(The Center Square) – The plan to change Wisconsin’s telehealth rules for mental health treatment is coming together at the State Capitol.
The Senate Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse Prevention, Children and Families held a hearing Tuesday on Senate Bill 515 which would allow out-of-state mental health providers to take patients in Wisconsin without having to get a license to practice in Wisconsin.
“Overall, this breaks down barriers. It allows other providers to provide other services. And it allows people to get the help that they need,” Sen. Rachel Cabral-Guevara, R-Appleton, said.
The plan would essentially make Wisconsin’s COVID-era telehealth program permanent.
Supporters say it will also help battle Wisconsin’s “crisis level” shortage of mental health providers.
“The shortage is all the more stark when you look at rural areas of the state,” Institute for Reforming Government’s Alex Ignatowski told lawmakers. “The average throughout the state is one mental health provider for every 470 residents. But if you go to Buffalo County that jumps to 13,030 residents per one mental health provider.”
The proposal already cleared the Wisconsin Assembly, where Cabral-Guevara said there were some changes to get Wisconsin’s Medical Society to drop its opposition.
“There were two amendments that were added. One limits the scope to just mental health providers. So, it takes out physicians, PAs, and nurses, and it puts in therapists, counselors, social workers, and psychologists to provide a little bit narrower scope,” Cabral-Guevara said. “The other one provides that an out-of-state provider needs to register with DSPS so that we know these folks are registered within their state, and we have accountability here in our state.”
Ignatowski said the move to the break-down barriers and eliminate burdensome regulations is a good thing.
“Currently 26 states have some sort of exception for out-of-state telehealth providers. These exceptions cover a number of medical and mental health provider groups, but often have a complex set of requirements. Wisconsin can do better,” Ignatowski said. “We know that providers from other states are not drastically different to the point that we need to impose duplicative licensure requirements or put up new bureaucratic barriers between providers and the Wisconsinites who need help now. There is no silver bullet for solving mental health the mental health crisis in Wisconsin, but SB515 will increase access to mental health services in Wisconsin and warrants your support.”
New home sales in the U.S. dropped last month as mortgage rates have soared.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, new home sales fell 5.6% in October, more than expected.
“The median sales price of new houses sold in October 2023 was $409,300,” the Bureau said in its announcement. “The average sales price was $487,000.”
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate in the U.S. in October rose to nearly 8% before dipping closer to 7% in November. About this time in 2021, the average rate was around 3%.
That interest rate spike has been fueled in large part by the U.S. Federal Reserve, which has hiked the federal funds rate about a dozen times since March of last year in an effort to combat elevated inflation.
Both inflation and those rates can eventually come down, but it would take time.
“With interest rates edging higher in October, it was expected that new home sales would disappoint, however, as mortgage rates inched lower following Treasury's November 1 announcement of lower than anticipated funding needs, coupled with the market's perception of a decidedly more dovish Fed, rates have edged lower fueling a climb in mortgage applications,” Quincy Krosby, Chief Global Strategist for LPL Financial, said in a statement.
Roughly 32,000 babies have been born in states that implemented abortion restrictions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June, according to a new analysis.
In the first six months of 2023, “births rose by an average of 2.3 percent in states enforcing total abortion bans," leading to an estimated 32,000 births that might have otherwise been aborted, according to a new analysis published by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics initiated by the Deutsche Post Foundation.
“These effects may vary across demographic groups and tend to be larger for younger women and women of color; … vary substantially across ban states, with much larger effects observed in states that are bordered by other ban states and hence have long travel distances to reach facilities that remain open.”
Its November 2023 “Effects of the Dobbs Decision on Fertility” report states that the “U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization sparked the most profound transformation of the landscape of abortion access in 50 years. We provide the first estimates of the effects of this decision on fertility using a preregistered synthetic difference-in-differences design applied to newly released provisional natality data for the first half of 2023.”
The analysis is based on provisional data for the first six months of 2023. “If future research using finalized data and additional policy variation reveals continued substantial effects on birth, then we expect long-lasting and profound effects on the lives of affected pregnant people and their families, including effects on educational investment, employment, earnings, and financial security.”
