Dems Raise Money off, Mock Opioid and Homelessness Bills

Wisconsin Democrats are showing how desperate they are to raise money and find some way – any way – to bend over backwards to oppose commonsense GOP-championed legislation fighting scourges recognized on both sides of the aisle.

In a debate over bipartisan legislation to combat the opioid epidemic championed by Rep. John Nygren, Democrats used the opportunity to launch fundraising efforts advocating Medicaid expansion under Obamacare as the silver bullet to the problem, ostensibly portraying the GOP measures as somehow half-asked.

As if Democrats think signing up for BadgerCare will cause heroin addicts to see the light, quit the habit, and go frolic through the nearest dew covered meadow newly freed from the hell of addition. Really? Either Dems’ worship of bloated government programs is delusionally messianic, or they are using the issue to pander.

Forget that Medicaid actually produces worse outcomes for patients, saddles taxpayers with an increasing burden, and traps people in the quiet desperation of government dependency with a low, hard, government imposed ceiling on their economic potential. Also, just ignore the tangible benefits of and desperate need for Nygren’s legislation that no serious person would deny.

The very fact that there’s a debate over Nygren’s admirable and necessary HOPE legislation serves as a measurement of the depth of the morass of absurdity that Wisconsin’s Democrats have descended into. When Rep. Ron Kind and other liberal activist groups joined them in using the opportunity to demand Medicaid expansion, the sad stratagem became clear.

At the height of its severity, the crack cocaine epidemic killed 1.5 people per 100,000. By contrast, the opioid and heroin epidemic – the worst drug scourge in American history – kills between 10 and 30 people per 100,000. And the Democrats are using the issue to push a divisive, partisan political agenda that would do zilch to alleviate addiction.

They know there is a precisely zero percent probability that the Obamacare Medicaid expansion will happen under Walker and the Republicans – who have torched Democrats mercilessly at the polls for six straight years, all the while opposing Obamacare and refusing the Medicaid expansion. Knowing this, the Democrats’ ploy is clearly intended strictly to raise money.

It’s sickening, and it demonstrates the bottomless capacity of Democrats to exploit an opportunity, morality be damned. It also reveals the depth of desperation that their party is mired in. Their bench is thinner than Japanese Mulberry paper and, evidently, they need to lay in the ditch to collect whatever dollar bills might float by on the way to the sewer.

It doesn’t stop there. Amid debate over a similarly heralded effort to combat homelessness, Democrats denounced the measures as “appalling” and a merely “cosmetic solution.” I didn’t see in the LRB analysis that the GOP wanted to deliver makeup and lipstick to the needy. Again, the Democrats are trying to transmogrify a bipartisan plan into political hay.

This, by the way, was from the Democrat lawmaker who once proposed state government provide free tampons at all state buildings and parks. If that’s what passes for serious policy ideas for Wisconsin, the Democrats might as well give up on politics.

Without the money funnel that depended on forcing people into unions and stealing dues money of their pockets, apparently this is all Democrats have left. So devoid of values and intellectual consistency, it’s no wonder their party has struggled to survive (let alone compete!) on a level playing field.

State Rep. and Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke took his frustration to Facebook:

To my liberal friends: Democrats in Madison are not serving you well. Two sad instances in the last week.

Last Tuesday we were in session debating broad bipartisan bills that addressed the opioid epidemic. During the debate, the Democrats hijacked the conversation to make political points while simultaneously sending out a fundraising email using that floor debate as a tool to raise the cash.

Now this week I, along with a few colleagues, introduced a package of bills aimed at combatting homelessness in WI. This package was developed in coordination with homeless advocates who called the initiatives “a huge step forward”. The response from state democrats? They called the dollars allocated and the reforms themselves “a cosmetic solution”

This is what your dollars, your volunteer hours, and your votes are getting you my friends.

Democrats are desperate, and will use any hook to galvanize their base. That, I suppose, is what politics can devolve into. Steineke’s message to liberals will fall on the deaf ears of a hyper partisan left-wing base, but that’s the very definition of a party in the bunker. To save its heart, the Democrat Party appears willing to amputate what’s left of its atrophied limbs.

