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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, July 31, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

Are our elected officials getting to this place on a regular basis?

A hard year's work?


State Rep. Leon Young isn't exactly known for his legislative writing prowess, but he certainly is known as the hardest-working Milwaukee-area legislator. (Just kidding.)

Young is listed as author on few bills but consistently claims to have been in Madison the most time of any lawmaker during the year. Young even declared more days in Madison than every Milwaukee area senator except one.

Now, he may be getting work done or perhaps he's methodical, but we also know that every day a lawmaker claims to be in Madison means an extra $88 in the pocket. So Young's self-proclaimed time sheet meant he took home an extra $13,464 for his bank account in 2007.

Rounding out the Milwaukee-area top five on the per diem list include: Mark Gottlieb (R-Mequon) at 124 days for $10,912; Mark Honadel (R-Oak Creek), 118 days for $10,384; David Cullen (D-Milwaukee), 110 days for $9,680; and Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) 110 days for $9,680.

Candidates who could be accused of being distracted by campaigns for higher office notched the fewest number of days in Madison: Pedro Colon, running for City Attorney of Milwaukee, spent 54 days in Madison, while Sheldon Wasserman, who is running for state Senate and continually touts his door-knocking efforts, was found in Madison on 42 days, lowest on the list.

Among area state Senators who spent the most time in Madison, Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) topped the list declaring he spent a third of the year there -- 145 days -- which boosted his pay by $12,760. Second was Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee) -- whose biggest piece of legislation was a bill to privatize the Milwaukee County airport and spent a lot of time on the commuter rail issue-- who declared 126 days for $11,088.

Senators running competitive campaigns didn't finish entirely at the bottom. That award was left to Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), who declared a mere 60 days on the job in Madison. Alberta Darling -- facing a tough re-election fight with Wasserman -- spent 73 days in Madison. Lena Taylor, the Milwaukee Democrat running for county executive, declared 113 days in Madison last year.

Bill Targeting Teachers Advances: State Sen. Glenn Grothman is pretty happy that his bill making it substantially easier to fire teachers has passed an Assembly committee. The West Bend Republican calls his bill the "Every Child Deserves a Great Teacher" bill.

The thrust is basically to take away union protection from teachers and make it easy to fire those deemed "unsatisfactory." It would require two years of documented "unsatisfactory" performance, although offers little explanation of what that means, since terms of dismissal are usually in the teachers' contract.

Keeping good teachers in the classroom is a noble cause for sure, but there are other caveats involved when trying to treat teachers as "at will" employees. They deserve some respect, after all.

"In the real world, most people are at will employees. If a legislator introduced a bill making it this difficult to fire an employee at a car wash, a lawn care service or a burger stand, the business community would rightly be outraged in that quality of lawn care, car washes or fast food would get worse and the cost would go up," he says in a statement.

"Nevertheless, we continue with a system in which education is thought to be less important than say, car washes or lawn care. A system in which the 'rights' of employees are considered more important than the 'rights' of students is scandalous."

The bill would likely pass the GOP-controlled Assembly, but the Democrat-controlled Senate isn't going to look on this with too much praise.

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