As of Nov. 1, 2023, 14 states are enforcing bans on abortion in nearly all circumstances, the report notes. Because roughly 23% of American women seeking an abortion experienced an increase in driving distance to the nearest abortion facility (from 43 miles before Dobbs to 330 miles after Dobbs), the driving distance “represents the most profound transformation of the landscape of U.S. abortion access in 50 years.”
According to a different study by researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, nearly as many babies are believed to have been born in Texas alone since its new heartbeat bill went into effect Sept. 1, 2021.
Within eight months of the new law going into effect, there were nearly 9,800 live births in Texas from April to December 2022, according to the Johns Hopkins study. If the rate were consistent through November 2023, of an additional 1,225 live births a month, the number of babies born in Texas that otherwise might have been aborted is closer to nearly 32,000 since Sept. 1, 2021.
Suzanne Bell, a lead author of Johns Hopkins study, said their “findings highlight how abortion bans have real implications for birthing people, thousands of whom may have had no choice but to continue an unwanted or unsafe pregnancy to term. Notably, the majority of people who seek abortions live below or close to the poverty line. So many of these birthing people and their families were likely struggling financially even before the recent birth.”
State Sen. Brian Hughes, R-Mineola, who authored Texas’ heartbeat bill, told The Center Square, “Each of these lives is a gift of God and reflects His image. And since passage of the Heartbeat Act, we have drastically increased funding for expectant and new mothers and their babies.
“In Texas, we are proving that we can save the life of the baby while we love, and respect, and support the mother.”
In addition to signing the state’s first heartbeat bill into law, Gov. Greg Abbott signed bills into law extending Medicaid health-care coverage to 12 months post-partum, appropriated more than $447 million for women’s health programs and invested over $140 million in the Thriving Texas Families program.
Prior to Roe being overturned, "In 2020, approximately 1 in 5 pregnancies ended in abortion," the IZA study states, noting that the majority of those seeking abortions, 75%, were low-income. Another 59% said they had previously given birth and 55% reported some kind of hardship including falling behind on rent or losing a job.
Hughes’ bill, SB 8, passed the Texas legislature with bipartisan support and was signed into law in May 2021. By October 2021, a federal judge halted it. By April 2022, the Fifth Circuit overturned that ruling and ended all challenges to the law. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in June 2022, Texas’ law went into full effect in August 2022.
Texas’ law is considered to be among the strictest in the nation. It bans abortions from being performed in Texas as soon as a heartbeat of the preborn baby is detected, with limited exceptions. It created a second-degree felony offense for a person who knowingly performs, induces or attempts an abortion. The offense is enhanced to a first-degree felony if an unborn child dies from an abortion. Anyone who violates the law performing an abortion can also be subject to a minimum civil penalty of $100,000 for each violation, with exceptions.
The Denver school district is among the first in the country to adopt a “language justice” policy as a "long term goal."
The district would encourage non-English speaking students to be able to use their native language to learn as opposed to being educated in English, which advocates say is oppressive and rooted in racism.
Denver schools had about 90,250 students in 2022 with 35,000 multilingual learners with home languages other than English. The district has 200 languages spoken across the district, with Spanish as the home language for the majority of those.
The district included a draft of an equity document that includes a policy statement on "language justice." It was included in the Nov. 16 school board agenda. The document includes this definition for "language justice": "The notion of respecting every individual's fundamental language rights – to be able to communicate, understand, and be understood in the language in which they prefer and feel most articulate and powerful."
The district didn't respond to an email seeking comment. It's not clear how much such a policy would cost and the district didn't provide details in the school board agenda packet of how to implement it.
The Colorado chapter of the education advocacy organization Stand For Children stated it worked with the Denver school district to get the language justice policy adopted.
"We will continue to work with school leaders and staff to help provide knowledge of these policies and strategies to accomplish language justice in every classroom and school," Colorado Stand For Children posted on its website.
The Community Language Cooperative, which has advocated for language justice, referred to a chart that explained what is involved in the program.
"The organization has allocated significant funds to language justice efforts. This is a yearly budget line item," the chart states.
It also states that meetings or public events "are facilitated in the represented languages. ... Interpretation is made available to all participants, not just the non-English speakers."
