Here & Now for March 2, 2018 | Wisconsin Public Television

Here & Now for March 2, 2018

Home » Here & Now » Here & Now for March 2, 2018
Premiere Date: 
March 2, 2018

Here & Now for March 2, 2018

On tonight's show, we examine: the rest of the state Senate's legislative calendar with Sens. Howard Marklein (R Spring Green) and Jennifer Shilling (D La Crosse); Wisconsin's response to reports that the state's elections infrastructure was hacked, with Reid Magney of the Wis. Elections Commission; and the promise of a new Ebola vaccine with UW-Madison Pathologist Alhaji Njai.

Episode Transcript

Announcer:

The following program is part of our "Here and Now" 2018 Wisconsin Vote election coverage.

Frederica Freyberg:

I’m Frederica Freyberg. Tonight on "Here and Now," the very latest on alleged Russian interference in Wisconsin’s 2016 election. After that, a closer look at votes that await the State Senate. Senate leadership is here. In our look ahead we'll hear about a UW Ebola vaccine that is headed to Japan for clinical trials. It's "Here and Now" for March 2nd.

Announcer:

Funding for "Here and Now" is provided, in part, by Friends of Wisconsin Public Television.

Frederica Freyberg:

A first look tonight at what state officials are saying about reports Wisconsin voting systems were hacked by the Russians. This week, NBC News aired a report that said Wisconsin was one of seven states where state websites or voter registration systems were compromised ahead of the 2016 election, but that federal intelligence officials officials never told Wisconsin or the other states. The news report attributed their information to three unnamed senior intelligence officials. What gives? Because Wisconsin election officials have repeatedly said this did not happen. Meanwhile, this morning the State Elections Commission forwarded the name of a new administrator to the Senate for confirmation, Megan Wolfe. Lots to go over. So for the second week in a row, we turn to Reid Magney, Public Information Officer for the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Reid, thanks a lot for being here.

Reid Magney:

You're welcome.

Frederica Freyberg:

As to that question, what gives?

Reid Magney:

So to the best of our knowledge, we think that NBC was reporting old information. One of the things we've learned is that the area of cybersecurity is -- and the intelligence that goes behind it, takes a long time to develop information. And it seems like they were using information that somebody thought was current back in January of 2017. Later in June of 2017, Homeland Security said there were 21 states that the Russians targeted and that only one of those, I believe Illinois, was actually -- they actually got in. In September of 2017, we found out that Wisconsin was one of the 21 states that had been targeted, meaning they scanned our system. Again, it's sort of like a burglar casing the joint. Didn't get in, but it's still suspicious. What we think is that between the time that there was some initial intelligence back in January 2017 and then later, Homeland Security determined nobody got in. You know, so -- and I know it's confusing because we've been saying all along, nobody got in and then this new report comes along.

Frederica Freyberg:

Right.

Reid Magney:

And so  --

Frederica Freyberg:

I mean, could it be true that Wisconsin kind of doesn't know what it doesn't know? That it's true that federal intelligence officials never told you?

Reid Magney:

Well, the "never told us" part is -- if they thought they knew something back in January of 2017, they didn't tell us and maybe the reason they didn't tell us was because they weren't sure. As the intelligence process goes on and they learn more about it, I think maybe they realized we'd only been scanned. We really don't know. But we've double and triple checked with people at Homeland Security and they say nothing happened.

Frederica Freyberg:

Because that was my next question. Have you been able to unravel who the NBC sources were or hear from additional officials who could refute or sustain that information?

Reid Magney:

We don't know who NBC is talking to. It sounds like they're talking to people who saw this classified report back in January of 2017. Does that mean it was people who were in the Obama Administration and have been out of things since then and don't know what's current? We don't know. But we've double and triple checked with Homeland Security. There's nothing new.

Frederica Freyberg:

Regardless, all of this could serve to kind of unnerve the voting public, obviously, and make them question the safety and security of our voting apparatus. So what is your response to that?

