WisconsinWeekly: “Government by surprise” under Walker; lure of Great Lakes water

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Bills move more quickly under Gov. Scott Walker and GOP; thirsty places eye Great Lakes water; second former Walker aide revolts; election vulnerabilities; coal wanes

Of note: This week we highlight the latest installment in our series about the state of Wisconsin’s democracy. University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate journalism student Teodor Teofilov analyzed the speed with which bills have moved through the Wisconsin Legislature in the past 20 years. Our goal was to see whether bill fast-tracking was increasing, eroding the ability of the public and opposing party to examine or influence legislation. We discovered bills in fact did move much more quickly under Gov. Scott Walker’s first term but deliberation had slowed down in recent years. Teofilov’s analysis found that some of the most important bills, including the $3 billion-plus taxpayer subsidy package for Foxconn, continue to be hurried through.

WisconsinWeekly is produced by Dee and Andy Hall, a couple who founded the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Dee is the managing editor and Andy is the executive director.

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After Gov. Scott Walker took office, bills moved faster through the Wisconsin Legislature

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism — August 19, 2018

A Center analysis of all bills enacted into state law over the past two decades shows an overall decline in deliberation time — with the most dramatic drop happening just after Gov. Scott Walker took office. Some of the most contentious measures since Walker took office, including Act 10, Right to Work, redistricting and the massive Foxconn subsidy, were fast-tracked. West Bend businessman and thought leader John Torinus, who voted for Walker for governor three times and contributed to his 2010 campaign, has dubbed the strategy “government by surprise.” Read more in the Undemocratic: Secrecy and Power vs. The People series.

Can the Great Lakes continue to fend off an increasingly thirsty world?

Ensia — August 16, 2018

Writing for Ensia, former WCIJ reporter and editor Ron Seely explores whether a 2008 interstate compact, which prevents distant dry places from siphoning off Great Lakes water, will hold up in the face of growing demand. The Great Lakes Compact was approved by legislatures of all eight states bordering the Great Lakes, Congress and the Canadian provinces and signed into law by President George W. Bush. The latest test of the document, however, comes with the controversial approval by Wisconsin of Foxconn.

Second former Scott Walker aide criticizes governor on public records, makes ad for opponent Tony Evers

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — August 20, 2018

A second former top aide to Gov. Scott Walker has come out against him, saying the governor’s team told him to meet with payday loan lobbyists and discouraged him from creating documents that could be turned up under the state’s open records law. “I was told to avoid creating electronic records,” former Department of Financial Institutions secretary, Peter Bildsten, said in a digital ad for Walker’s opponent Tony Evers. “I thought Scott Walker was different, but he’s just another politician looking out for himself.” Bildsten first told his story to WCIJ in 2015: Former cabinet members: Top Scott Walker aide ordered them to avoid state email, phones

Fund meant to protect elections may be too little, too late

ProPublica — August 21, 2018

The federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has released data on how states plan to use their share of a $380 million fund for improving election infrastructure. Wisconsin was alloted nearly $7 million and joins Illinois and New York as the only states planning to spend the full amount on cybersecurity. Other states plan to upgrade voting equipment or voter registration systems or implement election audits. But despite warnings from intelligence officials, the EAC expects much of the money will not be used before the upcoming midterm elections, and election experts say the amount may be insufficient to secure the elections. Previously from WCIJ: Voting systems in Wisconsin, a key swing state, can be hacked, security experts warn

Trump EPA plan would prolong power plants, but Wisconsin utilities are moving away from coal

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — August 21, 2018

On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, an industry-friendly replacement to the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. The new rule would give states more control over how they regulate greenhouse gases and pollutants, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency admits that the proposal could lead to over 1,000 premature deaths each year. Despite the loosened regulations, the two largest Wisconsin utilities plan to continue reducing carbon emissions by using less coal and more natural gas and renewable energy sources. Previously from WCIJ: Under legal pressure, Wisconsin coal-fired power plants trim emissions

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