These bills are thoroughly bipartisan, a fact hardcore liberals may not be aware of in the din of partisan hyperbole. They are serious efforts by a serious governing majority to address serious problems in the state of Wisconsin. Indeed, the opioid problem is as serious a problem as Wisconsin has faced. And to those in the grips of homelessness, there could be no more serious an issue than living under cellophane on a park bench.

To prove how un-serious they are, and how unfit they are to return to governing Wisconsin, Democrats have chosen these issues as a rallying cry to their most rabid supporters in the far-left bastions of the state in downtown Madison and Milwaukee.

As if to scream out to Wisconsin voters just how profoundly not serious their party is, Assembly Democrats actually played bingo as Gov. Walker gave his State of the State speech in January. Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling added the exclamation point when she said the Republicans “own this legislature” and the transportation funding debate was the GOP’s problem. We are paying these people a salary? 

It’s really quite sad.

At this rate, the Assembly Democrat caucus will have all the appeal to mainstream voters as a screeching vulture. Like the Senate Democrat caucus, perhaps in the near future the Assembly Dems will also be able to fit into a pair of minivans and flee for Illinois…for good.

But hey, they can always blame gerrymandering.

Shilling Statement on High Cap Wells is Designed to Mislead

By Hubert Hoffman | Guest Contributor

On April 5, state Senator Jennifer Shilling issued a press release pertaining to Senate Bill 76 (SB-76) claiming, in big bold lettering, “Republicans vote to privatize Wisconsin water.”  The reality is the bill relates to: “replacement, reconstruction, and transfer of an approved high capacity well,” not the privatization of Wisconsin water.

First, the word “private” doesn’t appear anywhere in the bill text or the Legislative Reference Bureau analysis of the bill.  Second, the bill doesn’t undermine the Public Trust Doctrine because the bill doesn’t change current law requiring DNR oversight of the application or permitting process for a high capacity well.

What the bill does is allow those individuals and businesses that already have a high capacity well to repair or replace the well, should it become damaged, without needing to pay additional taxes and fees.  Repairing a damaged well quickly and correctly is the best way to preserve ground water quality.  Owners must notify the DNR of any work done on the well and any repair or replacement must meet all conditions of the originally permitted well.  The bill also allows property owners, who sell their property, to transfer the well permit the new property owner without additional taxes and fees.

SB-76 also adds a requirement that the DNR to do hydrology testing in parts of Adams, Green Lake, Juneau, Marquette, Portage, Waupaca, Waushara, Winnebago, and Wood counties.  Knowing how the water flows, where the water flows, and how quickly is passes through the soil is something that will help the DNR to better understand and manage Wisconsin water quality.  Yet, Senator Shilling stands in opposition to a bill that will help us all learn about our environment.

Shilling’s office put out the press release knowing that many Wisconsin residents wouldn’t have the time or ability look at what the legislation says. It is embarrassing when legislators get caught putting out statements intended to deceive or mislead as that is what truly undermines the public trust.

The Silent Minority

It appears that the leader of the Senate Democrats plans to solve her party’s problem of persuading Wisconsin voters to choose their ideas by giving up on offering ideas altogether.

Scott Bauer, Wisconsin’s chief Associated Press reporter, tweeted this earlier today:

Evidently, Sen. Shilling doesn’t think it’s up to the minority party to have any answers. In fact, in a radio interview on WPR several years ago, then-Representative from the 95th Jennifer Shilling said “it’s hard to get anything done when you’re in the minority.”

Indeed, especially if you throw in the towel before the match even begins.

There was a rare sense of bipartisan unity during the Assembly Committee on Transportation’s marathon hearing on transportation funding yesterday – for better or for worse, depending on your position on raising the gas tax or other fees to pay for more transportation funding.

Apparently Sen. Shilling doesn’t want any part of that – and doesn’t want to lift a finger to help forge a long-term funding solution for Wisconsin’s roads.

Sen. Shilling recently won re-election after a recount confirmed her 60-vote victory over Dan Kapanke. Perhaps if Kapanke had won, voters in the 32nd would have a voice at the table as the debate over transportation rages on.

