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Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, the Republican from the little town of Rochester in Racine County who's best known for bullying his way around the state Capitol, told a gathering of the state's biggest corporate lobby earlier this month that it isn't gerrymandering that gets his party members elected to the Legislature, it's the caliber of candidates that his party puts forth at election time.

Really?, I wondered.

Are these quality candidates the representatives who have spent their time in office padding their own personal interests we've read so much about? Those who own rental properties and then vote on legislation to make life better for landlords over tenants? Vos himself is among them.

Or those who hold up a state budget until it includes a provision that makes it easier for a Republican state senator's business that sells Tesla parts?

Or those who consistently push legislation that favors their corporate donors over the common good?

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the lobbying group, knows them all full well. It consistently buys votes with campaign contributions for its wealthy members. Vos' "quality" legislators marched lockstep with WMC during this spring's budget cycle by killing Gov. Tony Evers' proposal to eliminate the notorious manufacturing and agriculture tax credit to fund a middle-class tax cut for ordinary Wisconsin citizens.

That's when that other "quality" legislator, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, fumed that he wasn't going to support a tax hike for one segment to fund a tax cut for others even, I guess, if it's taking a few bucks from millionaires to give ordinary wage earners.

He didn't speak to Evers' point, however, that the M&A tax break, the brainchild of Fitzgerald, Vos and then Gov. Scott Walker, has gone disproportionately to the big boys. In 2017, tax filers with incomes of at least a million dollars claimed 76 percent of the tax credit. That same year 11 tax filers who claimed the credit each had incomes of $30 million or more. They each averaged a tax cut of $2 million each.

Heaven forbid they pay their fair share of taxes like everyone else so that thousands of middle class folks could get at least a small break on their own income taxes.

But, these are the "quality" legislators Vos maintains the Republicans are sending to Madison.

Yes, they're the same ones who don't think Wisconsin should accept federal funds to expand Medicaid so more of the state's low-income folks can have health insurance. But, they're all for providing corporate welfare to multi-national wealthy conglomerates like Foxconn and Kimberly-Clark, whose promises to create jobs are still in limbo.

Trouble is, all too many of those "quality" politicians Vos talks about have no mind of their own. Like Republicans in Congress do for Donald Trump they meekly follow the dictates and bizarre stands that Vos and Fitzgerald concoct. It's either that or face the consequences as bully Vos throws his weight around. If they truly are "quality" legislators, they surely haven't any courage to take stands of their own.

The latest example of how weak they are is their failure to stand up for some sensible gun legislation which, of course, Vos proudly opposes despite the polls showing more than 80 percent of the state's citizens believe the time has come for sensible gun controls.

He and his compatriot, Fitzgerald, believe measures like closing background checks loopholes and passing "red flag" legislation as Gov. Tony Evers wants to do are useless and won't make a dent in violence. Instead, they, like Trump, pull out the old canard that we have a mental illness problem that we need to address instead.

That's become NRA stooges like Vos and Fitzgerald's newest version of "thought and prayers" to divert public attention from the real problem. As several psychiatrists and mental health experts have been pointing out, these killers aren't mentally ill at all. They're people like you and me who are filled with everyday stress, anger, jealousy and unhappiness and decide to act on it.

There's a reason other civilized countries don't come close to having the massacres we experience. They, too, have people who are mentally ill, but they don't have gun laws that flood their countries with weapons made for fighting wars.

But, Vos' "quality" legislators can't be bothered with that kind of nuance, nor can they be bothered with what the people say they want, especially when the NRA is in the wings dangling big bucks for their "quality" campaigns.

Perhaps Robin Vos ought to look up the word quality in the dictionary.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. He can be reached by email at dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.

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