The organization would also hire bilingual staff members, put them in leadership positions and pay them "equitably" to "ensure that bilingualism is a valued skill for the organization."
"It's not just a matter of hiring more interpreters and translators but rather creating systems and building the infrastructure that best supports linguistically diverse families and supporting multilingual staff," Rosa Guzman-Snyder, co-founder of Community Language Cooperative, said in an email to The Center Square.
The Community Language Cooperative, which provides translation services, explained in a post on The Colorado Trust's website how language justice could be implemented.
"Here’s how it works: When somebody speaks in English, [interpreter Luis] Gomez simultaneously whispers the Spanish interpretation into his mic, which feeds the headsets of everyone in the room. There’s another person whispering the English interpretation when somebody speaks Spanish," the post read.
Multiple border crossings are closed and two are dead after a vehicle explosion Wednesday on the Niagara Falls Rainbow Bridge connecting Canada and the United States.
Multiple reports say law enforcement sources are investigating as a possible terrorist attack. The explosion occurred at or near a toll checkpoint, the car was traveling at a high rate of speed, and both occupants in the vehicle were killed.
The afternoon before Thanksgiving Day, all four border crossings in western New York were closed.
No motive was immediately conveyed by federal or state authorities. There were no other reports of additional injuries on the bridge or surrounding area. It is unclear what precipitated the explosion.
The FBI confirmed the explosion and coordinated the investigation with state and local lawmen.
“The FBI Buffalo Field Office is investigating a vehicle explosion at the Rainbow Bridge, a border crossing between the U.S. and Canada in Niagara Falls,” the FBI said in a release. "The FBI is coordinating with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners in this investigation. As this situation is very fluid, that all we can say at this time."
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, posting on social media, said state police and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force was working “to monitor all points of entry to New York.”
Hochul, in another social media post, wrote, “I have been briefed on the incident on the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls and we are closely monitoring the situation. State agencies are on site and ready to assist.”
The explosion came at one of the nation's busiest travel times.
“Cars coming into the Buffalo Airport will undergo security checks and travelers can expect additional screenings,” said a statement from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
President Joe Biden is vacationing in Nantucket, Mass. A White House statement said the administration was “closely monitoring” the situation.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau briefly commented on the incident in Parliament, saying, “This is obviously a very serious situation in Niagara Falls.” He excused himself from a Question Period in the House of Commons while being briefed on the attempted attack.
A University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy professor is waving a red flag on the impact that artificial intelligence could have on next year’s elections.
Ethan Bueno de Mesquita has written a white paper which he said provides an overview of the potential impact of generative AI on the electoral process. The paper offers specific recommendations for voters, journalists, civil society, tech leaders and other stakeholders to help manage the risks and capitalize on the promise of AI for electoral democracy in the hope of fostering a more productive public discussion of these issues.
“The No. 1 issue that we need to be thinking about are the ways in which AI is going to matter for elections and the ways it poses risks of degrading the information environment for voters,” Bueno de Mesquita said.
The Federal Election Commission has been investigating the possibility of regulating AI-generated images known as "deepfakes" in political ads ahead of next year’s elections.
The Biden administration recently issued an executive order on AI that “will develop effective labeling and content provenance mechanisms, so that Americans are able to determine when content is generated using AI and when it is not.”
Bueno de Mesquita said that misinformation or a “deepfake” close to election day could be damaging “if such a thing gets released and gets released widely on social media or traditional media very close to the election when there is not enough time for responsible actors to figure out what's true and what's false and help voters sort through that information."
According to a survey by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, 58% of Americans believe AI will increase the spread of election misinformation, but only 14% plan to use AI to get information about the presidential election.
In the white paper, Bueno de Mesquita notes that during the campaign season, there is ample misleading content that is not AI-generated, and there will be plenty of perfectly accurate AI-generated content. Ultimately “there will be no substitute for your skepticism, common sense, and trusted sources,” he said.
(The Center Square) – There are no surprises among the reactions to the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s questions about drawing new political maps in the state.
A number of lawmakers and advocacy groups weighed in after the high court Tuesday heard arguments to redraw the state’s legislative maps.
The top Democrat in the Wisconsin Senate, Sen. Melissa Agard, D-Madison, said the redistricting case is “historic,” and “has the power to put voters back in control of our democracy.”
