls for dismissing any Wisconsin delegates who vote for unauthorized amendments.

Barca said even if Wisconsin can control its delegates, there’s no guarantee other states will.

Scot Ross, executive director of liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, warned that ASL’s internal rules won’t be able to control what happens at the convention and Republican states could easily rewrite the constitution to limit the rights of voters, minorities and women.

“The balanced budget talk is a fig leaf to let them change American into a right-wing alternative universe,” Ross said.

A host of GOP lawmakers have signed on to Kapenga’s convention call resolution as co-sponsors. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, that chamber’s most powerful Republican, has signed on to the convention call resolution but isn’t co-sponsoring the delegate resolution or bill. His spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a message Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald hasn’t signed on to any of the measures, but Kapenga said Fitzgerald has told him he supports the proposals.

Trump budget threatens dream of buying, owning a home

The NeighborWorks Alliance of Wisconsin Chair Noel Halvorsen issued the following statement in response to President Trump’s budget proposal which would eliminate the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, commonly referred to as NeighborWorks America:

The proposal by the White House will have a detrimental impact on people in every part of Wisconsin when it comes to achieving and maintaining homeownership.

Communities throughout Wisconsin have experienced positive economic impact from the housing and community development activities provided by the NeighborWorks Alliance of Wisconsin, which is made up of six groups all chartered by NeighborWorks America.

In our most recent Economic Impact Study, it showed that in 2014 the impact of homeownership services and development activities from the NeighborWorks Alliance of Wisconsin sustained 495 jobs and generated more than $69.17 million in economic activity.

These findings demonstrate the value of NeighborWorks organizations in supporting homeownership and community development.

Losing NeighborWorks America would be a tremendous setback for communities across Wisconsin.

Although the agency’s budget is small, less than three thousandths of a percent of the federal budget, the 1.4 million that came to Wisconsin in 2016 was leveraged into tens of millions of direct investment in homes and neighborhoods and generated $13.8 million in real estate and income tax revenue at all levels of government.

Unfortunately, the White House proposal goes even further and includes elimination of:

• the HOME program.

• CDBG.

• CDFI.

• Funding for Habitat, Enterprise, LISC, and more.

Essentially, the budget proposal empties the federal toolbox for underserved market housing investment  and community revitalization.

That would mean fewer Wisconsin families buying homes and less renovation of blighted houses in at-risk neighborhoods.

The NeighborWorks Alliance of Wisconsin calls on Congress to reject the president’s proposal and craft a budget that maintains NeighborWorks America and other critical agencies and programs that help families achieve and maintain the American Dream and help all of us build stronger communities.

On Medicaid money, GOP has win-or-lose proposition for states

New England’s bucolic countryside looks much the same on either side of the Connecticut River separating Vermont from New Hampshire. But Medicaid beneficiaries are far better off in Vermont.

Vermont generously funds its Medicaid program. It provides better benefits, such as dental care, and pays doctors more than New Hampshire’s program does. That brings more doctors into the program, giving enrollees more access to care.

New Hampshire has twice Vermont’s population, but Vermont spends almost as much on Medicaid and covers more enrollees. Under the complicated formulas that set federal funding, Vermont’s substantial investment helps it capture nearly as much aid from the government as New Hampshire gets.

States’ policies differ about who or what to cover in Medicaid, and those decisions have led to historical variances in how much federal money they receive. House Republicans’ effort to shrink federal Medicaid spending would lock in the differences in a way that favors those already spending high amounts per enrollee.

“Republicans are finding out why changing Medicaid is so hard and why the easiest thing to do is to do nothing given the substantial variation in federal spending across states,” said John Holahan, a health policy expert with the nonpartisan Urban Institute.

Here’s why.

Medicaid, the national health program for low-income people that covers about 1 in 5 Americans, is 60 percent funded by the federal government and 40 percent by states. Total spending in 2015 was about $532 billion, according to the latest official data.

Federal funding is open-ended, which means the government guarantees states it will pay a fixed rate of their Medicaid expenses as spending rises.

Those matching rates are tied to average personal incomes and favor the lowest-income states. Mississippi has the highest Federal Matching Assistance Percentage — 76 — while 14 wealthy states, including New York and California, get the minimum 50 percent from the federal government.

But state Medicaid spending varies significantly, too, and that influences how much federal money each receives to fund its program. State policies about how generous benefits should be and how much to pay doctors and hospitals account for those differences.

GOP leaders want to give states a set amount of money each year based on the number of Medicaid enrollees they had in 2016, a formula known as per-capita caps.

