By The Associated Press

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. May 2, 2023.

Editorial: Bad bills waste Legislature’s time

It’s apparently silly season in Madison. Nonsensical bills are nothing new, of course, but we encountered a pair this week that are truly wastes of time.

One actually goes further than being a waste. The proposal to allow 14-year-olds to serve alcohol in bars is potentially dangerous.

Wisconsin law allows people to serve alcohol to customers before they hit the legal drinking age. Anyone 18 or older can do so. That makes sense. While 18-year-olds can’t legally drink they are most definitely adults.

A 14-year-old? The gulf in physical, mental and emotional terms between someone that age and an 18-year-old is vast. The changes in how one behaves and views the world between those ages are massive. Someone who has reached adulthood can quite reasonably be said to be a different person than they were just four years earlier.

Those four years of maturity are important, and there’s no question to us that they make enough of a difference to make putting a 14-year-old in a bar situation a bad idea.

The bill, to be clear, would not mean you’d see 14-year-olds behind the bar, pulling the tap. Their service would only be approved for customers who are seated elsewhere. The reality, though, is that such a line is more theory than fact, depending entirely on the willingness of employee and employer to concede there is a difference between someone sitting at the bar and someone sitting five feet away.

The bill’s two proponents claim the idea is in response to “workforce issues due to an establishment’s underage employees only being able to do part of their job.” We don’t buy it. Serving alcohol isn’t part of their job; it can’t be under Wisconsin law. Anyone under age 18 is, in fact, already doing their entire job. Any business owner who hires someone underage knows that restriction from the start and still makes the decision to hire that person.

The legislators behind the proposal are currently looking for cosponsors. We hope they have a difficult time finding any.

The other bill that caught our eye is more reasonable in theory, but probably impossible to enforce. It would require social media companies to verify the ages of Wisconsin users. Children who want accounts would need parental permission.

We agree that social media can be an incredibly toxic place and parents should generally think twice about allowing their children to have accounts. Measures such as this bill won’t prevent them from doing so, though, regardless of their parents’ wishes. It’s not as if people have never lied about their age online, after all.

We also question how companies would achieve the instruction to verify the age of every Wisconsin resident who set up an account since 2019 within 21 days. Would it require submitting documents, or just a click promising that you’re the age you claim? The former is undesirable — you really think you can trust social media to protect personally identifiable documents — and the latter is unverifiable.

Again, the goal of protecting children online is laudable. But we don’t see how this bill is workable or enforceable. As such, it’s probably a waste of the Legislature’s effort.

There’s plenty Wisconsin’s Legislature needs to get done without spending time on things like these two bills. We understand the urge to take on pet projects. Few legislators avoid falling into that trap at least a few times. We would prefer, though, that legislators resist the temptation and focus on things that are more plausible alterations to state law.

Bad bills like these simply aren’t worth the time.


Kenosha News. April 30, 2023.

Editorial: GOP should act on red-flag law

Wisconsin doesn’t have a red-flag law, which allows for temporary firearm removal from individuals believed to be at risk of harming themselves or others.

It should.

State Republican leaders – like Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester—should get their heads out of the sand and stop blocking a common-sense measure that would support law enforcement efforts to reduce gun violence and give families and loved ones who fear for the actions of relatives who are dealing with mental health issues a safe path to address those mental health issues and avoid gun violence.

Gov. Tony Evers would likely sign such legislation, but that fact is that red-flag legislation never even got a public hearing in the GOP-controlled state Legislature last year.

That’s despite the fact that more than 80% of Wisconsin voters support a red-flag law, according to a 2022 poll conducted by Marquette University. That percentage is a mirror of national polls which show similar support.

That’s despite the fact that 19 states across the country have already implemented red-flag laws and Michigan is now set to join them with the signature of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

That’s despite the fact that U.S. firearm homicide and suicide rates jumped by more than 8% from 2020 to 2021, totaling more than 47,000 lives, according to the Center for Disease Control.

So what’s the hold-up? Much of it likely stems from Republican politicians kow-towing to Second Amendment supporters who resist any attempts to “infringe” on the Constitutional right to bear arms.

