Attorney General Brad Schimel should return Pfizer's drug money

Attorney General Brad Schimel should immediately return the $2,500 campaign donation from the drug company Pfizer, a manufacturer of opiates and a substitute that is increasingly associated with overdose deaths, Wisconsin Justice Initiative Action said Tuesday.

"Other states are suing opioid makers; Brad Schimel is taking their money," WJIA Executive Director Gretchen Schuldt said. "It's bad form and terrible policy."

The Pew Charitable Trusts reports that gabapentin, a Pfizer product, was associated with more than a third of Kentucky overdose deaths in 2017. Some states have moved to clamp down on the drug's distribution.

Wisconsin, like the rest of the country, is in the midst of an opiate crisis. Last year, 883 people  in the state died of opioid overdoses.

Schimel's most recent campaign finance report shows that Pfizer PAC, the big pharma stalwart's political action committee, donated $2,500 to Schimel in August.

Pfizer has directed lobbyists to fight proposals to tax opioids as a way to fund responses to the devastation the drugs are creating, according to news reports.

"Pfizer would rather fund Brad Schimel," Schuldt said. "Undoubtedly, it will get a better return on investment."

Supervisor Weishan seeks November marijuana referendum

Milwaukee County Supervisor John Weishan is seeking a November 6  referendum on leglaizing recreational marijuana for adults. 

The question would be straightforward: "Do you favor allowing adults 21 years of age and older to engage in the personal use of marijuana, while also  regulating commercial marijuana-related activities, and imposing a tax on the sale of marijuana?

Legislation introduced in the state legislature to decriminalize or legalize marijuana went nowhere in the last session.

The advisory referendum would allow county voters to express their opinion about legalization, but would not be legally binding.

Weishan introduce a resolution this week asking the county board to authorize the referendum.

"Criminalizing marijuana use has failed to curb its use and more than 100 million Americans say they have used marijuana," the resolution says.

"I believe it's time that we recognize that marijuana is not the gateway drug that they have portrayed it as in the past and that ... the best way to address the issue is not to criminalize marijuana, but to make it a legally regulated product for people to use responsibly," Weishan said Tuesday. "I think that is the best way, whether it is alcohol, cigarettes, or marijuana, that it be legal to adults and regulated by the state."

Some 59% of Wisconsinites said in a 2016 poll that marijuana should be legalized and regulated like alcohol, the resolution says, and "recent polls show a majority of Americans favor legalization of adult regular recreational use of marijuana."

Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington have already legalized adult personal use of marijuana, while Vermont and the District of Columbia have legalized limited personal possession and cultivation of marijuana, the resolution says.

Legalizing and taxing marijuana could significantly increase state and local revenue, according to the resolution. A Congressional Research Service report estimates that legalizing and taxing marijuana could bring in $6.8 billion in federal excise taxes alone.

"The time law enforcement spends enforcing existing marijuana laws and ordinances negatively impacts the time available to solve more serious crimes and apprehend more dangerous criminals, the resolution says.

The existing prohibition and lack of regulation "makes product quality control and sales regulation impossible, leaving marijuana sellers free to target children as potential costomers and to peddle potentially adulterated products."

In addition, it said, "felony second offense marijuana charges are disproportionately issued against African-American males in Milwaukee County, continuing a pattern of racially biased justice system outcomes with lifelong negative impacts on those convicted and on their families."

In Milwaukee County, African Americans are almost nine times as likely as whites to be charged with felony second offense marijuana possession in criminal cases where that is the only charge filed. Most of the arrests in those cases are made in the city of Milwaukee north of I-94.

Nationally, whites and blacks use marijuana at similar rates.

Second offense possession of marijuana in any amount is a felony under state law.

Michael Screnock, a defender of Act 10, won't promise to recuse himself from Act 10 cases

Michael Screnock, a cheerleader and legal defender for Act 10, won't promise to recuse himself from Act 10 cases if he is elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Act 10 stripped most collective bargaining rights from public employees,

Screnock defended the legislation in six cases as a lawyer with Michael Best & Friedrich, according to the Wisconsin State Journal:

Screnock said if elected to the high court, his decision would come down to the Act 10-related cases’ details.
“That’s one I would have to look at all the circumstances: How did it get to the court? Who are the parties involved? What are the issues involved?” Screnock said during an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board. “A challenge to a provision of Act 10 would give me the most to think about in terms of the recusal decision ... I would absolutely take very seriously that recusal decision. I just can’t commit — I wouldn’t commit — that I would or wouldn’t recuse myself.”
Yes, he will wait until the WMC and the rest of the dark money folks financing his campaign tell him whether they need his vote. They'll get what they paid for.

Sen. Vukmir and Assembly Republicans want to increase property taxes - a lot

Wisconsin Justice Initiative Action statement on the Leah Vukmir property tax increase proposal:

State Sen. Leah Vukmir's proposal to force county jails to hold more people while they await decisions on whether their parole or probation should be revoked will force counties to increase property taxes or reduce other services.

"It's outrageous that Vukmir, who poses as a fiscal conservative, is so willing to use her position as a state senator to increase local taxes," WJIA Executive Director Gretchen Schuldt said. "It's equally outrageous that Republicans in the Assembly went along. This proposal, if adopted, will cost local property taxpayers statewide millions of dollars a year."

Vukmir (R-Brookfield) is the main author of Senate Bill 54, which mandates that the Department of Corrections recommend revocation for anyone on supervision who is charged with a new violent misdemeanor or any felony. An amended of the version of the bill was approved by the Assembly. The Senate will vote later this month.

DOC estimates that the bill, if it becomes law, will result in an additional 2,135 revocation recommendations each year. If each of those alleged offenders spends 50 days in jail awaiting the outcome of his or her revocation hearing, total annual jail time in the state will rise by 106,857 days, or about 293 inmate years.

Property taxpayers could be on the hook for a total of $4 million to $6 million, depending on the daily cost of housing each inmate, Schuldt said. That does not include any construction costs associated with building or expanding jails to handle the new population.

Because of state-imposed limits on county property tax levies, counties may have to cut vital services to pay for the increased jail costs.

State administrative judges may refuse to revoke supervision for as many as half the people jailed under the new law, according to DOC estimates.

"In other words, people are jailed unnecessarily for up to two months and then the state will say 'whoops – never mind. But counties, here's the bill anyway,'" Schuldt said.

WJIA endorses Rebecca Dallet for Wisconsin Supreme Court

WJIA endorses Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet for Supreme Court.

Dallet is a fair judge who will bring Wisconsin's best ideals and ideas to the high court. She is experienced and compassionate and believes in basic justice. She is not, unlike her opponent, beholden to either corporations, right wing donors who are behind dark money, or the NRA.

Dallet is the obvious choice.

Supreme Court candidate Michael Screnock craps out in his home county

You'd think Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock would be getting a lot of love and money from his friends and fans in Sauk County.

That's his base, right?

But the news there has been fairly dismal for the Koch brothers' boy toy. OK, yeah, he got $19,000 from Joseph Screnock, his dad.

But outside of that, Mike raised only $625 in Sauk County zip codes in the final six months of 2017. 
That's $104.17 per month. For a major race.

Which tells you how much his neighbors support him.

Michael Screnock's Sauk County support