During the May 18 public hearing on the Snitch House bill (SB124/AB258 also known as COP house bill) Lena Taylor and Van Wanggaard revealed that their co-authored, pro-cop legislation is everything we fear, and worse. We already have a long article detailing snitch houses (bootlickers call them COP houses) but, the more we learn and reflect on supporter’s statements at the hearings, the more we have to say.
There is so much to unpack from Taylor and Wanggaard’s introduction that we are going to put out a three part series, starting this week. The bill gets its first assembly committee vote on Wednesday, June 2. Please call or email the democratic members of the committee before Wednesday!
This series will cover how snitch houses:
- Reduce public safety by expanding police capacity to harm communities.
- Advance displacement of people of color to benefit real estate developers and landlords.
- Expand the role of police, letting them absorb and determine which neighbors receive much needed community resources.
Before getting into these harms snitch houses may cause, let’s take a quick look at the hearing—and the shady politics going on behind this legislation.
The snitch house bill was paired with Van Wanggaard’s “fund the police” bill (SB119/AB111), and introduced to the assembly committee on local government, who held the hearing on Tuesday, May 18th. SB119 would punish any city that reduced police budgets by decreasing their shared revenue payment. “Shared revenue” refers to how money collected by state taxes is distributed back to local governments. It has been declining for the benefit of the wealthy and well-connected in recent decades. Milwaukee already gets especially screwed over in shared revenue, and this bill seems designed specifically to retaliate against successful local efforts to defund the police.
Fortunately, Wanggaard’s fund the police bill is more likely to end up in a dumpster fire than to become law. Democrat senators voted against it, and representatives are likely to do the same.. Governor Evers will almost certainly veto it. The snitch house bill, on the other hand, unexpectedly won unanimous support, not only in committee, but in the whole senate. If we don’t push assembly democrats to vote against it, Evers is going to sign it into law. Apparently, if you put “community oriented” on it, the democrats see funding police as a bipartisan victory. We all know how much Evers longs for chances to be bipartisan with racists.
Public testimony without the public
Public hearings on proposed state legislation are almost never readily available to the public, and this hearing was no exception. The snitch house bill was drafted in the senate then introduced in the assembly April 9. Its public hearing was added to the calendar May 5, but notification of the hearing didn’t go out until May 14. The hearing itself was only 4 days later, on a Tuesday at 10:00 AM, when most working people would be unable to attend. At that hearing, senators Van Wanggaard and Lena Taylor introduced the legislation, taking up two hours of the committee’s time. Then they ducked out as soon as the hearing was actually opened to public testimony, which they knew would be as critical as the last hearing of this trash. The people delivered, public testimony was unsparing and defiant:
Most people came out against Wanggaard’s fund the police bill. This bill is a silly partisan provocation, time-wasting theatre for the republican death cult’s most excitable “back the badge” constituents. It is also smokescreen, dragging the overton window back to the right after last year’s rebellion radically reframed public dialog on policing. With the public distracted by Wanggaard’s aggressively terrible bill, boot-licking democrats can get away with supporting less obvious police funding expansions like body cam and training grants, PTSD compensation, or the snitch house bill.
Wanggaard gave meandering circuitous answers to a line of questioning from rep Samba Baldeh (d-Madison) about the bill’s intentions and lack of evidence. Other committee members exposed it’s total absurdity by taking it seriously. They asked what would happen if a municipality’s police budget decreased for politically neutral reasons, like retiring officers. Wanggaard had an amendment ready where a city could hold a referendum to overrule application of his dumb law. However, that solution only opened a longer discussion when representative Mark Spreitzer (d-Beloit) pointed out the absurdity of budgeting without knowing how much funding you’re working with until the next election, likely halfway through the budgeted year. Wanggaard scrambled to make up answers. It looked like even he hadn’t really considered this bill as anything but a rhetorical response to anti-police protests. After about thirty minutes of humoring him, the committee moved to the snitch house bill, and senator Taylor joined Wanggaard.
These two have become tight collaborators working on this, and other bad legislation. Let’s introduce them a little more.
Senator Lena Taylor represents district 4, which republicans gerrymandered to pack Shorewood liberals with part of Milwaukee’s northside, making the district north of it more solidly conservative and a safer seat for senator Alberta Darling (r-River Hills). After a few years as a public defender, then private practice attorney, Taylor entered state politics in 2003. She positions herself as a tireless advocate for police-impacted communities, and opponent of the political status quo. Her actual record is uneven though, leading many to see her as an opportunist. She has also faced political set-backs for bullying aides, and workers. Furthermore, she’s a landlord who frequently evicts her tenants. We aren’t the first to criticise her for collaborating with conservative white supremacists, but on the snitch house bill, she certainly has become bosom buddies with Van Wanggaard, one of Wisconsin’s most racist senators.
Wanggaard is a former cop. After 29 years of terrorizing the residents of Racine, he retired, joined the Racine fire and police commission, then went into state politics. He lost more often than he won, until he started cheating to stay in power. After his first failed run for state assembly in 2006, he rode the wave of anti-Obama racism to narrowly win a senate seat in 2010. In office, he was an anti-union lackey of Scott Walker, which made him very unpopular and got him recalled. He and three other republican senators lost the recall, but in a move that presaged Donald Trump’s 2020 shit fit, Wanggaard refused to concede or leave office as long as he possibly could. The next election used gerrymandered maps he helped draw, which expanded his district into Kenosha county, but excluded Black and Brown voters from the cities of Racine and Kenosha. Since then, he’s had a guaranteed place in office.
Cops protect capital and property; landlords have a lot of both. So it’s not a surprise that cop Van Wanggaard and landlord Lena Taylor have teamed up on this bill. Back in March at the senate hearing on the bill, Taylor sparred with or patronized critics who actually live in her district, but praised the one conservative white guy who backed the badge. It’s no wonder this time she ran out the clock for ninety minutes chatting about the false virtues of police, then “had to leave for another meeting” as soon as public testimony started.
Pushing this bill, Taylor and Wanggaard used misleading and inaccurate statistics. They made a “secret” deal to hide (but expand) direct police funding from this bill. We’ll describe that shadiness in detail over the rest of this series, which will also cover how snitch houses fly in the face of protest demands, how they benefit developers and landlords, and how they expand police power to hurt communities.
Please take a minute to take action against the snitch house bill—the committee votes on Wednesday June 2!