Analysis Politics

Walker’s Record on Social Policy Reveals a Governor Not Terribly Concerned About the Kinds of Violence He Now Decries

Robin Marty

Scott Walker decries abortion and violence against children, but his budget prorities have included deep cuts in services for violence prevention, child security, reproductive health, and women's rights.

In about 24 hours the polls will open and the voters of Wisconsin will decide whether Republican Governor Scott Walker should continue the rest of his term, or be replaced by former Milwaukee mayor, Democrat Tom Barrett.

The governor and potential governor may be running nearly identical campaign paths during the final hours of the race, even crossing paths at a local breakfast in an attempt to rally supporters. Their records, on the other hand, couldn’t be any further apart.

Walker and Barrett were already a study in contrasts when they ran this race once already back in 2010. Walker, a former county executive as well as a state legislator, has attacked Barrett most recently on his record as the mayor of Milwaukee, saying Barrett’s claim that violent crime went down under his tenure was a sham. “Violent crime rate has not gone down. I think if it was worth to say that people should vote for you in the primary because it had gone down, the same question is completely legitimate in reverse. Violent crime has gone up, sadly,” accused Walker in last week’s debate.

Walker may have a keen interest in Milwaukee’s violent crime rate at that point, but violence wasn’t nearly as high on his list of priorities as Milwaukee’s county executive, at least not when it involved women. Walker allowed violent male mental health patients to be housed in the same ward as female patients as a cost-cutting measure, and then refused to adequately staff the facility on top of it. In 2010 reporter Emily Mills noted that “the direct result that the incidences of sexual assault skyrocketed – something then-administrator John Chianelli described as an acceptable ‘trade-off’ to help lower rates of overall violence.”

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Mills also called Walker the embodiment of “negligence, incompetence and blind ideology.”  It’s that blind ideology that has most influenced the first years of his term.  Since his election, Walker has managed to roll back every piece of reproductive health policy in the state. Although it has mostly been his attacks on labor and bargaining rights that have angered so many in the state, it is likely his policies regarding abortion, birth control, and access to health care have affected the largest portion of the state’s population.

Walker’s first proposed budget began with immediate moves to strip funding for contraception from Medicaid, followed by defunding the Title V program that provided health care such as exams, testing, screenings, and treatment to low-income men and women in the state.

Walker also oversaw the repeal of the Healthy Youth Act, a bill that required all sexual education classes taught in Wisconsin schools be medically-accurate, age-appropriate, and use evidence-based strategies to reduce teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Also in that vote was a ban on allowing women to purchase their own abortion coverage in insurance plans, even if they paid for it out of their own pockets.

Finally, Walker signed even more anti-women bills in near silence, slipping them out to the media right before Good Friday in an effort to bury them. One bill banned abortions in the state health insurance exchange. The other forced women to meet in person with a doctor at various times when using the drug RU-486 to abort despite not being part of standard medical care, a move that caused Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin to stop providing medication abortions in April, and all other clinics to follow suit a few weeks later.

But it wasn’t just women who felt the brunt of Walker’s policies. Although Walker expressed a great deal of concern for the 2-year old beating victim in his campaign commercial, his compassion for other children doesn’t come to the forefront.  Walker proposed cuts to childcare subsidies as a way to try to balance the state budget, claiming it would eliminate fraud and save money. But childcare workers were less enthused about the idea. 

The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families has raised concerns that the new policy to shift to attendance payments over enrollments would amount to a 5% cut or more for providers. Taken with years of stagnant reimbursement rates for providers, it may make them less willing to take on Wisconsin Shares children, said Jon Peacock, research director for the council.

“A child-care provider can’t be like an airline, where you anticipate some no-shows and overbook and tell some kids (to) go across town,” Peacock said.

And Walker’s own cuts to public safety budgets have been criticized by the National Association of Police Organizations:

“Scott Walker’s divisive tactics and his drastic cuts to public safety funding will make Wisconsin’s communities and the officers that police them less safe,” claimed NAPO President Thomas Nee in a statement.

Walker made it clear in Friday’s debate that he believed every aspect of Barrett’s record was “fair game” that needed to be examined prior to the June 5th vote.  Obviously, Walker’s record deserves the same scrutiny as well.