The Senate Democratic caucus has shrunk to a core consisting largely of urban senators that will be strongly affected by the decisions the next legislature makes. One has to wonder what they think of Sen. Shilling’s proclamation that Republicans “own this legislature right now.”

Will Democrats Keep Shilling?

Update: The Democrats re-elected Shilling minority leader unanimously late this afternoon.

Is it time for Wisconsin Democrats to panic over their eroding minorities in the state legislature?

If Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling survives the just-announced recount in her razor-thin victory over challenger Dan Kapanke, will she survive as the leader of the shrinking minority of the Senate Democrat caucus? By the time most people read this, that decision will have already been made.

It’s hard to know what Senate Democrats will decide, but they are caucusing today to elect leadership. If they re-elect Shilling as minority leader and she loses the recount, will they be even more rudderless?

Shilling tentatively beat Kapanke by 56 votes, atypical for a party leader to say the least. The election also saw the election of Dan Feyen, a newcomer to elective office, over the well-known Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, who initially appeared to be the favorite to win. Feyen won the swing district by a strong 56-44 margin.

More significantly, incumbent Julie Lassa lost Senate district 24 to another newcomer to elective office, Portage County GOP chairman Patrick Testin. He knocked off the 12-year incumbent and failed Congressional candidate by a relatively solid margin of around 52-48, despite losing the district’s largest population center, Portage County – the only county he lost in the 6-county Senate district.

The Senate Democrats now have a paltry 20-12 minority in the state Senate, the smallest their caucus has been since 1971. Should the Democrats decide to flee the state again as they did during the Act 10 uproar, they could literally do so in two minivans.

If Shilling loses her recount, that margin will shrink to 21-11, the smallest Democrat caucus since 1967. The fact that the GOP nearly toppled – and could yet topple – the leader of the Senate Democrat caucus in a left-leaning district with a deep blue population center in the City of La Crosse is perhaps the fact Democrats should look most closely at. Any clear-eyed observer of that election (such as myself – it’s my home turf) knows that Shilling did not put in the elbow grease needed to ensure a victory.

They’ll also look at this: Under Shilling’s leadership, Senate Democrats directed appreciable resources into a futile quest to defeat GOP Senator Luther Olsen, who also won. No Republican incumbent Senator lost, so while Shilling was out playing offense, she should’ve been playing defense, especially in the 24th and back home. Shilling took her cue from Hillary Clinton, who ignored states like Wisconsin and Michigan in an arrogant effort to turn the electoral vote into a blowout. She did – for Trump.

President-elect Trump’s victory in Wisconsin was surprising to put it mildly, and it’s hard to fault Sen. Shilling for not seeing it coming. The Democratic Party is out of touch top-to-bottom with average, working Wisconsinites and Americans. For example, in a district where hunting and gun ownership is a cherished tradition, Shilling gets an F from the NRA every cycle. Given a list of far-left pet causes, Shilling checks every box, meaning she’s more in the mold of a Madison activist than a rural seed salesman (Kapanke).

Her decisions are out of touch with the reality Wisconsin Democrats find themselves in. Wisconsin hasn’t been a “blue” state since 2010, with the exception of Pres. Obama’s and Sen. Baldwin’s victories in 2012 (Baldwin’s victory can be as much attributed to the Republican primary, which left eventual nominee Tommy Thompson almost broke). Instead of ensuring her caucus’s walls held, Sen. Shilling launched an invasion of another castle and paid the price, especially in the Lassa race.

To paraphrase Kenny Chesney, bricks of the Democrats’ defenses are scattered on the ground.

In 2014, Democrats ousted Chris Larson as their minority leader after the party ostentatiously lost the centrist Senate district formerly held by Dale Schultz to conservative Republican Howard Marklein. Will Shilling meet the same fate?

Democrats may well retain Sen. Shilling as their leader in the Senate, if for no other reason than they have no one to take her place other than maybe Sen. Jon Erpenbach, a Madison-area lefty who would have trouble connecting with increasingly Republican-leaning out-state voters, especially in the populous Fox Valley.