A per-capita system would benefit high-spending states already receiving relatively rich allotments from the government, the Urban Institute said in a paper last September.

According to its estimates, if the system were in effect this year, Vermont would receive $6,067 per enrollee — one of the highest allotments in the country — while New Hampshire would get the least, just $3,084 per enrollee.

Per-capita caps would limit the government’s Medicaid spending because it would no longer be on the hook to help cover states’ rising costs. But caps also would shift costs and financial risks to the states and could force them to cut benefits or eligibility to manage their budgets.

“It would present a huge problem,” said Adam Fox, a spokesman for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, an advocacy group.

Under the GOP bill, federal Medicaid funding to states would be adjusted annually based on a state’s enrollment and medical inflation. But that would not be enough to keep up with rising Medicaid spending per enrollee, which would force states to put up more of their money or scale back the program, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said March 13.

Other analyses of the GOP plan have reached the same conclusion.

Since 1999, however, the average annual growth rate in Medicaid spending per enrollee has risen more slowly than medical inflation, according to MACPAC, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, which advises Congress.

Republicans argue that overhauling federal Medicaid spending as they propose would hold down federal costs while giving states more leeway to run their programs as they see fit. “This incentive would help encourage efficiencies and accountability with taxpayer funds,” House Speaker Paul Ryan wrote last June in his white paper, A Better Way.”

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight of health care matters, sounded a similar note at a press conference in Washington, D.C., when the GOP plan was announced. “I think it’s really important to empower states and to put Medicaid on a budget,” he said.

But Fox argued the opposite would happen under a per-capita system — instead of gaining more control over their Medicaid programs, states would not be able to meet their needs because they’d have fewer dollars to decide how to spend, he said.

Bill Hammond, director of health policy for the nonpartisan Empire Center for Public Policy in New York, said House leaders’ decision to tie future Medicaid funding to medical inflation could help mute concerns that funding wouldn’t keep up with rising costs, but would not address the fairness issue of giving some states higher per-capita amounts than others.

“If a low-spending state decides it wants to spend more money on paying hospitals and doctors or adding more benefits, they would have a harder time doing that without breaking the federal cap,” he said.

Medicaid advocates in New Hampshire are worried because their state has few alternatives to make up for a loss in federal funding. New Hampshire lacks an income or sales tax.

“There is a tremendous amount of fear among families here as Republicans try to dismantle the ACA,” said Martha-Jean Madison, co-director of New Hampshire Family Voices.

Published under a Creative Commons license. Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom whose stories appear in news outlets nationwide, is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Wisconsinites challenge Irish butter ban

In butter-loving Wisconsin, a ban on Irish butter has sparked a fight.

A handful of Wisconsin residents has filed a lawsuit challenging a 1953 state law that bans the sale of Kerrygold Irish butter, or any other butter that hasn’t been graded for quality.

Tired of trekking across state lines to stock up, the plaintiffs say it’s unconstitutional to require that all butter sold in Wisconsin undergo a “government-mandated ‘taste test.”” Wisconsin is the only state with such a stringent rule.

Kerrygold Irish butter comes from grass-fed cows and is said to have superior health benefits to butter that doesn’t. Few Wisconsin dairies produce such butter.  Nordic Creamer is an exception.

Grazing animals have from 3 to 5 times more CLA than animals fed grain in feedlots. Butter from grass-fed cows also contains more vitamins E, A, and beta-carotene. Dairy products from grass-fed cows also provide K2, a rare vitamin that helps prevent calcium buildup in consumers’ arteries.

The Japanese have approved vitamin K2 as a treatment for osteoporosis, saying it reduces the occurrence of new bone fractures and helps maintain bone density mass.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The conservative legal group says the issue is one of economic liberty, not consumer safety.

The lawsuit was filed against the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The agency says it has to uphold state law.

Wisconsinites are  accustomed to dairy protectionism taking legal precedence over their rights as consumers. For years, margarine was banned from sale in the state.

Even today, margarine may not be substituted for butter in restaurants unless requested by the customer, and butter substitutes are not allowed to be served in state prisons.

 

University disputes employee was fired for supporting Trump travel ban

A University of Wisconsin-La Crosse police dispatcher says she was fired for supporting President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

University human resources director Madeline Holzem sent a letter sent to Kimberly Dearman this week asking her to resign or be terminated, the La Crosse Tribune reported.

The letter says Dearman was investigated after a complaint from a colleague and was found to have violated university employee policies against unbecoming conduct and abusive or threatening language.

Dearman’s lawyer, Lee Fehr, said Dearman told a colleague the travel ban would prevent terrorists from entering the United States. She said those immigrants should go back where they came from.