News Sexual Health

State With Nation’s Highest Chlamydia Rate Enacts New Restrictions on Sex Ed

Nicole Knight

By requiring sexual education instructors to be certified teachers, the Alaska legislature is targeting Planned Parenthood, which is the largest nonprofit provider of such educational services in the state.

Alaska is imposing a new hurdle on comprehensive sexual health education with a law restricting schools to only hiring certificated school teachers to teach or supervise sex ed classes.

The broad and controversial education bill, HB 156, became law Thursday night without the signature of Gov. Bill Walker, a former Republican who switched his party affiliation to Independent in 2014. HB 156 requires school boards to vet and approve sex ed materials and instructors, making sex ed the “most scrutinized subject in the state,” according to reproductive health advocates.

Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers of Alaska’s legislature.

Championing the restrictions was state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla), who called sexuality a “new concept” during a Senate Education Committee meeting in April. Dunleavy added the restrictions to HB 156 after the failure of an earlier measure that barred abortion providers—meaning Planned Parenthood—from teaching sex ed.

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Dunleavy has long targeted Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest nonprofit provider of sexual health education, calling its instruction “indoctrination.”

Meanwhile, advocates argue that evidence-based health education is sorely needed in a state that reported 787.5 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2014—the nation’s highest rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Surveillance Survey for that year.

Alaska’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average.

The governor in a statement described his decision as a “very close call.”

“Given that this bill will have a broad and wide-ranging effect on education statewide, I have decided to allow HB 156 to become law without my signature,” Walker said.

Teachers, parents, and advocates had urged Walker to veto HB 156. Alaska’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Amy Jo Meiners, took to Twitter following Walker’s announcement, writing, as reported by Juneau Empire, “This will cause such a burden on teachers [and] our partners in health education, including parents [and] health [professionals].”

An Anchorage parent and grandparent described her opposition to the bill in an op-ed, writing, “There is no doubt that HB 156 is designed to make it harder to access real sexual health education …. Although our state faces its largest budget crisis in history, certain members of the Legislature spent a lot of time worrying that teenagers are receiving information about their own bodies.”

Jessica Cler, Alaska public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, called Walker’s decision a “crushing blow for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual health education” in a statement.

She added that Walker’s “lack of action today has put the education of thousands of teens in Alaska at risk. This is designed to do one thing: Block students from accessing the sex education they need on safe sex and healthy relationships.”

The law follows the 2016 Legislative Round-up released this week by advocacy group Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. The report found that 63 percent of bills this year sought to improve sex ed, but more than a quarter undermined student rights or the quality of instruction by various means, including “promoting misinformation and an anti-abortion agenda.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Clinton Hits Back Against GOP’s Voter Suppression Efforts

Ally Boguhn

“When [Scott] Walker's Republican allies sat down to write this voter ID law, they knew full well it would unfairly target communities of color and prevent 300,000 mostly poor, elderly and student Wisconsinites from voting,” Clinton wrote. “In fact, that was the whole idea.”

Donald Trump secured enough delegates to win the Republican presidential nomination this week, and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton sounded off on GOP-imposed voting restrictions.

Associated Press Declares Trump the Republican Nominee

Trump has won enough delegates to become the nominee for the Republican Party, according to a Thursday count by the Associated Press (AP).

Trump’s victory comes as little surprise given that he was only ten delegates away from the nomination after winning Tuesday’s primary contest in Washington state. According to AP, a count including unbound delegates was enough to put the presumptive nominee over the edge:

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The New York businessman sealed the majority by claiming a small number of the party’s unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the national convention in July. Among them was Oklahoma GOP chairwoman Pam Pollard.

“I think he has touched a part of our electorate that doesn’t like where our country is,” Pollard said. “I have no problem supporting Mr. Trump.”

It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination. Trump has reached 1,239 and will easily pad his total in primary elections on June 7.

The billionaire’s win marks the end of a heated primary season. However, the departure of Trump’s rivals from the race doesn’t mean the end of their influence on the election. Former challengers Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) both control their delegates, “potentially giving them influence over the direction of the party’s platform at the Republican convention July 18-21 in Cleveland,” according to the New York Times.