Reid Magney:

So we are on top of security planning. We are -- we have partners both with Wisconsin’s Department of Administration, Division of Enterprise Technology that provides the fire walls, sort of the walled city where our servers live and protect us. We have never had a breach. We have excellent security around the perimeter. We've completely encrypted the database. So even if somebody were to get in and steal something, it would be useless to them. We are working very closely with clerks, Homeland Security, the National Guard on making sure that we have all the systems and all the security necessary in place.

Frederica Freyberg:

Meanwhile, the Democratic legislative leaders are calling for an investigation into all of this. What's your reaction to that?

Reid Magney:

Well, if they're basing it on the NBC report, that's old information and that's what it seemed like they were basing it off, the NBC report. If they would talk to us and find out what's going on, we're happy to do it. We've been "investigating" this, trying to figure out what these reports are and what's been going on for months now.

Frederica Freyberg:

The commission today took action to address some people who had been erroneously removed from the voting rolls. What did they do?

Reid Magney:

So we had sent out postcards back in November to about 300,000 people who we believe had moved, based on changes at DMV or other agencies. And what happened is we think maybe a dozen people went to the polls on election day and they weren't on the poll books, so they had to re-register. We don't know of anybody who wasn't able to vote. But to make sure this doesn't happen in April, we're going to print essentially a supplement poll list of those people who we thought moved and if the poll workers can't find you on the main list, they're going to look on this other list. And if you're there, you just say, "Oh, I haven't moved, I’m fine" and you'll get to vote. If you have actually moved, you will need to re-register. That's one of the things that I think a lot of people don't understand. If you move, whether it's across the street, even across the hall in an apartment building, the law says you have to re-register.

Frederica Freyberg:

Same-day registration. Reid Magney, thanks very much.

Reid Magney:

You're welcome.

Frederica Freyberg:

And this news, this afternoon Governor Scott Walker went against President Trump's call for tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Governor Walker said, "If the President wants to protect good-paying, family-supporting jobs in America, especially here in Wisconsin, then he should reconsider the administration's position on these tariffs, particularly on ultra-thin aluminum."

Governor Scott Walker this week said he opposes arming school teachers, but is working up a package of bills to address school safety, which could be introduced in the next couple of weeks in special session. Separately, a bill to help fund armed school safety officers is in the lap of the state Senate, along with other measures already passed in the Assembly, including juvenile prison reform and child tax credits. In a moment, we will talk with Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling about Democrats' ideas for gun safety, but first we turn to Senate President Pro Tem, Republican Howard Marklein of Spring Green. Senator, thanks very much for being here.

Howard Marklein:

Thank you.

Frederica Freyberg:

What can you tell us about what is in the governor's school safety package?

Howard Marklein:

Well, I don't know that there's a whole lot of details yet at this point on the governor's package. What I've done is reached out to all of the schools in my Senate district and have asked them their opinion. What are they doing now, and where are there gaps that maybe the state could fill in. So by and large what I’m hearing from my school districts is that I think in Wisconsin, especially my district, I think we're doing a pretty good job of being proactive when it comes to school safety. Our doors are locked. Our staff have gone through training, live shooter training, which is good. Many of our schools have dedicated school resource officers that are there, you know, providing protection at our schools. So I think for the most part, schools in my district are doing a lot of good things and waiting to hear back from them to see if there are other things they can do. I've got a lot of small, rural districts in my Senate district, so one of my school districts administrators from Royal School District in Elroy, they've taken the initiative to assign every one of their pupils to a staff person so that every staff -- every student is assigned. And so we don't have, you know, students, you know, being -- going off on their own being disturbed, which I think is a good thing. Those kind of solutions may work well in my rural district. May not work well in large, urban districts.

Frederica Freyberg:

Do you differ with the governor on arming school teachers or how do you feel about that?

Howard Marklein:

Well, I heard from my superintendents. I've surveyed all my superintendents. And again, the feedback I've gotten ranges from yes, if they want to be armed, they should be allowed to do that. The other end of the spectrum is absolutely not. The feedback I’ve gotten from my superintendents ranges the full spectrum.

