Scott Robert Shaw

Scott Robert Shaw

Scott Robert Shaw is the Program Director for both 1410 WIZM and 580 WKTY.   He's currently the morning news anchor on 1410 WIZM, Z93 and 95-7 The Rock.  He joined Mid-West Family Broadcasting as a reporter/anchor in 1989 and served as News Director from 1990-2015.   He's been the winner of several Wisconsin Broadcaster's Association awards for Best Editorial in Wisconsin.  He enjoys traveling, bicycling and cooking.

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It is like Winston Churchill said of American politicians. They will get it right. After they try everything else first. Such is the case with Wisconsin’s laws governing repeat drunk drivers. Drunk driving laws in the Badger state are notoriously lax, but now, finally, lawmakers have closed a legal loophole. Governor Walker signed Assembly Bill 89 into law, stipulating that “any driver requiring an interlock device cannot drive a vehicle that is not equipped with the device from the time of conviction until order expires.” That means if you were caught driving drunk before, you can’t drive a car, any car, without an ignition interlock. That is important because until this bill was signed into law on Friday, those who were ordered by a judge to get an ignition interlock on their car, could simply drive someone else’s car. All perfectly legally. Not any more. Try to drive any car without first passing a breath test is now a crime. As it should be. There are too many on our roads destined to become repeat offenders. It is good to see Wisconsin lawmakers got this right, eventually.

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Wednesday - December 6, 2017 12:13 pm

Is it Armageddon or a joke?

Is it the best thing since sliced bread, or is it the end of the world? The answer, no doubt, is somewhere in the middle. Supporters and critics of the tax reform bills passed by the House and Senate are at odds over what the biggest change in tax policy in 30 years will mean for this country. Critics, like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, call the legislation “Armageddon” likening it to the end of the world. That seems a bit of a stretch. Meanwhile, Wisconsin U.S. Senator Ron Johnson seems to be looking at the bill through rose-colored glasses. He referred to predictions that the new tax bill would add $1 trillion to the federal debt over the next decade as a “joke.” And he claimed members of the Joint Committee on Taxation are living in a “fantasy world.” He may as well have called it fake news. But another $1 trillion in federal debt, on top of the current $20 trillion in federal debt, is hardly a joke. The prediction comes from the very non-partisan agency Congress created to help them understand tax laws. They have no skin in the game. To call this tax bill “Armageddon” is certainly hyperbole. But the suggestion, especially by supposed deficit hawks, that fears of increased debt are a joke, is also no laughing matter.

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More often than not, the truth tends to come out eventually. Despite the fact that leaders of both political parties in Madison insist on keeping secret allegations of sexual harassment by members of the state legislature or their staff, those details are starting to emerge. It has been confirmed that former Wisconsin Senator Spencer Coggs settled a harassment complaint with a staff member two years ago. And while Coggs continues to maintain his innocence, it has been confirmed that his accuser was paid $75,000, and that money came from taxpayers. We have also learned that current state Assemblyman Josh Zepnick is accused of drunkenly kissing two women in 2011 and in 2015. Zepnick has apologized, but has been stripped of his legislative committee assignments by party bosses. This is why lawmakers should resist the temptations to sweep under the rug allegations of bad behavior by our elected officials. We deserve, as taxpayers and as voters, to know when those we elect to office behave irresponsibly. Lawmakers should revist the policy to keep secret allegations of sexual assault. As we are learning, those details are almost certain to come out over time.

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Tuesday - December 5, 2017 9:41 am

Another case of "Trust us we're the government"

Politicians spend a lot of time making laws. They are, after all, called lawmakers. But while Wisconsin's elected officials are, like other politicians, good at making laws, they are also good at exempting themselves from those laws. The latest example is a decision by both democratic and republican leaders of the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate to keep secret allegations of sexual harassment made against their fellow lawmakers. They are refusing to release any sexual misconduct complaints filed against our elected officials. It probably should not be a surprise that our politicians in Madison are telling us what is good for the goose isn't necessarily good for the gander. Consider that our legislators are not required to hold meetings in public, even though the state open meetings laws apply to every other government body. Every school district or municipal government must conduct its business in the public eye, but not the legislature which created the law. They also don't have to post meeting notices informing the public of their meeting plans. And while members of the legislature are covered by the state's open records laws, unlike other politicians, they can legally destroy their own records whenever they want. Deciding to keep secret from voters complaints of sexual misconduct from lawmakers seems to be yet another case of the politicians saying “Trust us, we're the government.”

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We are disappointed in allegations of sexual misconduct by members of the U.S. Congress, and equally disappointed to learn that in many cases the settlements reached between those in public office and their accusers have been funded by U.S. taxpayers. We have learned that the Office of Compliance, which most have never heard of, has handed out $17 million in taxpayer funds to settle lawsuits against federal employees since 1997. Equally amazing is that despite the fact that our money is being spent to settle claims against our public officials is that there is currently no record of who was accused of bad behavior, or how much of our money was spent on each case. One Wisconsin Congressman hopes to change that. Congressman Glenn Grothman has sent a letter asking that the Office of Compliance disclose the members of Congress who have settled sexual assault claims using taxpayer dollars. Further, he asks that the total amount of sexual harassment related settlements paid through the Office of Compliance be made public, and that all future sexual harassment claims be made public. Congress should go one step further, and demand that no tax money be used to settle sexual harassment claims against public officials. Congress wastes a lot of our tax money, but should not be able to use our money to cover up the bad behavior of those we elect to office.