“For far too long, Republicans in power gerrymandered Wisconsin’s legislative maps to retain control rather than represent the will of the majority. It is shameful that for more than a decade, politicians in Wisconsin have chosen their voters, rather than voters choosing their representatives,” Agard said.
The top Republicans at the Wisconsin Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, issued a joint statement that echoed the line of questioning from conservative justices.
“The petitioners waited two years to file their meritless redistricting claims – and yet they waited only one day after Justice Protasiewicz’s investiture. Now they want to give the parties mere weeks to litigate Democrats’ demand for new maps statewide,” the two said in a statement. “Rushing to upend the 2024 elections and cancel the terms of the 17 duly elected senators will prove this case to be the campaign promise that Justice Protasiewicz professed it wasn’t.”
A number of advocates also gave opinions.
Law Forward, the group driving the redistricting challenge, also offered thoughts.
“Gerrymandered maps have distorted the political landscape, stifling the voice of the voters,” said Dan Lenz, staff counsel for Law Forward. “It challenges the very essence of fair representation and the erosion of confidence in our political system. The outcome will have far-reaching consequences for Wisconsin’s democracy.”
“We are appreciative of the new court majority’s willingness to listen to the people of Wisconsin in a case where our rights and freedoms are at stake,” Chris Walloch, executive director of A Better Wisconsin Together, said. “Wisconsin’s current maps reflect a long history of partisan map drawing that enables right-wing politicians to rig the rules for their own benefit, while the issues Wisconsin voters care about have gone unaddressed.”
The high court listened to two hours of arguments Tuesday. There is no word when the court will issue a ruling.
(The Center Square) – A lawyer for the groups seeking to overturn Wisconsin’s legislative maps didn’t finish his first sentence before one of the state’s conservative justices demanded to know why he was bringing the case now.
“Where were you? Where were your clients two years ago?” Justice Rebecca Bradley asked. “We've already been through this. Redistricting happens once every 10 years after the census. All of the issues that you're bringing actually could have been brought before this court two years ago.”
A number of liberal and progressive groups, with the support of Democrats in Wisconsin, are challenging Wisconsin’s the maps.
The groups say the maps are gerrymandered and favor Republicans. More specifically, they argue that because not every district is 100% connected, those maps are gerrymandered to the point where they are unconstitutional.
Attorney Mark Gaber told Bradley his clients didn’t go to court two years ago because they weren't yet sure what Wisconsin’s political maps would look like.
“I am unaware of any authority that would say if you don't raise a constitutional claim in 12 days that you're forever precluded from raising that claim in the future, when you have no idea that that claim is going to arise for the particular map that is going to be put into place,” Gaber answered.
Bradley didn’t buy that argument.
“Everybody knows that the reason we’re here is because there was a change in membership on the court,” Bradlley said. “You would not have brought this action had the newest justice had lost her election.”
The progressive groups who are challenging the maps announced their lawsuit less than 24 hours after newly elected liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz was sworn-in on the court.
Protasiewicz faced calls to recuse herself from Tuesday's case after she called Wisconsin’s political maps “rigged” in favor of Republicans, and “unfair” during her campaign in the spring.
Gaber and the groups want the court to draw new maps and toss out the 2022 election results because every state representative and more than a dozen state senators were elected under what the groups call “malapportioned” boundaries.
“It’s an absolutely extraordinary remedy,” Bradley added. “There are many intonations about democracy throughout the briefing. I can't imagine something less Democratic than unseating most of the legislature that was just elected last year.”
Taylor Meehan, the lawyer for the Wisconsin legislature, argued many of the same points as Bradley.
“This court invited petitioners to intervene in [the last redistricting case] two years, one month and 15 days ago. They waited. They waited exactly one day after this court's membership changed to file their unprecedented collateral attack. They have no answer for their delay,” Meehan said.
She said the argument from the progressive groups are “meritless” and a “wolf in sheep's clothing.”
“[The groups] cannot now cry foul, shortening Wisconsin senators constitutionally prescribed terms and rushing this case to judgment in only a few months time,” Meehan said.
If the court agrees with the argument from the progressive groups, the court will then have to decide how to draw new political.
