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In Wisconsin, Homemade Cookies are the Victims of Big Government

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

In Wisconsin, Homemade Cookies are the Victims of Big Government

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Things are hard out there for folks trying to make ends meat.

According to Watchdog.org, Wisconsin residents can go to jail and face steep fines if they dare to sell homemade baked goods without an OK from the government.

Under Wisconsin law, entrepreneurs selling homemade baked goods who prepare their products in home kitchens are not allowed to make a profit. After all, how will the state assure the quality of the those delicious cookies baked by grandma if she’s not following state regulations?

Cookies

According to Institute for Justice’s attorney Erica Smith, entrepreneurs in Wisconsin could face a $1,000 fine or go to jail for up to six months even if they “sell one cookie at a farmers market, to your neighbor, [or] somewhere in your community.” This practice, the attorney told Watchdog, “[is] not only unfair, it’s unconstitutional.”

In order to remedy this problem locally, three Wisconsin farmers filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection with the help of IJ’s Smith. The suit hopes to put an end to the ban on homemade baked goods.

But before there was a lawsuit, a piece of legislation introduced two years ago could have made small changes to the baked goods law. Unfortunately, the bill stalled in the Assembly after passing in the Senate. According to Smith, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) is the reason why the “cookie bill” won’t hit the House floor.

“That could very well be because he owns his own commercial food business,” known as Rojos Popcorn, Smith told Watchdog.

According to the bill, current law would be modified to allow up to $7,500 in annual homemade baked goods sale. While the proposed legislation isn’t perfect, it could have helped countless Wisconsin residents to earn some extra cash on the side.

According to Dave Schmdt, the executive director of the Wisconsin Bakers Association, the commercial food industry in the state is not happy with the proposed ban lift. “If several people in a certain market or particular community are doing that, they’re eating away at a local baker that’s been there for 100 years and taking away his livelihood,” Schmidt told Wisconsin Public Radio. To Schmidt, that’s simply not fair.

But home bakers also believe that the treatment they get from their own state government isn’t fair either.

To Lisa Kivirist, one of the plaintiffs fighting for her right to bake and sell her homemade goods, the “state’s home-baked-good ban hurts farmers, homemakers and others who just want to help support their family by selling simple goods from their home oven.”

Instead of keeping consumers happy and allowing local economies to gain from the competition, the ban also “prevents customers from buying the fresh and local foods of their choice,” Kivirist stated during a press event at the Capitol.

Current law keeps bakers from selling products that aren’t produced in commercial kitchens. To small outfits, the cost of setting up a commercial kitchen is simply too high. The only exemptions currently in place protect nonprofit groups such as churches or charity organizations. These groups are currently allowed to sell homemade goods, but there’s a catch: they may not put their products up for sale more often than 12 times a year.

Making an Opportunity

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Making an Opportunity

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The Internet is abuzz about the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, in which a Wisconsin man and his family’s experiences with the criminal justice system are chronicled from his arrest, conviction, and exoneration for a 1985 rape case to his trial for a 2005 murder of a freelance photographer.

While not completely one-sided, the viewers’ reactions seem to be strongly in favor of Steven Avery’s defense, as well as that of his nephew Brendan Dassey, eliciting both WhiteHouse.Gov and Change.Org petitions with hundreds of thousands of signatures aimed at garnering his release.

making a murdererI watched the series in three to four nights, quickly moving through the 10 episodes. As a libertarian, the series drew me in with its focus on alleged misconduct on the part of government prosecutors and law enforcement and the possible miscarriage of justice for both the defendants and victims.

Once the “water cooler discussions” commenced and writers returned from time off over the holidays, the enormity of the opportunity that Making A Murderer became apparent to me with article after article populating my social media newsfeeds and my “must read” websites and news sources with perspectives, refutations, and commentary on the series.

The opportunity that libertarians can, and should, seize is one where we can discuss important aspects of libertarian thought by pointing to the alleged corruption of these government officials, the inability for them to follow their own rules, and how the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise fades with each passing day that the pop culture phenomenon features. While many libertarians know their rights and “flex” them frequently, the series uncovers that many who aren’t well-versed in such discussions will easily acquiesce to requests made by perceived authority figures to their detriment.

One key to persuasion is to find openings and moments that can be an opportunity to reveal someone’s “inner libertarian” as you find common ground. Often, we talk about the importance of building rapport with those who do not yet identify as libertarians, yet hold many libertarian beliefs without knowing it. As with our World’s Smallest Political Quiz and the opportunity to “break the ice” that it presents, pop culture phenomena like Making a Murderer can be the opening you need to start building that rapport for those aren’t ready to call themselves libertarians… yet.

If you are not interested in the true crime documentary series, don’t fret. Libertarianism continues to permeate popular culture as we find ourselves more in the mainstream of everyday life than ever before.

Address Security Concerns But Let Syrian Refugees Come to the U.S.

in Foreign Policy, Immigration, Liberator Online, Middle East, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Address Security Concerns But Let Syrian Refugees Come to the U.S.

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

America’s governors are playing right into the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, the governors of 30 states have called on the Obama administration to delay its plans to allow refugees from Syria to be placed in their states.

The concerns aren’t without merit. One of the Islamic radicals who participated in the terrorist attacks had a passport, using a phony name, showing that he entered Europe from Syria. This revelation has raised concerns about holes in the security screenings of the refugees who may enter the United States as the flee from a bloody civil war that has ravaged their country and left tens of thousands dead.

syrian-refugee-crisis

Similarly, congressional Republicans are poised to push legislation to “pause” the program. Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in the first major test of his nascent speakership, said, “This is a moment where it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced a bill of his own to temporarily halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

“The time has come to stop terrorists from walking in our front door,” Paul said in a statement. “The Boston Marathon bombers were refugees, and numerous refugees from Iraq, including some living in my hometown, have attempted to commit terrorist attacks.”

