Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. October 12, 2023.
Editorial: Back off the threats
Robin Vos, the Republican leader of the Wisconsin Assembly, needs to back off the threat to impeach Justice Janet Protasiewicz.
Vos isn’t wrong that the members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court need to rule on law, rather than their own political views. His concern for that standard comes late, though, and was notably absent when conservatives held the majority.
On Thursday, Vos said the Legislature has “the ability to hold her accountable to the voters of Wisconsin.” He’s right. That statement was predicated on whether a justice decides to “inject their own political bias inside the process and not follow the law.”
Protasiewicz hasn’t done that yet. You have to rule on a case in order to do so. Vos is projecting an outcome that has not yet taken place.
Impeachment of an official is a serious matter. It must be based on that official’s actions, not what people believe that official’s actions will be. Vos is putting the cart before the horse here, and he’s on exceptionally shaky ground in doing so.
Removal of a supreme court justice is an extreme act, warranted only in exceptional circumstances. We’ve editorialized a number of times about the absence of ethical standards in the United States Supreme Court. As distasteful as we find the justices’ actions, not once have we called for removal of a justice. Why not? Because you can’t breach a code that doesn’t exist, and the court has no binding code of ethics.
There’s another dimension in play as well. Protasiewicz was elected by the people of Wisconsin. She took 55% of the vote. Unlike the federal court, justices in Wisconsin are elected to their office and she was the choice of Wisconsin voters.
We’re very leery of effectively overturning an election by removing a person voters put in place. While we’re concerned about Chippewa County Sheriff Travis Hakes’ actions and his apparent lack of judgement, we didn’t call for his ouster. Our board did not think his actions quite rose to that level.
It should be no surprise, then, that we do not support the removal of an elected official who has not yet taken the action for which removal is being considered.
Protasiewicz’s comments during the election, calling legislative maps “rigged” and “unfair” were unwise. She knew challenges to the maps would likely be coming to the court and that, she would be ruling on them if she won election. She put herself in a position to be accused — with considerable justification — of prejudging the cases.
But those who seek her impeachment lack foundation. That foundation may only rest on her position relative to the court’s ruling. American law accepts preemptive action only in rare cases, and this isn’t one of them.
Vos is further undermined by the fact two of his handpicked advisors on the issue have said they do not believe Protasiewicz should be impeached. Jon Wilcox and David Prosser, both conservatives and former members of Wisconsin’s supreme court, have both come out in opposition to such a move.
Impeaching an elected official in a panic, while trying to preserve political dominance, is an abuse of the power the Legislature holds. Vos, we suspect, knows that. While such threats may play well with his political base, they would diminish the Legislature’s standing and tarnish his own legacy.
There’s an adage that advises people, when they find themselves in a hole, to stop digging. That’s the best course for Vos. Clinging to this threat when even a handpicked panel rejects does not serve Wisconsin, and it’s time to put it to rest.
Wisconsin State Journal. October 15, 2023.
Editorial: Don’t loosen Wisconsin’s labor laws for children
Children working longer hours in more dangerous settings is not the solution to Wisconsin’s labor shortage.
The Legislature should let kids be kids — and protect them from hazardous job sites.
That includes the sawmill in Florence County where a 16-year-old boy died in July while trying to unjam a wood-stacking machine. That includes the slaughterhouses where a Grant County-based company had children as young as 13 working with hazardous chemicals and cleaning saws. Several of the minors suffered injuries and burns.
That includes Wisconsin taverns, where 14-year-olds shouldn’t be allowed to serve alcohol.
With an aging population and a low unemployment rate of just 2.9%, Wisconsin definitely needs more workers to grow and prosper. But loosening child labor laws would be short-sighted and harmful. Wisconsin has much better options, including immigration, automation, education and child care.
Sen. Cory Tomczyk of Mosinee, Rep. Clint Moses of Menomonie and Rep. Amy Binsfeld of Sheboygan recently proposed the elimination of work permits and parental permission for 14- and 15-year-olds who seek jobs in the Badger State. The Republican trio call work permits and parental approval “needless administrative barriers” that slow down hiring.
So much for parental rights, which are supposed to be a GOP priority. Their bill also would stop the state Department of Workforce Development from verifying the age of children and make it harder to uncover and investigate violations.
Simplifying the permitting process might be worthwhile, but not eliminating it.
Another bad idea is letting 14- to 17-year-olds serve beer and booze in taverns and restaurants. Sen. Rob Stafsholt of New Richmond and Rep. Chanz Green of Grandview, both Republicans, say teens serving alcohol in bars and restaurants will address “severe workforce shortage issues.”
Marginally, that might be true. But their proposal would give children easier access to substances they can’t legally consume. It also would increase contact between teen employees and intoxicated strangers, risking harassment. It could reduce oversight by older staff of heavy-drinking customers who may need to be cut off.
Wisconsin already leads the nation in binge drinking. One in 5 of licensed drivers in the state have been convicted of drunken driving. If Stafsholt and Green get their way, Wisconsin would suffer another dubious distinction: having the youngest servers in the nation.
The rest of the Legislature should reject this reckless idea and keep the legal age for delivering drinks at 18, which most states require. Improving the Tavern League’s bottom line isn’t worth putting booze in the hands of children.
Wisconsin has much better solutions to its workforce challenge, including:
— Allowing more legal immigration, including a streamlined process for work visas.
— Embracing automation to boost productivity and improve wages, rather than fearing it will take away jobs.
— Letting foreign students stay and contribute here after graduating from our universities.
— Raising pay and improving working conditions. (That’s what the governor and Legislature did in the state budget to fill critical positions, hiking the starting wage for prison guards by nearly $13 an hour — a 63% increase.)
— Investing in child care, which frees up more parents to join or stay in the workforce.
— Investing in education, which prepares young people for the jobs of the future while retraining older employees who need new skills.
Arkansas, New Hampshire and New Jersey have relaxed child labor laws in recent years. Iowa and West Virginia have lowered the age for serving alcohol to 16. Wisconsin should avoid this misguided and perilous trend.