The court is not saying when a decision in the case will come. The groups who want the new maps are asking to have the maps redrawn before 2024’s elections.
The biggest terrorism threat Americans face is from violent extremists inspired by Islamic terrorist organizations like ISIS, al-Queda, Hamas and Iranian-financed groups, FBI Director Christopher Wray told U.S. senators Tuesday.
Wray also said the FBI is actively looking for such extremists who are in the country, and arrested one last week in Houston, thwarting Iranian-financed assassination attempts made against dissidents and high-ranking U.S. officials on U.S. soil.
Wray testified before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday about “threats to the homeland” after Hamas terrorists attacked Israel and after he told reporters that Hamas posed a threat to Americans on U.S. soil. He also did so after U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents apprehended the greatest number of known, suspected terrorists in U.S. history this past fiscal year.
“The reality of the terrorism threat has been elevated since 2023 but the reality of the ongoing war in Middle East has raised a threat of [a terrorist] attack against Americans in the United States to a whole other level,” Wray testified. Since Hamas terrorists attacked Israel, “we assess the actions of Hamas and its allies will serve as an inspiration the likes we have never seen since ISIS launched its so-called caliphate several years ago.
“In just the past few weeks, multiple foreign terrorist organizations have called for attacks against Americans and the west. Al-Queda issued its most specific call to attack the United States in the last five years. ISIS urged its followers to target Jewish communities in the United States and Europe. Hezbollah has publicly expressed its support for Hamas and threatened to attack U.S. interests in the Middle East. And we’ve seen an increase on U.S. military bases overseas carried out by militia groups backed by Iran."
The most immediate cause for concern, Wray said, "is that violent extremists … will draw inspiration [from Hamas] to carry out attacks against Americans going about their daily lives,” including targeting Jewish Americans.
The FBI arrested a man last week in Houston, Texas, “who’d been studying how to build bombs and posted online his support for killing Jews,” the BI director added.
Wray didn’t elaborate on more details.
The FBI-Houston office confirmed the individual arrested is Sohaib Abuayyah. The Houston Chronicle reported “a person with that name had been charged on suspicion of unlawful possession of a firearm by an immigrant who had been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa, according to records filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.” The redacted complaint alleges the man was a 20-year-old Jordanian accused of “contacting others with a radical mindset” and was charged with “conducting training with weapons and planning a possible attack.”
Wray said in addition to racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists operating in the U.S., “we cannot and will not discount the possibility that Hamas or another foreign terrorist organization may exploit the current conflict and conduct attacks here on our own soil.”
He said the FBI is conducting multiple investigations into Hamas-related threats in the U.S.
“But it’s not just Hamas,” he said. “The world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, the Iranians, for instance, have directly, or by hiring criminals, mounted assassination attempts against dissidents and high-ranking current and former U.S. government officials, including right here on American soil.”
In his written testimony filed with the Senate committee, Wray said the number of FBI domestic terrorism investigations has more than doubled since the spring of 2020. As of September 2023, the FBI has been conducting roughly 2,700 domestic terrorism investigations and roughly 4,000 international terrorism investigations.
The written testimony also states that the FBI has “seen an increase in reported threats to Jewish and Muslim people, institutions, and houses of worship here in the United States and are moving quickly to mitigate them.”
It also expresses concern about the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the stated intent of ISIS and al-Qaeda “to carry out or inspire large-scale attacks in the United States.”
(The Center Square) – The effort to end school choice in Wisconsin through the state’s supreme court has failed to convince Gov. Tony Evers.
The Evers Administration late Friday submitted a brief with the high court, explaining there is no emergency basis for the Supreme Court to take the case.
“This response does not address the ultimate merits of Petitioners’ claims, but simply explains why they are more appropriately adjudicated in the circuit court,” the court filing from Administration Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld stated.
Progressive activist and often-candidate Kirk Bangstad filed the lawsuit last month, claiming school choice and Wisconsin’s voucher programs are both unconstitutional and hurt traditional public schools by sending money to private schools.
Bangstad said both programs need to be shut down “before the next school year.”
The Evers’ Administration filing says nothing in Bangstad’s lawsuit makes that case.