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Lots of employers are reviewing and revising their policies against sexual harassment in the workplace, and how to respond if there are allegations. In light of the outpouring of allegations of bad behavior, that is probably a good idea. But it seems the Wisconsin legislature is going about it the wrong way. Leaders of both the Assembly and Senate say the best way to deal with allegations of sexual misconduct among its members and their staffs is to sweep it under the rug. They say any investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct should be kept secret. We disagree. If our politicians whose salaries we pay behave badly, the taxpayers should be able to know about it. Those who support burying these investigations from the public's eye claim that is because they want to protect the identity of the victims. But there are ways to do that, by blacking out names of accusers, and still releasing the investigation's findings. It seems clear that the public interest outweighs privacy concerns, especially if names are redacted. What we are seeing now with this wave of accusations, is that women gain courage to come forward when others have done so before them. Pretending harassment didn't happen won't encourage other victims to come forward. And taxpayers and voters certainly deserve to know whether the person they helped elected to office isn't respectful to women before they head to the voting booth again.

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Thursday - November 30, 2017 9:00 am

Congress needs to work to avoid government shutdown

While fights over health care and tax reform may dominate the headlines in the nation's capitol, the only real job of members of the United States Congress is to pass a budget and keep the government operating. Yet once again, the U.S. faces the real possibility of a federal government shutdown. In fact, Congress has just 8 days to pass a new spending resolution, or the lights go off in D.C. It appears likely Congress will do no more than pass a stopgap spending measure to keep the lights on for two more weeks and put off the difficult decisions until the end of the year. Even then, Congress will not do what is long overdue, passing a spending bill that continues to fund government operations without the use of stopgap spending bills and continuing resolutions. The likelihood of another government shutdown appears real. President Trump has tweeted insults at democrats, and the top democrats in the House and Senate chose not to show up at a scheduled negotiation meeting with the President. Plus Congress is still trying to wrap up work on a tax reform bill. Expecting them to walk and chew gum at the same time seems unlikely given that so far Congress seems unable to either walk or chew gum. The clock is ticking, and Congress needs to get legislation passed to keep the federal government running. After all, it is the only real requirement of their job.

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We're hearing allegations of sexual misconduct by members of the U.S. Congress. If true, such behavior is deplorable. But so too is the system for compensating victims. Because Congress actually budgets some of our tax money to pay off those who allege sexual misconduct by its members. $17 million in pubic money has been paid out since 1997 to settle workplace disputes on Capitol Hill. It is basically a sexual harassment slush fund. To be fair, most of the complaints are toward other U.S. government employees rather than members of Congress, and not all involve sexual harassment. The money also pays to cover complaints over pay and workplace safety. But still, our tax money is being spent to silent those who accuse members of Congress of bad behavior. Michigan Congressman John Conyers recently settled a claim with a former staff member who accused her boss of sexual misconduct. That money didn't come from the slush fund, but rather from Conyer's office budget, which also is paid for by taxpayers. And under the current system, there is no way to track just how much of our money has been spent silencing victims. The Office of Compliance, which pays out the settlements, doesn't track them by category, so it is impossible to see how much money taxpayers are doling out to sexual assault victims. This system needs to change. If members of Congress are accused of bad behavior, it should be up to them, not us, to settle their case.

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The problems at Wisconsin's juvenile prison have been well documented. And they are not getting better. The FBI continues to investigate allegations of assault of inmates by prison staff. Lawsuits have been filed on behalf of those inmates. There have been attacks on guards by inmates, while staff rely on shackles and solitary confinement to deal with unruly. Not a pretty picture as we seek to reform our most troubled youth. But perhaps Wisconsin is going about it the wrong way. Perhaps we should look to the state of Missouri as a model for how to better confine and rehabilitate our most serious juvenile offenders. There, young inmates are not sent to some huge, far away lockup. They are kept in one of a series of smaller facilities scattered throughout the state to keep the teens closer to their families. Prisoners wear street clothes, not jail uniforms. The teens get educational opportunities and group projects. They don't rely on shackles and solitary confinement, and haven't needed to. There have been far fewer attacks on guards on Missouri compared to Wisconsin's juvenile lockup. And there have been fewer suicide attempts in the Missouri model. The bottom line is what is happening in Wisconsin isn't working. Guards are under attack, and prisoners claim they are being abused. There is a better way, and Missouri is showing us just how that can be done.

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When it comes to police and the courts, it seems nearly everyone is taking sides in La Crosse. Some argue that judges in La Crosse’s circuit courts are coddling criminals. Police are fueling the argument, tired of arresting the same bad guys over and over, only to have them given a break by the courts, and have them end up back on the streets. It is frustrating to see the same frequent fliers clog up our courts, but it really isn’t that simple. We often hear only some details of the case, while judges are required to consider every piece of evidence. Judges are bound by state sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors often work out plea deals, or diversion agreements with defendants, in an effort to give them a chance for reform, and to keep our already crowded jail from getting more crowded. And there is no evidence that La Crosse’s judges are any softer or harder on crime than judges in any other Wisconsin county. But there is an answer for those frustrated with our local system of justice. Run for judge. Or encourage others to run. Our judges most often run unopposed, leaving voters only one choice on election day. If you don’t like the job La Crosse’s judges are doing then do something about it. You do the job. But be ready for people to judge your every decision.

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