Frederica Freyberg:

As you know, Democrats have specific proposals, including universal background checks, banning assault style weapons, 48-hour wait periods and other things. Would you or other lawmakers who've received contributions from the NRA support any of those?

Howard Marklein:

Well, I’m focused more on school safety, on trying to make sure that students in our schools are safe. And so I just think that my focus is going to be on trying to make sure that our schools have the resources they need and that we do all we can to keep our students safe.

Frederica Freyberg:

What’s your position on the idea of these court orders that would remove guns from potentially dangerous people when their family or law enforcement kind of reported, that so-called "red flag" law? What's your position on those?

Howard Marklein:

Well, I can share with you a situation that happened in Lafayette County five or six years ago. We had a triple murder in Lafayette County. We had somebody from Waukesha whose parents were concerned about their son, their adult son, who had done some ridiculous things, apparently, and they alerted law enforcement. They alerted a number of agencies, and they had concerns about their son. And because they determined the son was not a threat to himself and had not hurt anybody, nothing was done. And this person ended up coming into my district and ended up murdering three members of the family in Lafayette County. So, you know, I think that a lot of cases we've got processes in place to address some of these things. We need to be more attentive and responsive I think to those kinds of situations.

Frederica Freyberg:

Let me get to some other matters. As for the juvenile prison reform that would close Lincoln Hills, how will the Senate vote on that?

Howard Marklein:

We have not talked about that yet in caucus. You know, there have been a lot of conversations. I think I believe there's consensus that we need to do something as far as closing Lincoln Hills. The proposal that is out there is significant. A lot of moving parts in terms of closing that facility, opening up regional facilities. They're going to take the involvement, the support of our local sheriffs' departments to make that happen. It's a big dollar item. And I guess I just want to make sure that whatever we do is well thought out, because again, it's going to affect a lot of different agencies and a lot of people.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. We need to leave it there. Senator Marklein, thank you for joining us.

Howard Marklein:

Thank you.

Frederica Freyberg:

We turn now to Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling and where Democrats stand on gun and school safety. She joins us from La Crosse and thanks a lot for doing so.

Jennifer Shilling:

Thank you.

Frederica Freyberg:

So what are your thoughts on Governor Walker calling a potentially special session on school safety bills?

Jennifer Shilling:

Well, it's certainly long overdue. I think we have not taken on this issue as vigilantly as we should have in the past, and certainly what has happened in the last couple weeks, you know, in Florida has put this forward front and center, both in Congress and in state legislatures across the state -- or across the nation.

Frederica Freyberg:

What do you think any of these bills should include?

Jennifer Shilling:

Well, as we all too often go to our political and emotional corners when we start to talk about gun safety in this state, I think first of all, businesses are taking a step forward. Obviously, we've seen Dick's Sporting Goods this week and Walmart and others are following. I think they're frustrated there's been a lack of action by lawmakers to do some reasonable changes of law when it comes to access to firearms and weapons. So certainly looking at increasing the age to purchase firearms. I know that my Democratic colleagues for several sessions have introduced legislation to look at universal background checks and the public is certainly there on that. That is overwhelming support. But it's also looking at reinstating a 24-hour waiting period. Last week on the floor, I had an amendment that would have allowed schools to exceed their revenue limit on school safety. We had that in place in 2009. And then in 2011 in the budget there was a change with this administration, who removed that exemption. So I hope there are some common areas that we can find agreement and do something significant on this issue.

Frederica Freyberg:

Do you really think that there will be traction from the majority on some of these gun control measures or waiting periods or, you know, banning assault rifles or anything like that?

Jennifer Shilling:

Well, I think we are seeing mounting pressure from students and the public, who are frustrated. And I certainly hope that we could have the passion and the courage to do the right thing, just as these young people are speaking out and really putting a face to school violence and the fear that they have that they don't want to -- they don't want to live like that and they expect lawmakers to do some reasonable things. And so while we only have one day left on the floor period, I’m certainly open to a special session that we could move this issue significantly.

