Collusion is defined as a ”secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose.” The actions of the American Federation for Children (AFC) under Senior Advisor Scott Jensen (ALEC alumni-turned lobbyist), in pushing SB486 with Leah Vukmir and Alberta Darling (American Legislative Exchange Council members) has indeed been secret and deceitful. Secret in the manner the bill was drafted and secret in terms of who it benefits (certainly not the Special Needs children).
The emails in question originate on Tuesday, May 17, from the office of Brian Pleva, a lobbyist for the AFC. The first page refers to the bill requiring a few finishing touches (“not quite soup”), and what follows is itself referred to as “model legislation.” The reference would be obvious to Darling, an ALEC member. The proposed bill coming from the lobbyist to Senator Alberta Darling is virtually verbatim in structure and content to the actual ALEC model legislation. This model “Special Needs Scholarship” was disclosed by the Center for Media and Democracy on their “ALEC Exposed” website recently. The two are virtually identical – this bill, now in committee, was written by corporate lobbyists and presented to Senator Darling for implementation in Wisconsin.
SB486 reads (with a few modifications) virtually verbatim to AB110 (the Assembly version of the bill). As for AB110, it is important to note the dates reported by the Legislative Data Service. AB110 was introduced, given the First Reading, and referred to Committee on April 26, 2011. SB486 didn’t even exist until February 16, 2012, and the Senate Education Committee Chaired by Olsen and Vukmir are holding a hearing today, February 28. The first Public Hearing on AB110 was held on May 3, 2011. According to Senator Darling’s own communication, the Bill was NOT EVEN COMPLETE at the time of the hearing. What was read, referred, and hearing held in regard to? Obviously not the Bill as it currently exists. The Fiscal Estimate was received on May19 - which would have allowed sufficient time for the Bill’s completion and fiscal analysis. SB486 is merely a minor re-working of AB110, and the fact that it is still being considered is the clearest demonstration of collusion between AFC, Scott Jensen, ALEC, and GOP Legislators.
According to the GAB record of Lobbying Activity on SB486, the only interest in passage into law lies with Corporations who stand to profit – not from any Special Needs Advocacy Groups or Educators. Of the 17 lobbies reporting activity on this bill, only 4 are lobbying in support – The AFC, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (former Jensen staffer Steve Baas is its chief lobbyist, and is highly interested in Privatization with its activities and ties to the Greater Milwaukee Committee), School Choice Wisconsin, Wisconsin Catholic Conference, and Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools (no surprises there). The groups lobbying against should be telling to the bill’s sponsors as to who will benefit – and it is not the children. Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, Disability Rights Wisconsin, Milwaukee Public Schools, Wisconsin Association of School Boards Inc, Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials, Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, Wisconsin Association of School Nurses, Wisconsin Council for Administrators of Special Services, Wisconsin Council on Children & Families, Wisconsin Education Association Council, Wisconsin School Social Workers Association have all come out against this bill.
SB486 has been written at the behest of those who lobby for it, and will profit from it – at the expense of Wisconsin’s Special Needs Children. That is the deceitful part of this bill. Each of the Legislators co-sponsoring this bill are responsible for using Special Needs Children to line their own coffers, along with AFC, Scott Jensen, and corporate profiteers. If that were not the case, the diverse groups lining up against it would not exist. The collusion exists when government and legislators ignore the needs and best interests of the people they serve, and legislate to the highest bidder. Alberta Darling deserves her recall and the scorn of every citizen interested in the Wisconsin Idea.