“The terrorist attacks in Paris underscore this concern that I have been working to address for the past several years. My bill will press pause on new refugee entrants from high-risk countries until stringent new screening procedures are in place,” he added.

Prohibiting Syrian refugees from entering the United States, which is what some seem to want, may not be at all like the retaliatory attacks being carried out against mosques and Muslim-owed businesses in France in the aftermath of the attacks, but the anti-Islam sentiment is what ISIS thrives upon in its twisted eschatology.

“This is precisely what ISIS was aiming for — to provoke communities to commit actions against Muslims,” University of Maryland professor Arie Kruglanski told the Washington Post. “Then ISIS will be able to say, ‘I told you so. These are your enemies, and the enemies of Islam.”

Governors and lawmakers must tread carefully and keep in mind that history shows that refugees are overwhelming unlikely to be terrorists. A temporarily halt to the Syrian refugee program is understandable until security concerns are addressed, but we shouldn’t shut the door to people who are seeking safety by conflating it with the other hot-button issues, such as immigration.

Your Favorite Distilled Beverage May Get a Little Cheaper

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Your Favorite Distilled Beverage May Get a Little Cheaper

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

A bipartisan bill was introduced recently that would lower the per gallon excise tax on distilled drinks, including whiskey and rum.

The Distillery Innovation and Excise Tax Reform Act, introduced by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), would relieve distilleries, especially newer ones, of some of the burdens they face when bringing products to market.

Currently, distilled drinks are taxed at $13.50 per proof gallon. Young’s bill seeks to lower the tax to $2.70 per proof gallon on the first 100,000 gallons produced by a distillery and $9 per proof thereafter.

Barrel

Rep. John Yarmuth (R-Ky.) has cosponsored the bill, which was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee on May 21. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) chairs the powerful tax-writing committee.

“All around southern Indiana, many new craft distilleries are popping up, creating jobs and adding to the tax base,” Young said in a release on Wednesday. “But there’s a lot of red tape involved in getting a new distillery off the ground, and this bill helps reduce that burden. In addition, we have many large, established distilleries in our region of the country, and this bill will help them, too.”

The bill has support from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA). “It is significant that the distillers of all sizes are united behind this important hospitality industry legislation,” Peter Cressy, CEO of DISCUS, said in a joint release with ACSA. “We thank the sponsors for recognizing the economic impact passage of this bill will have for our industry.”

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced a companion bill in the Senate. Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have signed on as cosponsors of the bill. Although the members represent states with a number of distilleries, the popularity of craft spirits has risen significantly and virtually every state now has distillery.

For the producers, the savings can mean expansion of their operations and more jobs for local communities.

“I started my distillery eight years ago to support Michigan jobs and prove that high quality spirits could be made right here in Michigan,” Rifino Valentine, founder of Valentine Distilling, said in a press release from Peters’ office. “While I’m proud to say we are expanding our facility, so many small distilleries are at a unique disadvantage as a result of the high federal excise tax.”

The bill may be common sense, but similar efforts to lower the excise tax on distilled spirits didn’t move out of committee in the previous Congress.

They Said It… From John Stossel, Judge Napolitano And More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It… section in Volume 19, No. 17 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

FOX Business' John Stossel

BAN THE BANNERS: “I wonder just how many things social conservatives would outlaw if they thought the public would accept the bans. [Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council] doesn’t approve of gambling, gay marriage, plural marriage, sex work or making a political statement by burning a flag. … Meanwhile, liberals keep adding new things to their own list of items to control: wages, hate speech, high-interest loans, plastic shopping bags, large cars, health care, e-cigarettes, Uber, AirBnB and more. One choice America needs urgently is an alternative to politicians who constantly want to ban more things.” — John Stossel, “Two Anti-Choice Parties,” syndicated column, Sept. 24, 2014.

MADISON WI POLICE CHIEF SAYS LEGALIZE MARIJUANA: 

Madison, Wisconsin Police Chief Mike Koval

“We’ve done such an abysmal job using marijuana as a centerpiece of drug enforcement, that it’s time to reorder and triage the necessities of what’s more important now. …The crusade on marijuana has been a palpable failure — an abject failure. …So let’s acknowledge the failure for what it is, and rededicate ourselves to…a better way to deal with people who have addictions.” — Madison, Wisconsin Police Chief Mike Koval, interviewed in Wisconsin State Journal, Sept. 14, 2014.

THE MILITARIZED USDA: “In May of this year, the USDA Joanna Rothkopf[U.S. Department of Agriculture] Office of the Inspector General filed a request for ‘submachine guns, .40 Cal. S&W, ambidextrous safety, semi-automatic or 2 shot burst trigger group, Tritium night sights for front and rear, rails for attachment of flashlight (front under fore grip) and scope (top rear), stock-collapsible or folding, magazine — 30 rd. capacity, sling, light weight, and oversized trigger guard for gloved operation.’” — Joanna Rothkopf, “Why is the Department of Agriculture asking for submachine guns?” Salon.com

LIBERTY VERSUS PHONY SECURITY:

Judge Andrew Napolitano

“The government can’t deliver the mail, pave potholes, balance the budget, fairly collect taxes, protect us from Ebola, even tell the truth. Who would trust it with personal freedoms?” — Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, “A Euphemism for Tyranny,” Washington Times, Oct. 14, 2014.