The “Krusick Amendment” to AB 142 kept Assembly lawmakers up, literally, all night. The bi-partisan bill authored by the Legislative Council would have amended current law administering need-based, talent incentive grants “to uniquely needy students attending colleges and universities in the state.” The current law provides for 10 consecutive semesters of aid, at no more than $1800 per student, per academic year. The bill passed out of committee on unanimous vote, 10-0, would modify the law “to provide that recipients of talent incentive grants need not maintain continuous enrollment in their higher education institutions. Under the bill, recipients are eligible to receive those grants for up to ten semesters during a six−year period.” The bill was expected to pass with little comment or debate, as recognition of challenges students face when attaining a college education, and the benefit to the state to encourage such need-based grants in challenging economic times.
Enter Peggy Krusick (D-Milwaukee) late Tuesday night. Krusick offered two amendments – the first amendment would have raised the income limit to 4.5 times the poverty line. This amendment was “laid on the table”, a procedure which halts the progress of the amendment, by a vote of 95-1. Apparently, even the GOP lawmakers felt this was too obvious an attempt to limit access to extremely needy students, by broadening the pool to include middle class families. Krusick was then seen conferencing with Rep. Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan), after which she dropped the bomb – Amendment 2.
Amendment 2 removes any accomodation for minority groups in awarding grants for these “uniquely needy” individuals. Dismissing decades of affirmative action, and setting aside that Wisconsin’s minority populations are already underrepresented in the state’s higher education system – Krusick’s amendment set Democrats on their heels. “Everyone was shocked, and Republicans pounced on it,” said Rep. Kelda Helen-Roys (D-Madison) in an interview today. Based on gathered information and reports, Republicans likely pounced because they were ready for it – unlike the members of her own party.
Democrats immediately caucused, and upon return to the floor, Brett Hulsey (D-Madison) reports that State Senator Glen Grothman (R-West Bend) was seen on the Assembly floor consulting with Rep. Krusick. Whether he was encouraging her, strategizing, or making promises of protection is anyone’s guess. What is known, is that Grothman is a proponent of the ideology supported by the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO) study – recently presented in Rep. Stephen Nass’ committee hearing on Colleges and Universities. As previously reported in Badger Democracy, the CEO study used flawed data and statistical methodology to accuse the University of Wisconsin-Madison of reverse racial discrimination. The study ignores centuries of racial discrimination and prejudice in reaching flawed conclusions. Merely weeks later, Krusick – apparently at the urging of some GOP lawmakers, introduces her amendment to a bill which has been out of committee for over one month.
When contacted for comment, a staffer in Rep. Nass’ office stated that the GOP was surprised at the reaction of the Democrats, as they (GOP) knew this amendment was “coming down the pike” for “a while.” Nass’ office asserts that Nass had no direct input on the amendment, when asked if the CEO study influenced Rep. Krusick. Long reputed to corroborating with Republicans, Krusick appears to have telegraphed (if not outright consulted with) GOP leaders in Grothman and Ballweg – leaving her own party in the dust, in a time of clear ideological differences.
While Nass’ office indicates a prior knowledge of this amendment, Legislative Reference Bureau staff confirm that the amendment was a “late drafting,” on Tuesday (November 1) afternoon, and Krusick was the sole author. This would confirm that Democracts could have had little notice, and if GOP lawmakers did, it was due to verbal consultation with Krusick. As of the writing of this article, Rep. Krusick has not returned calls or requests to clarify her position or the origin of the amendment.
During a time of such significant ideological differences, the actions of Rep. Krusick, perhaps a Democrat in name only (to coin a cliche), would put her own political advancement over the best interests of the people of Wisconsin. Or perhaps she doesn’t believe that centuries of racial prejudice have an effect on one’s ability to afford a University Education. Rep. Krusick owes her party, the minority populations in her district (there are likely some in Greenfield) and the state, an explanation. Don’t hold your breath.
This bill, with the addition of the Krusick amendment, may not pass the Senate, and that is the greatest tragedy of her actions. A good, bi-partisan bill would have expanded grant availability for low income students. It is incumbent upon Progressives to hold Rep. Krusick to her oath – to uphold the Constitution, and serve the People of Wisconsin. In this case, she has violated that oath with a racist Amendment, and her late-night, back room deal with Republicans.