Column: Oppose abusive GOP bill
Christine Bremer Muggli
For the Wausau Daily Herald
January 11, 2011

Gov. Scott Walker claims that his "jobs bill" will make Wisconsin a safe place to create jobs. Instead, it makes Wisconsin a dangerous place for its citizens.

The bill favors negligent manufacturers, abusive nursing homes and repeat-offender drunk drivers. Provisions are hidden in the bill that give special privileges and immunities to dangerous segments of the business community, at the expense of the safety and constitutional rights of Wisconsin citizens.

Among the most concerning provisions are the protections of abusive and neglectful nursing homes. In a hand-out to special interests, the "jobs bill" includes unique rules to protect large corporations that own and insure nursing homes from the consequences of permitting abuse and neglect of our elderly, including allowing nursing homes to hide reports about residents made by their employees who witness abuse. These reports are critical in securing convictions of persons who have committed crimes against the elderly and
handicapped residents such as battery.

Under this legislation, the reports never can be used as evidence in a criminal or civil case. How will crimes against the elderly ever be prosecuted?

The bill also will protect drunken drivers. Right now, punitive damages are available to punish someone who commits an outrageous act (such as a repeat drunk driver) and to prevent the act from happening again. This bill will make it virtually impossible to punish a person who repeatedly drives drunk or drugged, making our roads far less safe.

Consider also that slum landlords who intentionally don't install smoke detectors will not be held accountable if a fatal fire occurs. A Chinese manufacturer, interested only in a big profit, that intentionally places a dangerous or defective toy onto the shelves of Wisconsin's retail stores will not be held accountable for punitive damages when that toy kills or maims a Wisconsin child.

Walker's proposals reward reckless conduct instead of protecting the people of Wisconsin.

That is not all the "jobs bill" does. A key provision of this bill guts the prosecution of drunken-driving offenses. Currently, police officers testify to their observations of a drunken driver and can give their opinion as to whether the driver was in fact intoxicated. Incredibly, Walker's bill will not allow that testimony unless the officer qualifies as an expert in toxicology -- an expertise few officers have. Walker was not put into office to make it easier for drunken drivers to beat the rap.

The pace that has been set by the Legislature to hold hearings and vote within a few days deprives all elected officials of any meaningful opportunity to debate and discuss the frightening consequences this legislation has all citizens. The "Jobs Bill' has been scheduled for a vote with virtually no notice or opportunity for Wisconsin citizens to be heard. Is this the open, transparent government the voters were promised by candidate Walker?

We cannot afford to limit our law enforcement from prosecuting drunken drivers or elder abusers. We cannot permit Chinese manufacturers to injure our children without recourse. We cannot permit elder abuse and neglect to go unpunished.

Newly elected state Sen. Pam Galloway sits on the Judiciary Committee that will conduct the one-day hearing in Madison today. Contact her at 608-266-2502 or and tell her to vote no to the provisions of Walker's "jobs bill" that have nothing to do with jobs.

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