That in itself is a symbol of the current state of the Democratic Party in Wisconsin.

Shilling Has A Primary Challenge

Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) will face a primary challenge. Jared William Landry of La Farge filed papers on April 26 with the Government Accountability Board to run as a Democrat in the 32nd Senate district.

That sets up a primary between Shilling, currently the Senate Minority Leader, and Landry on August 9th.

Sources within the area’s political apparatus say Landry is inspired by the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, much like Congressman Ron Kind’s primary challenger. While this is unsubstantiated and information about Landry is sparse so far, if this is the case, it’s evidence of a trend of far-left populist candidates emerging to challenge establishment politicians.

If Landry’s candidacy is indeed inspired by Sanders, he could use Shilling’s public support of Hillary Clinton against her. Sanders won the 3rd Congressional district handily, and in Shilling’s backyard, La Crosse County, Sanders trounced Clinton 63 percent to 37 percent.

Kind also bucked the district’s trend by throwing his superdelegate vote behind Clinton, despite the popular vote in the district being heavily for Sanders.

Shilling has been in politics essentially her entire adult life, starting as La Crosse County Board supervisor, entering state politics as the 95th Assembly district representative in 2000, and most recently defeating Sen. Dan Kapanke to claim a seat in the state Senate in 2011.

Kapanke recently announced he will challenge Shilling for the seat he once held. Kapanke, too, has a primary challenge from John Sarnowski of Onalaska. Sarnowski has a history of unsuccessful challenges in Republican primaries.

Landry, however, doesn’t appear to have been active in politics. According to GAB records he hasn’t donated money to either Shilling in recent years or to the 2014 Democratic challenger to Rep. Lee Nerison in his home Assembly district, Pete Flesch.

Shilling lambastes unpaid internships, but uses them in her office

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling got caught off-guard in the last day of the Senate’s session last week. While she and her Democrat friends criticized Gov. Walker’s bill to fund internship coordinators, Senator Rick Gudex shut down their argument with a single question.

Turns out, even though Shilling had just gone through a litany of reasons unpaid internships are terrible, she actually employs unpaid interns in her office because it’s valuable experience – and interns knowingly agree to commit to an unpaid internship, she said clumsily.


From The MacIver Institute:

In the waning hours of the Senate’s last day in session, Senate Democrats took turns lambasting Governor Walker’s higher education package.

In particular, Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling criticized the use of unpaid internships under Walker’s proposal. But when Senator Rick Gudex asked if her office uses interns and if they’re paid, Shilling’s response undercut hours of her party’s arguments against Walker’s proposals.

RW: Candyland Goes Beyond Baldwin

Tomah might be in western Wisconsin, but a potentially explosive scandal at the VA Medical Center there has gotten more attention in Milwaukee than in La Crosse. There, the dispersement of prescription opiate pain medications has skyrocketed in recent years.

In addition to holding Sen. Baldwin accountable, other Democrats should be asked real questions about what they knew, when they knew, and what they did about it, because deaths have been caused by this problem.

Kind, a potential challenger for Sen. Johnson in 2016, and Shilling, a possible replacement for Kind or even a gubernatorial candidate in 2018, should be held to account. I write:

Kind and Shilling in particular are rising stars in the state’s frazzled Democratic Party. They’re rising stars because, like Baldwin, they’ve nurtured reputations as bland toers of the party line who specialize in pablum rather than action.

Kind, a possible challenger for Sen. Johnson in 2016, may want to put down the dumbbell in the Congressional gym and start writing more of those famous talking points.

Whole thing here.

The Candyland Scandal

In the space of just weeks, the Veterans Affairs clinic in Tomah has earned the nickname “Candyland.”

The news broke a few weeks ago when The Center for Investigative Reporting wrote about the enormous spike in prescription opiates being disseminated at the Tomah VA. The dispersement of opiates quadrupled from 2004 to 2012 at the hospital; Oxycodone pills prescribed there skyrocketed from 50,000 pills to 712,000 per year.

