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The nonpartisan leader. [volume] (Fargo, N.D.) 1915-1921, August 16, 1917, Image 10

Image and text provided by State Historical Society of North Dakota

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn89074443/1917-08-16/ed-1/seq-10/

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Wisconsin legislature lias
finally adjourned. It has been
in session six months, longer
than any other legislature in
the United States—but there's
a reason. Wisconsin probably has the
finest state capitol in the country, fin
ished in marble with mural paintings
and brass artwork spittoons said to
cost $26 apiece. The senators and as
semblymen have luxurious lounging
rooms well up to the class of the
average millionaire's club. It was
pretty comfortable at Madison for the
legislators, and with the exception of a
few farmers and working men who had'
to get back to their crops and jobs they
all hated to leave.
In Wisconsin as in other states they
open each day's legislative session with
prayer. They say a Wisconsin farmer
couldn't understand how the chaplains
could find enough material for prayers
for each day during the six months and
asked a city man, who lived at Madi
son, how they managed to do it.
"That's easy," said the Madison man.
"The professor just gets up each morn
ing and looks over the members of the
legislature and then prays God to pre
serve the state of Wisconsin."
There is a general idea in Wisconsin
that while the legislature is in session,
the people have good reason to fear the
worst. But if the people, in general,
fear the legislature, the Wisconsin
legislature which just adjourned show
ed on virtually every occasion that it
was a legislature that feared the peo
ple. It feared to give the people any
power, for fear that they might take
things into their own hands.
While Wisconsin has. been known in
some quarters as a progressive state,
it lacks any provision for the initiative
and referendum. The people of the
state, for year after year, have been
asking the right to propose laws of
their own which the legislature may
have refused to pass, or to stop a bad
law from going into effect after the
legisTature has passed it. The people
of almost every state, outside of the
extreme Bast and extreme South have
this right. But the lower house of the
Wisconsin legislature voted it down,
45 to 34. They were afraid to give the
people this power.
In Wisconsin especially in the north
ern part of the state there are millions
of acres of cutover lands, former
forests, held by land speculators. Al
though the nation and the world are
crying for more food, these lands are
held uncultivated because farmers can
not buy them at present prices and
operate them at a profit. As they are
not improved they virtually escape
taxation. A proposed constitutional
amendment was submitted which
•would have allowed local taxing bodies
to have placed heavier tax burdens on
this unused land, held for speculation,
so that it would be forced into use.
The measure would have been submit
ted to the people of the state first, and
then the local officials, elected by the
people, would have decided whether to
take advantage of it or not But the
assembly refused, by a vote of 53 to 30,
to submit the measure to the people.
The legislators were afraid to give the
people a chance to pass upon it and
's 3*
These assemblymen voted
FOR constitutional amendment permitting public ownership
of terminal elevators and cold storage warehouses,
FOR constitutional amendment to allow home rule in local
... ,.
FOR initiative and referendum, -'r
FOR increasing power of cities to operate public owned
FOR adequate appropriation for industrial commission,
FOR bill to permit cities to operate municipal fjiel and ice
AGAINST abolishing state insurance of public buildings:
afraid to give the local officials a
chance to decide whether it should be
put into effect.
Cities in Wisconsin have been anxi
ous to go into the field of public owner
ship, to save money for their citizens
and give them better service. Most of
them have municipal water systems
which are splendid successes, especial
ly in the case of Milwaukee, but a 5
per cent indebtedness limit prevents
them from doing anything further, A
constitutional amendment was pro
posed to raise the limit of indebtedness
to 10 per cent, the additional bonds
authorized to be used for: public utility
purchases only. The cities wanted the
Every other assemblyman voted against the people's interests
on one or more of the above bills. Of 100 assemblymen just i8
were for the people every time.
Are Afraid to Trust the People
Wisconsin Legislature Doesn't Think Democracy is Safe in Wisconsin—
The Record of the Assembly and House Given
One of the corridors of the magnificent
legislature loafs around for six months