“While the topic of educating Wisconsin’s children is obviously one of great public importance, the Petition does not meet the other criteria for an original action,” the brief added.
Evers’ team wasn’t the only one to file with the court in the school choice case last week.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos also filed a brief with the court.
He too said there is no emergency, and no need for the new to fast track Bangstad’s lawsuit.
“Petitioners bring this Petition For Original Action, asking this Court to strike down Wisconsin’s school choice regime. But no exigent circumstances justify allowing Petitioners to skip the ordinary litigation process to bring their claims, which all involve complex factual disputes that are not appropriate in the original action context,” Vos’ brief stated.
Vos’ filing, too, says Bangstad has failed to make a solid case as to why school choice must be reversed immediately.
“The Petition points to no breaking developments of fact or law that create any exigency with the programs now – let alone one that requires resolution by June 2024, as Petitioners request,” the brief added.
While Bangstad has publicly said he wants the cases handled as quickly as possible in order to protect school children, he said in a fundraising email earlier this month the next Supreme Court election is actually driving the case.
“We need the Supreme Court to take this case up NOW [because] there’s a real possibility that the uncorrupted Supreme Court majority that we worked so hard achieve by electing Janet Protasiewicz last April won’t be around in 2025 after the next Supreme Court election takes place,” Bangstad wrote in his email. “If we take this case slowly, it might not make it to the Supreme Court until 2025, and there’s a 50% chance (like every election in our swing state) that the court will become corrupted again and fall back into the pockets of Betsy Devos’ school choice lobby.”
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has not yet said if it will take Bangstad’s case or send it to a lower court first.
Pro-Palestinian Protesters Accuse Milwaukee Journal Sentinel of Genocide, Urge People to Unsubscribe
(The Center Square) – Litigation of school choice and school vouchers in Wisconsin Supreme Court should end, the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce said on Wednesday.
The state's largest business group filed an amicus brief with the court. It asks justices to reject the lawsuit that seeks to end school choice and school vouchers.
“Since its founding in 1911, WMC has been dedicated to making Wisconsin the most competitive state in the nation in which to conduct business,” the brief states. “WMC and its members have a strong interest in this case. Many employers in Wisconsin, along with the public, support school choice. If the Petitioners get the relief they are seeking, the result will harm students, their families, teachers, and businesses and consumers who rely on a skilled workforce.”
The group says thousands of families across the state will be “devastated” if school choice comes to an end.
“If the it prevails in this case, the negative impacts for the students currently using these choice and charter programs – and for our state as a whole – would be far reaching and long term,” the filing says. “Striking down these voucher programs would throw our state’s educational system into chaos.”
The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce says any challenge should first go to a local court.
The filing sauys petitioners waited five to 10 years to file, and says the lawsuit "does not involve an exigent situation that cannot await litigation in the circuit court."
Kirk Bagnstad filed the lawsuit. He says school choice hurts traditional public schools and is unconstitutional.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, earlier this week, asked to join the case on behalf of choice parents across the state.
(The Center Square) – A legal challenge to Wisconsin’s new rules for wedding barns may already be in the works.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty told The Center Square it is in the process of talking to wedding barn owners across the state about the next steps after it says the Wisconsin Legislature essentially voted to put them out of business.
Lawmakers at the Capitol voted on a sweeping overhaul of Wisconsin’s liquor laws. In addition to making changes for breweries, wineries, distributors and small shops, the overhaul includes new regulations for wedding barns.
“Barns can still host events, but those events can no longer involve the consumption of alcoholic beverages unless the barn owner does one of two things – either obtain a liquor license, essentially become a tavern, or obtain a ‘no sale event venue permit’ from the state. If they get that permit, they can only have six events per year where alcoholic beverages are served, and no more than one per month, and they can only allow the consumption of beer, not liquor,” Dan Lennington, with WILL, said.
Lennington said those two choices will essentially push most wedding barns out of business.
“Since most barn owners do not want to be in the tavern business, and by local ordinance probably could not be in that business regardless, the bill effectively regulates them out of existence,” Lennington said. “Venues won’t be able to operate on six beer-only events, over a six-month period. It severely limits their customer base.”
