While elections in 2013 won’t number anything like the record 16 that took place in 2012, this year’s Spring Election on April 2 will include filling two statewide offices.
One of those offices is for the Superintendent of Public Instruction; the other is for Supreme Court Justice. The ballot will also include elections for candidates for the Court of Appeals and for Circuit Courts.
In addition, there will be a special election to fill the State Assembly District 98 seat. This election will be held concurrently with the 2013 Spring Election.
Three persons have filed for the seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. That number will be narrowed by two at the Spring Primary on Feb. 19.
SUPREME COURT CANDIDATES
Justice Pat Roggensack is running for a second 10-year term on the state’s highest court. Her earlier experience included seven years as a Court of Appeals Judge, District IV. She received her law degree from UW-Madison (cum laude).
Also filing for the Supreme Court seat are Marquette Law School Professor Ed Fallone, Whitefish Bay, and Vince Megna, Menomonee Falls, often referred to as a “lemon-law expert.”
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 98
Five Republicans have filed for the open seat in Assembly District 98. This is the seat formerly held by Paul Farrow who was elected to the State Senate in the fall election.
The candidates are: Ed Baumann, Pewaukee; Todd Greenwald, Pewaukee; Matt Morzy, Waukesha; Adam Neylon (incomplete address); and Jeanne Tarantino, Waukesha.
Superintendent Tony Evers, Madison, is seeking a second four-year term as State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
State Representative Don Pridemore (R-Hartford) is also running for the state superintendent post. Pridemore has been a legislator since 2004.
NEW GAB CHAIR
Retired Judge Tim Vocke is the new chairman of the Government Accountability Board (GAB) – the board that oversees Wisconsin elections.
Kevin Kennedy, director of the nonpartisan GAB, picked Vocke’s name from a glass vase. Vocke replaces David Deininger as chair.
The GAB consists of six retired judges. The new chair is from Rhinelander where he served as Vilas County circuit court judge from 1979 to 1983. He retired from his law practice in 2009.
VOLUNTEER AS TAX PREPARER
Secretary Richard Chandler, Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) is requesting volunteers to get involved with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly/Tax-Aide (TCE) programs.
Volunteers are needed to participate in both of these programs.
The VITA and TCE volunteers work with Wisconsin senior citizens, lower-income tax payers, veterans and military personnel at more than 200 sites across the state. The volunteers provide free tax preparation services.
The VITA Program offers free tax help to people who make $50,000 or less and need assistance preparing their own returns. The TCE Program offers free tax help for everyone but those 60 years or older receive priority assistance. Volunteers in this program specialize in answering questions about pensions and retirement issues unique to seniors. During the last tax season these programs helped more than 60,000 individuals.
Volunteering for these programs may be of particular interest to those who enjoy math or have a background in accounting, finance or economics. They learn about federal income tax law through an online program called IRS Link & Learn program. They are also trained in state income tax reporting.
Training for both of these programs usually takes place in January and February. For more information, call 608-266-2772.
Both the U.S. Government and many states, including Wisconsin, are looking at revisions to existing tax policies.
In an interview with the Racine Journal Times, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) made a statement that I think sums up the need for changes in the tax code. Here’s what Vos said:
“People who are poor have a tax code that’s so complicated they have to pay a preparer. People who are middle income have a system that is totally biased against them if you look at the national rankings and we have a tax code that is riddled with things that supposedly have some kind of economic benefit, but many times it’s dubious at best.”
The question is how long it will take for the two parties to come to agreement on a solution that will address the issues Vos mentioned.
Speaker Robin Vos and Majority Leader Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) said the first bill they will introduce in the 2013-14 session will be legislation to reform the outdated mining laws in Wisconsin.
“Mining reform is a top priority in the state Assembly,” Vos said.
Suder added, “Democrats and Republicans agree we should update our mining laws to hopefully bring a new mine and thousands of jobs to Wisconsin.”
Vos said it would be “irresponsible to ignore this great opportunity for job creation.”
STATE LAW CHALLENGES
Attorney General JB Van Hollen would like to see the legislature act on a quicker review of challenges to state laws.
No doubt he’s hoping the state’s Voter ID law might get a quicker review process – but instead it remains tied up in the courts.
The Photo ID Law was in effect during one election at the beginning of 2012. After that Dane County judges, in two lawsuits, put it on hold. Both cases are tied up in the appeals court.
Despite pleas, the state Supreme Court has not acted on multiple requests from the attorney general that the high court take up the cases directly.
Van Hollen would like lawmakers to look at whether a “single jurist, elected by the people of a single county, can strike down the will of the people through their elected officials for the whole state.”
• State Rep. Donna Seidel (D-Wausau), who lost a Senate recall election in June to State Rep. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon), resigned from her Assembly office on Dec. 28. She had served in the Assembly since 2004. According to the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds, qualifying public-sector employees in the state’s pension system, who have reached their five-year vestment, are entitled to a Wisconsin Retirement System Pension. The amount of the pension is paid on their highest three-year average wage. It is not unusual for employees and/or legislators to decide to retire at the end of a year because of the amount of their pension payouts.
• Don’t forget to respond to the 2012 Ag Census. The Census, taken every five years by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service is important says Ben Brancel, secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). “By completing your 2012 census government leaders, agribusinesses and trade associations will have the information needed to make decisions impacting agriculture and our rural communities.” For more information call toll-free 888-424-7828.
• USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack will continue to serve is this position through President Obama’s second term.