None of Wisconsin’s Republican congressional members voted for the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which contains funding for states to create and implement red-flag laws. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson said, “This bill provides resources to states to adopt red-flag laws without requiring sufficient due process to those accused – thereby eroding Second Amendment protections. I simply cannot support it.”

To the contrary, red-flag laws do require a court process.

They allow family members and law enforcement – along with in some cases health care providers and school officials – to petition a court to temporarily prevent a person from accessing firearms if they are found to be a danger to themselves or others, according to the Department of Justice.

It takes a judge’s order to implement. And it’s temporary.

State Republicans are often fond of backing increased funding and legislation for law enforcement saying it “gives them another tool in their tool-belt.” So give them the tool of a red-flag law to remove guns from the hands of people who show threatening behavior.

More importantly, give that same opportunity to families and loved ones who are often the first to know when a family member or friend is suffering from mental health issues and may pose a danger to themselves or other family members. It would give them time to find mental health assistance for their family member and perhaps avoid a tragedy. It would give them a path to at least do SOMETHING.

The simple fact is that of those 47,000 lives lost each year to gun deaths in America, more than half – 54% are gun suicides. That’s a number that needs to drop by giving law enforcement and families a chance to intervene before it’s too late.

More than 80% of Wisconsin residents agree with that. State Republicans should acknowledge that support and act to fulfill the wishes of their constituents.


Wisconsin State Journal. April 30, 2023.

Editorial: Madison just proved the power of a single vote

Madison just selected a South Side alderman by drawing his name out of a bag.

That might sound random. But it was necessary to break a tie vote, as state law requires. And it proves the old saying is true — every vote counts.

It also highlights how divided many Madisonians are on the future of their city, particularly over how it should grow. The two candidates in this race were from different generations and backgrounds, and they disagreed on housing, transit and more.

The mayor and City Council will need to weigh those divergent views carefully and seek consensus as they lead the city forward.

Noah Lieberman was the unofficial winner in District 14 on April 4 by only two votes: 1,384 to 1,382. Three days later, his winning margin shrank to a single vote when a previously uncounted provisional ballot (one cast by someone who didn’t have the proper documentation on Election Day but subsequently provided it within a few days) favored his opponent, Isadore Knox.

Knox then asked for a recount, which resulted in a tie, with each contender collecting 1,384.

That means if any of Knox’s supporters had voted differently — or skipped the election — it would have changed the outcome. And if Lieberman had drawn just one more supporter to the polls, he would have won.

Both candidates had a lot of opportunity to pick up more votes because District 14 had the lowest turnout in the city. Only around 25% of District 14’s more than 11,000 eligible voters cast ballots, compared to other city districts with twice as much turnout.

Congratulations to Knox, whom the State Journal editorial board had endorsed for his experience, collegiality and priorities. We also met with Lieberman and liked him, too.

These two candidates contrasted in many ways.

Knox, 67, is Black and worked as a manager for the state and county, encouraging equal opportunities. He has lived on the South Side for three decades and previously served on the City Council. He is skeptical of denser, taller apartment buildings along South Park Street, though he’s open to them Downtown. He wants to encourage home ownership and condos to build wealth, supports body cameras on patrol officers, and is excited about turning State Street into a pedestrian mall. He isn’t a fan of gentrification.

Lieberman, 28, is white and relatively new to the South Side. He works for Epic Systems, the giant health information company in Verona that has drawn technology workers from across the country — many of whom enjoy living in or near Downtown. Lieberman is part of the rapid growth and change coming to all of Madison and the region. He has a point that this influx of creative people deserves some representation. He sounded more supportive of denser development and the mayor’s plans for “bus rapid transit.”

Those residents who actually voted on April 4 had an impact on their community by picking one candidate or the other. And those who didn’t vote, well, they shouldn’t complain about City Hall in the coming year. If they didn’t cast ballots, they missed a great chance to influence local decisions.

A lot of people seem to think that state and national elections are most important. But it’s your local officials who have the most influence over your streets, parks, schools and community.

So congratulations to the 2,768 good citizens who had their say on Madison’s South Side on April 4. Even if your candidate didn’t win after a name was drawn out of a bag to break the tie, it was your vote — the very one you cast — that made that random drawing necessary.

Democracy requires some work and involvement. Remember that next spring when city, county, school and judicial candidates seek your support. Each and every vote counts.