Wisconsin’s powerful Tavern League has been pushing lawmakers for years to change the rules for wedding barns, which had always been BYO.
The Tavern League says the new rules for wedding barns are about safety and fairness.
Lennington said the new rules are anti-free market and protectionist.
“This is absolutely a de facto block on wedding barns. Opponents of barns have been trying for years to essentially regulate them out of existence, and that is exactly what this legislation does by giving barn owners an impossible choice,” Lennington said. “These event venues do not sell alcohol, do not make any money off alcohol, and do not want to be in the business of selling and making money off alcohol.”
In addition to the wedding barn changes, the new liquor law rewrite also creates a new division inside the state’s Department of Revenue that will be responsible for overseeing and enforcing Wisconsin’s liquor laws.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., blasted Democrats Thursday for blocking his motion to deport terrorist sympathizers in the U.S. on visas.
Rubio has led this effort to "revoke visas and initiate deportation proceedings for any foreign national who has endorsed or espoused terrorist activities of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, or any another foreign terrorist organization."
The same motion was also blocked last month. Rubio put it forward again this week, and pointed out that pro-Palestinian protesters Wednesday night stormed a House office building and the Democratic National Committee headquarters.
Leading House Democrats were inside the headquarters and had to be evacuated, and six officers were reportedly injured.
Rubio’s motion came as part of the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. Rubio pointed out that current federal law prohibits terrorist supporters from entering the U.S. The issue has become highly controversial with some Democrats blasting Israel for its military response targeting Hamas in Gaza, which has led to the deaths of civilians.
"A visa is not a constitutional right. It is a temporary permission for foreign nationals to visit our country," Rubio said in a statement. "Supporting terrorism, as defined by U.S. law, disqualifies individuals from having a visa. It makes no sense to protect foreign nationals who support terrorism, but that is exactly what the Senate just voted to do."
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., on Wednesday suggested the Senate Judiciary Committee investigate a Democratic Party-affiliated group reportedly linked to funding of Palestinian terrorism.
“If the Senate Judiciary Committee is going to hand out subpoenas, let’s start with this Democrat dark-money group that has poured $1 million into a Palestinian terror-tied charity,” Hawley posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. The post linked to a Washington Examiner story that details a network of left-leaning groups that steered funding towards a progressive charity with ties to a terror group.
Hawley was expressing frustration with the committee as Democrats last week wanted to subpoena Leonard Leo and Harlan Crow to review their alleged financial assistance for Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.
The Examiner reported two tax-exempt organizations, New Venture Fund and Windward Fund, in October stopped providing grants to the Alliance for Global Justice, based in Arizona. In September, the Examiner reported the Alliance for Global Justice switched payment processing companies after pressure from a coalition of 11 pro-Israel groups linked it to Collectif Palestine Vaincra, a French member of an Israeli-designated terror coalition, Samidoun. The French group is linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group.
The Examiner's Wednesday report revealed new financial disclosures. The New Venture Fund directed $501,500 in 2022 to the Alliance for Global Justice, and Windward Fund granted it $525,000, both for environmental programs.
The Alliance for Global Justice made $2.5 million in grants, according to its 2021 IRS Form 990, a required return for nonprofit organizations. It reported three cash grants totaling $27,657 to the Middle East and North Africa on the return. It reported $10.6 million in total revenue in 2021, down from $56.4 million the previous year.
The Alliance’s website states its “four areas of struggle” are economic justice, opposing U.S. militarism, real democracy and ecological integrity.
The 2021 IRS Form 990 report filed by the Windward Fund stated a $225,000 cash grant was made to the Alliance for Global Justice for environmental programs; the New Venture Fund’s 2021 Form 990 reported a $38,000 cash grant was made to the organization for environmental programs.
Arabella Advisors, based in Washington, D.C., is listed as the organization possessing the books and records for both the Windward Fund and the New Venture Fund, according to IRS documents.
Windward’s total revenue grew to $274 million in 2021, compared to $159 million the previous year; New Venture had $964 million in 2021 compared to $975 million the previous year.
Arabella Advisors was listed in the New Venture Fund's IRS return as an independent contractor and paid $29.7 million in 2021; Arabella also was listed by the Windward Fund as an independent contract and received $4.2 million.