“It is a very tragic situation that an employee in casual conversation would end up losing her job because another employee is somewhat offended,” Fehr said.

Fehr told the UW System Board of Regents that his client’s comments were spurred by an email from the university’s chancellor, Joe Gow. The email sent to faculty, students and staff rebuked the president’s move.

Gow said Dearman wasn’t fired for her political opinions.

“I want to be very clear,” Gow said. “We would never let someone go based on their political beliefs. We always follow due process and policy if anyone is let go.”

Fehr said his firm hasn’t taken any legal action, but that he asked the university to reinstate Dearman to her position.

Holzem said there was more to the story but declined to elaborate, citing possible legal action.

Wisconsin officials say Sanders shares blame for minors voting in primary

Wisconsin election officials this week blamed undertrained poll workers and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ social media posts for dozens of instances in which 17-year-olds managed to vote in last year’s state presidential primary.

A commission report found that as many as 70 teenagers in nearly 30 Wisconsin counties voted illegally in the April election. Sanders won the Democratic side of the primary; Ted Cruz won the Republican side.

Many states allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 by Election Day to vote in their primaries, but Wisconsin requires voters to be 18 to vote in its.

In its report, the commission determined that “some political campaigns” provided false information about 17-year-olds being able to vote in primaries and it circulated on social media, creating confusion and driving the Wisconsin teens to the polls.

The report doesn’t name a specific candidate or provide examples of the alleged false information. But commission officials this week said it was primarily Sanders’ campaign, though commission spokesman Reid Magney acknowledged that staff didn’t see anything misleading from Sanders about Wisconsin laws, specifically. Magney said the report was based on “anecdotal” information the commission received from multiple sources.

Andrea Kaminski, executive director of Wisconsin’s League of Women Voters chapter, told the commission she was “distressed” to read about the 17-year-olds voting, saying voters and poll workers need to be better educated about voting laws.

Commission Chairman Mark Thomsen responded by telling her that Sanders’ national campaign “blurred the differences” in states’ laws in its messaging and “the candidate has to have responsibility for those errors.”

Asked during a break how Sanders could be held responsible for internet users misinterpreting his messages, Thomsen said he thinks candidates for national office need to keep in mind that election laws vary from state to state.

“It’s your obligation to tell your campaign people and the voters what the rules are in your jurisdiction,” Thomsen said. “You can just sit in D.C. and say here it is. I would hate to see youthful exuberance end up in criminal prosecution.”

Sanders’ campaign didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking reaction to Thomsen’s remarks. The Vermont senator enjoyed strong support among young voters and he pushed for the inclusion in primaries of 17-year-olds who would be eligible to vote on Election Day, successfully suing for that right in Ohio just weeks before Wisconsin’s primary.

Commissioner Ann Jacobs said during Tuesday’s meeting that it’s unclear who’s responsible for what appears online. Sanders may have said 17-year-olds could vote in one state and his supporters or kids twisted the message as it spread across the internet, she suggested.

“To say the campaign itself promulgated it may be the case, or it may not be the case,” she said.

Commissioner Julie Glancey said she didn’t want to point fingers at any campaigns. The panel ultimately voted unanimously to remove the phrase “some political campaigns” from the report and simply say false information spread through social media.

Thomsen added that it’s troubling Wisconsin poll workers allowed the 17-year-olds to vote. The commission will look at training to “make sure we’re not encouraging 17-year-olds to commit crimes.”

The commission consists of three Republicans and three Democrats. Thomsen, Jacobs and Glancey are all Democrats.

The 17-year-olds who voted were referred to local prosecutors. District attorneys in counties with the most underage voters told The Associated Press they chose not to charge them because they genuinely believed they could vote and didn’t intend to commit fraud.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, told The AP on Tuesday that he has reached deferred prosecution agreements in four of the seven cases that reached his desk. Deferred prosecution agreements are deals in which first-time offenders can avoid a conviction if they satisfy conditions such as completing community service.

Ozanne said he hasn’t decided whether to charge the remaining three teens. He declined to comment on whether he felt the teens intentionally tried to commit fraud.

Gov. Scott Walker told reporters in Milwaukee that 17-year-olds voting is all the more reason why voter photo identification is so important. He said he anticipates poll workers will probably make a point of checking birthdays as well as names on the cards from now on.

President Donald Trump has called for a “major investigation” into voter fraud and alleged, without any evidence, that 3 million to 5 million people may have voted illegally in the November general election. The commission report lists no instances of underage voters casting ballots in Wisconsin’s general election.