Frederica Freyberg:

You know, we just spoke with Senator Howard Marklein and he suggested that as opposed to any of these kind of gun control measures, he would like to see kind of strictly school safety measures, whatever those are comprised of, you know, whether it's locking doors or, you know, specific security in schools as opposed to any of the kinds of things that Democrats are talking about. Do you suppose there's any compromise in things like these red flag laws or that kind of thing?

Jennifer Shilling:

Well, I think that goes to the heart of the issue of allowing schools to exempt school safety measures from their revenue limits. And so as I have spent this week talking to many school district administrators throughout western Wisconsin, they have talked about bullet-proof glass. They have talked about securing their buildings. But they've also talked about mental health needs in their schools and the need for more social workers and school psychologists and psychiatrists. And the importance of building relationships with young people, who may feel that they don't have anyone that connects with them in their life. So I certainly think mental health issues is one set of awareness, but looking to secure these schools is another aspect. But also it is some of the common sense issues about making it harder to purchase these weapons for people who they shouldn't be in their hands in the first place.

Frederica Freyberg:

Just very briefly on another matter, do you expect the juvenile prison reform bill to pass in the Senate?

Jennifer Shilling:

I think that certainly the Senate majority leader has indicated there are some concerns with that. I know I’ve been speaking with individuals within the counties and within law enforcement to see what their concerns are. I can get behind the idea of moving correctional facilities in a regional approach so they can be closer to these youths' homes and support network but I don't know if it's ready for prime time, but certainly we need to move in that direction for some correction reforms in the state for our youth offenders.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Senator Jennifer Shilling, thanks very much.

Jennifer Shilling:

Thank you.

Frederica Freyberg:

Next up, debate in Washington and around the country about gun laws in the wake of Parkland, Florida’s mass shooting. This week, President Trump said he would support changes in background checks for gun buys. He also endorsed raising the minimum wage to 21 for people purchasing assault-style rifles. In a moment, we will hear from a Wisconsin retailer who sells AR-15 rifles, but first here's what Speaker Paul Ryan had to say midweek about the prospect of banning such weapons.

Paul Ryan:

We shouldn't be banning guns for law-abiding citizens. We should be focusing on making sure that citizens who should not get guns in the first place don't get those guns.

Frederica Freyberg:

What exactly are those guns, the AR-15s? There's a lot of talk about them but reporter Marisa Wojcik went to a Dane County gun shop to see and hear about them up-close.

Marisa Wojcik:

When Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month, it reignited a debate about gun restrictions. The difference this time, it's not going away. Cruz murdered 17 people that day using an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

Brett Fankhauser:

This is the firearm. This is the serial numbered portion.

Marisa Wojcik:

Brett Fankhauser, manager of the Deerfield Pistol and Archery Center, explains the main differences between an AR-15 and a semiautomatic hunting rifle.

Brett Fankhauser:

This gun and a semiautomatic hunting gun are the same thing. It's strictly aesthetics is the difference. And then the magazine capacity on this one, you could go anywhere from a 5-round magazine to a 100-round magazine.

Marisa Wojcik:

The AR-15 was designed after military-grade guns used for combat. So what do ordinary citizens use this weapon for?

Brett Fankhauser:

Its marksmanship and hunting. Being able to shoot something that is similar to what the military uses. They always have the coolest toys, so to speak, right? This is as close as we can get to them. Expandable.

Marisa Wojcik:

That selling point is a huge sales driver for gun enthusiasts. But there's another actor that impacts gun sales for the shop's owner, Scott Whiting.

Scott Whiting:

We had a little bit of a lull when Trump took office. I think there wasn't the demand or the pressure on the gun issue at that time.

Marisa Wojcik:

For Whiting, upholding the second amendment is essential, but not the end of the conversation.