Other reports detail that some patients would be prescribed more drugs even when their systems contained none of the drugs, implying the drugs might be being sold in the community:

A 12-page VA Inspector General report released March 12, 2014, said “the Tomah police department reported suspicions that some Tomah VAMC patients were misusing their prescribed controlled substances in various ways including drug diversion,” reported the Tomah Journal’s editor.

This is in a state and region with rampant problems with heroin, meth, and drug-related crime. Since many addicts “graduate” from prescription opiates to those hard drugs, there’s no telling what kind of impact this has had in communities throughout western Wisconsin.

The La Crosse Tribune editorialized that “it’s time for the Tomah VA to come clean” shortly after the story broke. Profound words, but how about the paper gets out of bed with Ron Kind and asks him some tough questions. It’s time for Ron Kind to put down the barbell, do some lunges on his way out of the congressional gym, and come clean himself.

Kind’s office claims it received its first anonymous complaint in 2011. Yet he also claims the Tomah VA “didn’t notify me…they didn’t notify anyone.” In a press conference, Kind dodged all responsibility for the scandal, slyly shifting blame to the VA for his own failure to follow up on complaints while simultaneously offering limp platitudes about the whole situation.

At the presser, Kind said, “they (the Tomah VA staff) candidly admit they dropped the ball when they didn’t share the findings with us and they need to keep our offices better informed,” all while he “lamented allegations of a ‘culture of intimidation’ that frustrates staff members who raise issues about care.” These are the words of a miserable, lazy congressman and it’s a pathetic attempt at a news report.

(By the way, Democrats would be shocked and appalled and would no doubt jump immediately to legislate against allegations of intimidation of whistleblowers and dissenters against immoral behavior at any private corporation.)

Kind’s office did hear complaints prior to the Office of the Inspector General’s report’s release early last year. He was aware, yet by all appearances did nothing to look into the issue further or bring the issue to light. Why, during last year’s campaign, did Kind offer ebullient praise for the Tomah VA if he knew things were fishy?

I worked for Tony Kurtz, the Republican who ran against Kind last fall. Scrounging for opposition research against Kind, we heard some hearsay about the free-flow of pills at Tomah, but we couldn’t substantiate anything. Surely the sitting congressman would have as much – and probably much more – insight as some insurgent campaign.

The timing of the publication of the OIG report and subsequent media is suspect, coming out just after an election that could’ve been perilous for Kind. Kind won handily – 57-43 – but an issue like this could’ve destroyed his coiffed image as a conscientious defender of those who the majority of voters want defended.

Claims by lethargic, lead-from-behind politicians like Ron Kind that he didn’t know are demonstrably bogus:

“But the problems disclosed should not have surprised politicians or federal officials: Health care professionals at the hospital have complained for at least five years about Houlihan’s prescription practices and his retaliatory management style — filing numerous reports with those in charge of oversight,” reported the Center for Investigative Journalism.

The story itself was titled, “Alarm over overmedication, retaliation follows years of complaints.”

We elect leaders to lead. Ron Kind – along with Sen. Jennifer Shilling, whose district borders Tomah and who thus far has escaped unscathed; and Sen. Julie Lassa, in whose district the facility is located – and those supposed leaders have sat idly by as complaints added up and a serious problem became evident.

During last year’s Phoenix VA scandal, Ron Kind proposed a “blue ribbon commission” to investigate the problems.

People like Ron Kind are exactly what’s wrong with our government.

Shoddy Leadership

Over at Right Wisconsin, I shared my perspective on Jennifer Shilling as a lifelong resident of her district and apparatchik on her opponent’s 2012 campaign:

A passive approach to legislating, a lazy approach to campaigning, and a Madison-radical-lite approach to adversity: that’s Jen Shilling, now a party leader. Will the Shilling Senate be content with sulking? Or will it be the Senate that fled the state?
Republicans win either way.
I suppose I’m irked that a lazy pol who plays dirty made her way to the top, which shouldn’t be any surprise. On second thought, it’s probably a good thing it’s her and not someone remotely competent running the Democrat minority.
Whole thing here.