state capitol at Madison, Wis., where the
or so every two years.
legislature to submit this question to
vote of the people. A two-thirds ma
jority was required. The proposal got
47 votes, with 30 against it, when 51
affirmative votes were needed. Thus
the legislature decided that the people
were not to be allowed to decide this
question either.
The success of the Nonpartisan
league in North Dakota and the de
mand of the farmers of that state, by a
four-to-one vote, for state-owhed
terminal elevators and cold storage
warehouses, attracted the attention of
certain forward-looking members bf
the Wisconsin legislature. Wisconsin
couldn't go into state ownership under'
its present constitution any more than
North Dakota could.. So they proposed
an amendment to the constitution and
asked the legislature to submit it to
the people. The amendment got 46
votes in the ..lower house, with 31
against it, when. El votes, or two-thirds,
•.'-"•.•I ifUf-W
These senators voted
FOR government ownership of coal mines,
FOK^giving cities right to borrow money on existing public
utilities to buy others,
FOR requiring a standard,weight loaf of bread,^
FOR permitting cities to- operate municipal fuel and ice
AGAINST bill to restore old gang party convention system:
Every other senator voted against the people's interests on
one or more of the above bills. Of 33 senators just six 'were with
the people every time.
were required to submit it to the peo
ple. So the people didn't get a chance
to pass on this question, either.
In the senate another proposal to
give the cities power to go into the
public utility business was introduced.
Milwaukee has a splendid water sys
tem, worth approximately $8,500,000.
Practically all the bonds have been
retired out of earnings of the water
plant. Milwaukee still buys its gas
from a private monopoly. Statistics
have been presented to show that if
the city could take over this gas plant
at its present valuation its earnings at
the present rates in 12 years would pay
the entire purchase price and interest
on bonds in the meantime and the city
could then supply its citizens with gaa
at cost. A measure .was submitted in
the senate which would allow the city
to issue bonds against the water plant
and use the proceeds to buy the gas
plant. This was defeated in the senate.
After defeating all the most im
portant plans for public ownership,
both houses passed a bill to allow
cities to establish coal and ice depots.
This was passed only over the most
strenuous opposition of the old gang
legislators. It will do very little good,
for the cities will have to buy their
coal from the coal operators who are
admittedly charging three or four prof
its under the opportunity given them
by war-time demands and failure of
the railroads to furnish sufficfent cars.
The senate showed how it really
stood on protecting the interests of the
coal operators. After the house had
passed, by a big majority, a memorial
to congress demanding government
operation of coal mines to do away
with extortionate war time profits, the
senate struck a great blow in behalf of
the coal men by defeating this memor
ial, 16 to 14.
Another good bill that the legislature
refused to pass was one to require
the baking of loaves of bread for sale
in standard weight loaves. By clip
ping an ounce or two occasionally from
a loaf of bread bakers can, in the
course of a year, make thousands of
dollars. A senate bill provided that
bread should be sold only in pound or
half-pound loaves. The senate de
feated it, 18 to 13.
Having prevented any progressive
measures from being enacted into law
the old gangsters in the Wisconsin
legislature went further and attempted
to take from the people some! of the
privileges they had. The appropriation'
for the industrial commission, which
enforces all labor laws, was reduced to
a sum which will not permit the
commission to enforce the laws to the
extent which they should. The old
liners also attempted to pass a law to
reinstate the old discredited party con
vention system, but were beaten in
this attempt. They also tried to abol
ish Wisconsin's system of state insur
ance of public buildings, to give the
regular insurance companies a chance
to reap fat profits from this business,
but they were defeated here also.
The Leader is presenting herewitli
tables showing the names of the few
Wisconsin senators and assemblymen
^vho remained true to the people's in
terests on every vote. The letters in
brackets after each name indicate
whether the man in question was elect"
ed as a Republican, Democrat or So
cialist. it will be noticed that the men
who remained true to the people's in
terests belonged to all three parties so
did the men who voted, against the peo
ple's interests. ».

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