Abortion rights have been a key issue among GOP candidates battling to showcase their extremism on the subject throughout the race, and may play a large role at the convention. Trump told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie in April that he would “absolutely” look to change the party’s platform on abortion to include exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment—much to the dismay of conservatives and anti-choice activists.

Cruz backers and other influential Republicans have reportedly moved to block “language that could be added to the platform or watered down in the existing party roadmap on abortion, transgender rights and same-sex marriage,” according to CNN.

Clinton Pitches Expansion of Voting Rights in Wisconsin Op-Ed

Clinton pushed her plans to expand voting rights in an op-ed published Wednesday in Wisconsin’s Journal Sentinel.

Clinton used Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which may have disenfranchised as many as 300,000 voters in April’s presidential primary, to discuss barriers to voting and the communities they impact. “When Walker’s Republican allies sat down to write this voter ID law, they knew full well it would unfairly target communities of color and prevent 300,000 mostly poor, elderly and student Wisconsinites from voting,” Clinton wrote. “In fact, that was the whole idea.”

The former secretary of state noted that laws suppressing voter turnout are popping up in states with GOP-majority legislatures. “From Alabama to South Carolina, to Texas, state legislatures are working hard to limit access to the voting booth,” Clinton wrote. “And since it’s clear we now have to be vigilant everywhere, as president, I would push for taking several additional actions at the national level.”

Over the course of the 2016 election season, 17 states will experience new voting restrictions—including voter ID laws and registration restrictionsfor the first time, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

Clinton detailed the specifics of her platform to expand voting access. Her four-pronged approach included urging Congress to act on restoring the protections in the Voting Rights Act gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013; implementing reforms to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration pertaining to early and absentee voting; creating a “a new national standard of 20 days of early in-person voting everywhere”; and instituting universal voter registration for all Americans when they turn 18.

Clinton on the campaign trail has repeatedly addressed voting rights and Republican efforts to suppress votes. The Democratic presidential candidate outlined a similar plan to improve access to the polls in a June 2015 speech in Houston, Texas.

“We have a responsibility to say clearly and directly what’s really going on in our country,” Clinton said at the time, according to MSNBC. “What is happening is a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people, and young people from one end of our country to the other.”

What Else We’re Reading

Of Trump’s 70 paid campaign staff members, 52 of themor roughly 75 percentare men, reports Laura Basset for the Huffington Post. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaign also has some troubling gender demographics: none of the ten highest paid employees on staff are women.

Meanwhile, those over at New York Magazine’s The Cut wonder “who are the women who make up 25 percent of Trump’s campaign staff and are they okay?”

The Atlantic details Hillary Clinton’s “Medicare for More” health-care platform.

Would you be surprised if we told you that Trump’s new Christian policy adviser is a televangelist who believes he single-handedly stopped a tsunami and that AIDS is caused by “unnatural sex”?

The [Trump] campaign probably won’t choose “a woman or a member of a minority group” for Trump’s running mate, adviser Paul Manafort told the Huffington Post in an interview published Wednesday. “In fact, that would be viewed as pandering, I think,” Manafort said.

Vox’s Dara Lind explains the problem with Manafort’s admission: “The assumption: The only reason someone might pick a woman or person of color for a job would be because they’re a woman or person of color.”

Trump’s proposals for colleges and universities have at least one thing in common with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), but “could lock poor students out of college,” Donald Heller, provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of San Francisco, writes for the New Republic.

More bad news for the Republican presidential candidate: Many white women living in the suburbs of swing states whose votes are needed for Trump to win the general election just aren’t feeling him. Sad!

“There are more examples of shark attacks in the United States and exploding toilets than there was of voter fraud,” Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) said this week, referring to a conservative myth that leads to legislation perpetuating voter suppression. Larsen is a part of the newly-formed Voting Rights Caucus, which was created to “educate the public about their rights as voters, advance legislation that blocks current and future suppression tactics, and brainstorm creative ways to bring our election process into the 21st Century.”

An Ohio court ruled that former Republican presidential candidate Kasich’s efforts to cut early voting days are “unconstitutional and … accordingly unenforceable.” The state of Ohio has filed an appeal to the decision.

Janell Ross examines “the race-infused history” behind the disenfranchisement of those who have been convicted of felonies.

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