Walker-backed tax break gives $572M to people with incomes over $500,000

Last fall, I had the opportunity to travel across Wisconsin.  No matter where I went, I found stagnant wages, underemployment and was confronted with a growing sentiment that our economic system is rigged against hardworking Wisconsinites.  It’s easy to see why.

Over the last three decades, the average incomes for Wisconsin’s top 1 percent have increased by 120 percent, yet the incomes of the remaining 99 percent grew by just 4 percent (Pulling Apart 2016, by the Wisconsin Budget Project and COWS).  Not only are middle income people paying the largest percentage of their income of any group in state and local taxes (Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy), but the number of Wisconsin middle income families is declining faster in Wisconsin than any state in the nation (Pew Charitable Trust).

 

Wisconsin’s economic system is rigged to benefit those at the top and one need not look further than the Manufacturing and Agricultural Tax Credit beloved by Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans.  The biggest corporate tax giveaway in Wisconsin history, this corporate handout is projected to cost more than $650 million over the next biennium, with 88 percent of this tax giveaway going to individuals making more than $500,000. Eleven millionaires, making more than $35 million each, will receive nearly $22 million in tax breaks, funded by your tax dollars.  Despite claims that this drives economic development, recipients are not required to create one single job and can even outsource jobs!  In fact, Wisconsin had roughly 4,000 fewer manufacturing jobs in September 2016 than September 2015.

 

 While Wisconsin’s wealthy continue to receive bountiful handouts, most other working families continue to struggle, working harder and harder just to get by. This is why last week I joined several of my Democratic colleagues in introducing legislation that provides Wisconsin’s middle income families with the raise they need.

 

Combined with instituting a millionaire’s tax on families making more than $1,000,000, we take the money Republicans want to send to Wisconsin’s wealthy and we instead give a tax break to the low and middle class families who need it the most.  Our tax cut is targeted to individuals earning between $12,000 and $60,000, and married couples making between $20,000 and $100,000, with the average family of four earning an annual income of $45,000 receiving a $607 tax break.  From needed car maintenance to additional extracurricular programs for the kids — we know Wisconsin families benefitting from our tax breaks will reinvest this money in Wisconsin’s economy.  A thriving middle class isn’t just the result of a strong economy — a strong middle class builds a strong economy.  This proposal puts more money into the pockets of Wisconsin’s families, which means more money in our local economy. 

 

To the hard working families of Wisconsin — we hear you. We understand the struggles you face every day.  We are committed to doing everything we can to give you a needed raise and to build an economy that works for you, not just those at the top.

State Rep. Chris Taylor is a Democrat who represents Madison.

Animal liberation activists protest at Baldwin town hall meeting

Activists with the animal liberation network Direct Action Everywhere staged a demonstration during U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s town hall meeting March 12 at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

The activists were protesting the Democratic senator’s Dairy Pride Act to fight back “against non-dairy products that are mislabeled as milk, yogurt and cheese.”

A news release from Baldwin’s office in January said the Dairy Pride Act “stands up for Wisconsin dairy farmers by combating the unfair practice of mislabeling non-dairy products. Current Food and Drug Administration regulations define dairy products as being from dairy animals. Although existing federal regulation are clear, the FDA has not enforced these labeling regulations and the mislabeling of products has increased rapidly. This hurts dairy farmers who work tirelessly to ensure their Made in Wisconsin dairy products meet FDA standards and provide the public with nutritious food. It has also led to the proliferation of mislabeled alternative products that contain a range of ingredients and nutrients that are often not equivalent to the nutrition content of dairy products.”

Baldwin says the Dairy Pride Act would require the FDA to issue guidance for nationwide enforcement of “mislabeled imitation dairy products within 90 days and require the FDA to report to Congress two years after enactment to hold the agency accountable for this update in their enforcement obligations.”

The protesters expressed concern the measure pits dairy against alternatives such as soy and almond milk and “therefore contributes to systematic violence against cows exploited for milk.”

The protesters said the legislation could confuse consumers about the nutritional value of alternatives, as well as  perpetuate the injury animals suffer in large farms and the damages factory farms and dairies cause in Wisconsin watersheds.

“The level of water contamination is highly detrimental to families and community members residing in the Kewaunee area,” said activist Guy Leffel. “When highly contaminated water with manure fills their bathtubs and flows out of their faucets which intend to provide them with clean drinking water, clearly we have a huge health problem.”

“The protest is a part of a growing international movement seeking to create a growing political haven for non-human animals, including bans on products of violence against animals and legal personhood for all animals,” according to a news release.

On the web

For information about the animal liberation activists, including their action set for March 18, go online here.