Thursday, January 19, 2012

Robin Vos Is Gonna Send Wisconsin A Lead Love Letter

While everyone basks in the tide of history or spends their internet hours reading the intricacies of the mining bill, there is a new bill that popped up literally the other day and is being rushed through while no one notices.

Senate Bill 373, introduced by Glenn the Slob and Crybaby Fitzgerald on January 10th and is co-sponsored by the Dark Lord himself, Robbie Vos.

SB 373 is a bill to repeal the liability law against  manufacturers of a product. Uppity Wisconsin has written the background of the bill and what the overall implications are...and it's worth reading especially if you want to understand the crap they are pulling.

SB 373 is designed to undo a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that said citizens who have been harmed by exposure to chemicals produced by manufacturers are able to sue them for damages even if they cannot prove definitively it was that specific manufacturer. This is called "risk contribution"...
"The theory behind risk contribution is best illustrated by an analogy - consider a body of water which is negligently contaminated by a chemical produced by 5 or 6 factories bordering the water’s edge. Since the chemical is identical and therefore indistinguishable as to manufacturer, a person injured by the chemical would not be able to sue because he/she couldn’t identify who made the chemical that actually injured him/her. Since all manufacturers breached legal duties by their negligence and the negligence of each manufacturer contributed to the contamination, under risk contribution, the injured person can sue all of them and the burden is shifted to them to exculpate themselves if they can."
So why are Fitzgerald and Vos wading into undoing some law it the midst of a statewide shitstorm of recalls, John Doe investigations and a national job creation failure? Why have they fast-tracked the bill for a hearing today? Well, that's the interesting part...

The bill not only changes the law governing liability, but also does so retroactively. It would "coincidentally" retroactively repeal the claims of 173 Wisconsin children who were victims of lead poisoning - some of whom have been in litigation since 2006.  Naturally the chemical manufacturers have appealed the cases to federal court where they had a set of oral arguments on January 9th which sadly for them, didn't go very well.

So it was sort of like a fucking miracle when Fitzerald, Grothman and Vos walked in THE NEXT DAY with a bill to undo the whole tangle for the defendants. Grothman asked that the bill be put on express and here we are today with a committee hearing.

The Committee of Judiciary, Utilities, Commerce, and Government Operations is made up of 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats - notably Jon Erpenbach. SB 373 was referred to committee on the 10th and on January 12th Abbott Labs and GlaxoSmithKline registered to lobby on the bill, followed on the 13th with Sherwin Williams and NL Industries. Just today Midwest Food Processors registered to have a go at getting it passed.

Wanna guess the PAC campaign contributions from the lobbyists already pocketed by Vos, Fitzgerald and Grothman?

Abbott Laboratories
Vos $1800.00
Fitzgerald $1000.00

GlaxoSmithKline
Vos $900.00

Midwest Food Processors
Grothman $150.00

(Sherwin Williams to their credit does not have a corporate PAC, so remember that when you go and buy paint.)

Jon Erpenbach has made a bit of a fuss over SB 373 in the last couple of days...you know small things like writing legislation to retroactively dismiss cases against your campaign contributors might be at a minimum unethical and also perhaps a bit unconstitutional. He put forth some questions saying as much.

The Legislative Council replied to Erpenbach's question with a letter saying that indeed, there is court precedent to support the unconstitutionality of what Fitz, Vos and Grubby Grothman are trying to do.

So it was sort of like a fucking miracle when Scott Walker produced a memo stating that "All Legislation is Presumed Constitutional." Wow, that was convenient.

What goes to the heart of all this maneuvering are 173 kids who were poisoned and damaged by lead paint made by companies who continued to produce their products after the knew they were poisoning people. These manufacturers have the money and influence to get the leaders of the Wisconsin Legislature to act in their interest and against the interest of children - which is stunning, but alas, not surprising. That Vos, Fitzgerald and Grothman are willing to undo a Supreme Court decision on behalf of their campaign contributors is criminal. Literally.

BTW: Wanna guess how much money Erpenbach has gotten from the same registered lobby PACs for SB373 that have contributed to Vos, Fitzgerald and Grothman?

None.