- Associated Press - Monday, November 13, 2017

Wisconsin State Journal, Nov. 7

Keep your hands off the U.S. Constitution

America doesn’t need an unprecedented and dangerous constitutional convention to balance its federal budget.

It needs real leadership, more courage and cooperation in Washington.

President Donald Trump and the Republican-run Congress, for example, should be able to simplify the tax code without adding $1 trillion or more to the nation’s $20 trillion of debt.

They should be able to slow spending increases on entitlements and the military without a constitutional requirement to do so.

They should be able to pay for basic government services, such as roads, by raising fees on motorists for the first time in more than two decades, rather than borrowing to get by.

Those are the kinds of responsible actions it will take to balance the federal budget - not opening up our nation’s most sacred document to the risk of wild revisions.

The Wisconsin Senate should reject Assembly Joint Resolution 21, which seeks a national constitutional convention to pass a balanced budget amendment. The Assembly OK’d the measure in June. (UPDATE: The state Senate approved the resolution Tuesday.)

Proponents of holding such a convention for the first time since 1787 contend it’s the only way to get Washington to live within its means. Interestingly, the proponents of the resolution in Wisconsin are Republicans - the same party that controls Congress and the White House. Don’t Republicans in Wisconsin have faith in their GOP colleagues in Washington to make tough decisions and get the job done? Apparently not.

Nonetheless, a constitutional convention isn’t the answer to America’s serious fiscal problems. If such a requirement were actually enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, it could force huge spending cuts or giant tax increases in the face of wars or recessions.

And that assumes Congress would abide by a balanced budget amendment. More likely, Congress would find clever ways around such a requirement if lawmakers really wanted to keep spending and cutting taxes.

The Wisconsin Senate knows how this works. For years, state leaders have passed budgets that are balanced on paper. But when generally accepted accounting principles are applied, large deficits appear.

Yet the real danger of a constitutional convention is that its delegates - likely state lawmakers from around the country - would stray from their stated goal and push dramatic changes to our democracy and rights.

Allowing state legislators to monkey with the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights could have disastrous results, such as new limits on free speech, or government intrusions on privacy. Wisconsin shouldn’t become the 28th of 34 states needed to prompt a constitutional convention.

AJR 21 would put far too much power in the hands of other states’ politicians to rewrite the Constitution.


The Journal Times of Racine, Nov. 8

Take action on guns and the mentally ill

Commenting on the latest mass shooting in America, President Donald Trump said Monday that this “isn’t a guns situation” but instead “a mental health problem at the highest level.”

We believe President Trump should be taken at his word. For that reason, we are today urging him to undo action he took last winter.

On Feb. 28, the president signed into law a bill rolling back a regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun.

The rule, which was finalized in December in the final weeks of President Barack Obama’s administration, added people receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs to the national background check database.

Had the rule fully taken effect, the Obama administration predicted it would have added about 75,000 names to that database.

Obama recommended the now-nullified regulation in a 2013 memorandum after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 first-graders and six others dead. The measure sought to block some people with severe mental health problems from buying guns.

The original rule was hotly contested by gun rights advocates who said it infringed on Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Gun control advocates, however, praised the rule for curbing the availability of firearms to those who may not use them with the right intentions, NBC News reported.

Earlier in February, both the House and Senate passed the new bill, H.J. Res 40, revoking the Obama-era regulation.

It’s worth noting that the revoked regulation would, according to statements by members of Texas law enforcement after investigation, have done nothing to stop the alleged assailant in the mass shooting Sunday at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

This isn’t about that incident. This is about what the president of the United States has characterized as a mental health problem.

There seems to be consensus among gun-rights advocates and gun-control supporters for common-sense gun-control legislation, laws which respect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens while recognizing that some members of our society have demonstrated that their possession of guns would be a clear and present danger to themselves and to others.

People who have been diagnosed with serious mental illness should not be allowed to possess firearms. Background checks which would flag such people as being ineligible for gun purchase or ownership should once again be the law of the land.

Mr. President, we urge you to take action on what you have identified as “a mental health problem at the highest level” by calling for new legislation to make it harder for the mentally ill to acquire firearms.


The Janesville Gazette, Nov. 12

Eliminating age restrictions for hunting a dumb idea

If lawmakers removed government from every aspect of people’s lives, a 6-year-old somewhere would be driving a car because that tyke’s parents felt their child could handle the responsibility.

While nobody in Madison is foolish enough- we would hope - to extend driving privileges to little kids, the GOP-controlled Legislature advanced an idea almost as idiotic last week: eliminating age restrictions on hunting.

That’s right- toddlers could be toting guns through the woods if Gov. Scott Walker signs a bill passed by both the Assembly and Senate. We would hope he’s wise enough to veto the measure, even if it means Walker must irritate his base heading into an election year. He should call out this legislation for what it is: reckless. (UPDATE: Walker signed the bill Saturday.)

Several hunting associations back the bill, but how does giving guns to small children benefit most hunters? Hunters, after all, stand to lose if a 4-year-old fires a weapon in the wrong direction.

It’s not as if current law prohibits all children from hunting. It sets a minimum age of 10 years old and requires an adult to accompany the child. Current law also allows for only one gun between two people during a mentored hunt until the child turns 12.

Along with eliminating the age restriction, the legislation adopted last week would eliminate this one-gun requirement during a mentored hunt.

Most parents are good teachers. They show children how to properly handle a firearm and maintain awareness of other hunters. But even adults - some of them with years of hunting experience - make mistakes, and hardly a year passes without an avoidable hunting tragedy making the news.

The bill’s supporters view this issue through a dogmatic lens, putting parental choice ahead public safety. But even the most ardent conservatives agree government has a role to play in promoting public safety.

Driving laws are a perfect example. The law requires teens to wait until they’re 16 to acquire a driver’s license because that’s when teens are generally mature enough to assume the responsibilities of operating a vehicle, which can function like a weapon if mishandled. Sure, some kids maybe could drive responsibly at 13 or 14, but lawmakers decided long ago- in the interest of public safety - having younger kids drive is a bad idea.

The author of the bill to eliminate the hunting age restriction, Rep. Rob Stafsholt of New Richmond, seems unwilling to consider the public-safety side of the equation, focusing solely on the parental control part. He said he believed he was capable of handling a .22-caliber rifle when he was 8 years old, and that’s great for him.

But not every 8-year-old is ready and, just as important, not every parent is capable of determining whether their child is ready to handle a hunt.

The point of age restrictions isn’t to ruin people’s fun but to ensure people are safe as practically possible. That’s not a slam on Wisconsin parents - it’s just reality and the same logic that guides age restrictions on driving.

We empathize with legislators’ desire to reinvigorate Wisconsin’s great hunting tradition. Many memories are made from parents teaching their kids how to hunt. That legislators and hunting associations want to get more people involved is a worthy goal, but endangering public safety to promote a sport or pastime is reckless. One of the governor’s jobs is to veto reckless legislation.

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