A Case for Change on the East Side
It’s time to retire Sen. Jeff Plale
elected to the state Assembly in 1996 and the state Senate in 2003, Plale has
voted against or undermined bills that would improve the environment and help Wisconsin’s businesses
become more competitive in the global economy. He’s authored bills that weaken
consumer protections and environmental standards while raising funds from the
corporations that benefit from his bills.
some of the damage Plale has done while in the state Legislature:
single-handedly blocked Senate debate on the Clean Energy Jobs Act, even after
it was weakened to appease the deep-pocketed utilities that contribute to his
- Plale was the
driving force behind cable deregulation legislation that has seen cable rates
actually increase, not decrease
- Plale was one of
two Democrats in the Senate who voted for a patient abandonment bill that would
have allowed health care providers to deny services or information to patients
or referrals to other health care professionals if the treatment goes against
their personal religious beliefs
- Plale co-sponsored
a payday lending bill that favored the multimillion-dollar national industry at
the expense of cash-strapped Wisconsin
- Plale voted to
impede stem cell research in the state by explaining that he was against
“reproductive cloning,” which is quite different than stem cell research
- Plale authored
legislation to transfer the governance of the publicly owned and operated Mitchell International Airport—which
generates millions of dollars in revenues for the county, helping to keep the
property tax down—to a politically appointed board
- Plale’s been a
strong supporter of Milwaukee’s
school voucher system, which uses taxpayer funds for private, religious schools
at the expense of the city’s public school system
- Plale introduced
the Milwaukee Public Schools mayoral takeover legislation, which would have
turned over the public school system to a politically appointed superintendent
- Plale supports
concealed carry and voted to override Gov. Jim Doyle’s veto of a concealed
carry system in 2004
pattern? Time and time again, Plale has voted in the interest of private
corporations or conservative special interests—which also donate heavily to his
campaigns—while standing in the way of legislation that would improve the
quality of life of his constituents or even allow them to have a say in
important matters like their public schools or their own health care decisions.
Sept. 14, voters in the Democratic Primary can put an end to Plale’s disrespect
for his Milwaukee
on the Environment
Plale has a
history of managing to vote both ways on a single issue—like stem cell
research, for example. Back in 2005 he introduced an amendment that attempted
to improve an anti-stem cell research bill championed by conservative
Republicans. But when his amendment failed, he then voted for the entire
package of anti-stem cell legislation. That vote allows him to confuse voters by
saying he’s a champion of stem cell research while actually voting to curb
actions in the latest legislative session truly angered many of his
constituents. First there was the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), which would
have boosted Wisconsin’s
clean energy businesses, improved energy conservation measures, created jobs
and transitioned the state’s economy into the 21st-century “green” economy.
Plale’s the chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy and
Rail, and he also was a member of the task force that studied the issue in
depth and made recommendations that were added to the bill.
conservative faction of the business community initially complained that the
bill was too costly, Plale helped to weaken the bill and craft a revised
version that was more acceptable to the interests of the utilities and
didn’t even support that compromise. Instead of championing a bill he helped to
develop and write, Plale single-handedly killed it. In a move smacking of
extreme hubris, Plale blocked debate on the bill in the state Senate during the
final days of the legislative session and the bill was never voted on. Years of
study, effort, compromise and political capital were wasted to cement Plale’s relationships
with his corporate donors.
misdeeds didn’t stop there. While he was busy killing CEJA he also found time
to weaken the state’s requirements for clean energy sources.
the state has required utilities to derive a portion of their energy from
renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.
But in the
final hours of the legislative session, with no public debate, Plale slipped in
an amendment to a little-noticed bill that expanded the definition of
“renewable energy,” and that definition includes some questionable power
sources. One of those energy sources now considered “renewable” according to
Plale’s amendment is a process called “plasma gasification,” which turns
garbage and hazardous waste into energy. Not surprisingly, there are serious
concerns about how “clean” this technology is, since it would emit toxins like
mercury, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide that would need to be disposed. If
utilities use this technology—and a gasification plant is in the works on Milwaukee’s North
Side—then they won’t have to rely as much on truly clean renewable energy
sources like solar and wind power.
this unproven waste-based energy technology has been blasted by environmental
groups, Plale successfully persuaded his colleagues to add plasma gasification
to the state’s renewable energy standards. In fact, it’s the only bill passed
in this past legislative session that actually weakens Wisconsin’s environmental protections.
That’s quite a feat.
a threat to the environment that the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters
flunked him in its latest score card. Plale made the group’s “Conservation
Dishonor Roll” because he “went the extra mile to jeopardize Wisconsin’s natural resources.”
for Campaign Contributors
So why does
Plale continue to vote against the interests of his district?
has to do with campaign contributions. Records show that there’s a tight
connection between his bills and the special interests that contribute to his
work to deregulate the cable and telecom industries. An investigation by TheCapital
Times in Madison
found that huge phone companies like AT&T and TDS had helped Plale draft a
bill that would have weakened regulation of their own companies.
that telecom deregulation bill didn’t pass. But Plale’s cable deregulation bill
did, back in 2007. By the time the bill was passed in the Senate, Plale had
taken in more than $40,000 over his legislative career from individuals and
PACs that supported the bill, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
And although Plale promised that it would save consumers money, in reality the
opposite happened. According to the state’s Legislative Audit Bureau,
basic-cable customers are actually paying 21% more than they did before the
And what about school vouchers? Plale has raked in thousands from ultraconservative, pro-school privatization interests from around the country, including the Walton family, the founders of Wal-Mart. Now, reports are surfacing that former Republican Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen is raising pro-voucher money to support Plale in his campaign for re-election. That should trouble Plale’s constituents. And it’s why voters should retire Plale on Sept. 14.