Wisconsin Republicans still have the audacity to proclaim that the government closest to the people governs best.
After six years of regularly overturning and restricting local government policies and initiatives, one of the most notorious of those anti-local government leaders, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, invoked that old GOP "principle" while on a talk show last week touting her candidacy for the U.S. Senate.
Vukmir, of Wauwatosa, considers herself the only "real" conservative vying for the Republican nomination to run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin next fall and, consequently, views the federal government as the bad guys and state government as the good "closer to the people" guys.
Never mind that she's worked along with her fellow Wisconsin legislative GOPers to declare that a legislator in rural northern Wisconsin should have a say over what the people in the city of Milwaukee can do. Government closest to the people doesn't seem to work in that case.
Milwaukee is a good example of Vukmir's anti-local government zealotry. She was the moving force to pass a bill that effectively overturned the decision by the city's voters to establish a local family and medical leave ordinance. She tried to pass legislation that would have the state Legislature, not the Department of Public Instruction in coordination with local school districts, write academic standards for students. She was a crusader in the fight to kill regional transit authorities that gave local governments the power — and the taxing ability — to cooperate on public transportation.
Most of her anti-local government ideas come from her intimate involvement with the notorious pro-corporate "exchange" consortium known as ALEC. The organization has come up with numerous ideas on how states can rein in local governments so they don't pass local ordinances — like enacting a local "living wage" floor — that thwart conservatives in state government.
You might also remember that a staffer for retired Republican state Sen. Dale Schultz testified earlier this year that Vukmir was among GOP legislators who were "giddy" over the state's imposition of voting ID requirements on local elections.
And she's been notorious in trying to keep her maneuvering under wraps. She was one of the legislators who voted to exempt the Legislature from the state's open records laws in a middle-of-the-night budget amendment two years ago, which infuriated the state. Earlier she had fought open records requests on her ALEC involvement and finally gave in after a public outcry over keeping secrets while serving in a public office.
No friend of working people, she's championed right-to-work and opposed raising the state's embarrassingly low minimum wage. Vukmir's latest claim to fame is destroying the state's longstanding "prevailing wage" law that requires government contractors to pay the wage to their workers that is prevalent in their area. She has worked to open the door to those who can underbid local contractors by paying substandard wages to their workers.
Government closest to the people, indeed. As long as its the government closest to her people.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @DaveZweifel
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