Scott Whiting:

You know, I agree that everybody should have their second amendment rights. On the other hand, obviously there are people out there that probably shouldn't have access to firearms or we need to do a better job of making sure that we're intervening before an incident occurs.

Frederica Freyberg:

That was Marisa Wojcik reporting. Now to medical news and a look ahead to December, when a vaccine developed at UW-Madison will start human trials in Japan. That's where up to 1,000 doses of Ebola vaccine will be sent from the Waisman Center at UW. The clinical trial will be led by some of the same UW scientists who work the lab where the vaccine was created. In 2015 researchers reported vaccinated monkeys were successfully protected from Ebola infection. Between 2014 and 2016, 11,000 people died in Ebola in West African countries including Liberia and Sierra Leone. UW-Madison pathologist Alhaji Njai is a native of Sierra Leone who has contributed to the vaccine effort. Thank you very much for being here.

Alhaji Njai:

Thank you for having me.

Frederica Freyberg:

First, let's start by asking what is Ebola and where did it come from?

Alhaji Njai:

Ebola is a filovirus. It's known to belong to the viral hemorrhagic viruses. Very, very deadly, evolving out of Congo in eastern Africa and central Africa. And of course in West Africa in 2015, 2016 -- in between 2013 to 2015, we had the first major outbreak and one of the biggest ever in the world.

Frederica Freyberg:

How easily is it spread?

Alhaji Njai:

Ebola is very, very deadly and it's not as highly, highly contagious as like measles and others, but it is very deadly when somebody gets it through body fluids or contacts with sweat or saliva or any other things that are coming out of an infected person.

Frederica Freyberg:

So you are on our way to Sierra Leone tomorrow.

Alhaji Njai:

Right.

Frederica Freyberg:

And what will you do there?

Alhaji Njai:

So we continue to work, so since 2014, late end of 2014, December, we set up a functional lab system in Sierra Leone through a Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka's group working on the vaccine, but also looking at some of the molecular causes, why does Ebola kill, why is Ebola so lethal and why do some people survive Ebola? So trying to understand more on sort of what are the host pathogen responses around it and then by so doing, we may be able to develop much more efficient, much more better novel therapies for Ebola.

Frederica Freyberg:

So in terms of the vaccine, how does that work?

Alhaji Njai:

So what we have here is actually -- so much of the vaccine candidates out there are like fragments of the virus. What we have now is actually the whole Ebola virus minus the VP30, which is the gene responsible for Ebola to attach to human cells. So what we've done is just basically knock out that gene and then without that gene, the Ebola virus is unable to replicate and it's also unable to attach to human cells.

Frederica Freyberg:

So how exciting is this prospect of a human vaccine for Ebola?

Alhaji Njai:

It is huge. It is huge. If you think about the deadly nature of this outbreak in 2015 and survivals and the trauma and other things, having a vaccine that works, and if we have it to work in phase one in December, that will be tremendous news for not just the medical world, but also for the people of Sierra Leone and west Africa because we know whenever Ebola hits, it has the likelihood of coming back.

Frederica Freyberg:

How will the human trials in Japan work? Who will get that? Tell us what that process is.

Alhaji Njai:

We’re still working on that aspect of it, so it's still -- we're trying to figure out the clinical trials, and how that will be worked out. So I think that's not something we are clear on yet on how basically it's going to work. Because really you really want to be able to know, you know, and a lot more of the information under the phase two aspect of things. But right now we don't have a clear understanding of how it will work in Japan.

Frederica Freyberg:

And what is the global kind of reaction to the idea that this vaccine is out there and more than developed, but going to trial?

Alhaji Njai:

I think that this is tremendous. It is just very, very good news. A lot of people are actually excited because this is what I would say a first, real Ebola vaccine because we are utilizing the whole Ebola virus as against a protein fragment from another virus. So this is a real good breakthrough, but also a very novel breakthrough for the medical world.

Frederica Freyberg:

Dr. Njai, thanks very much.

Alhaji Njai:

Thank you very much for having me.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now to an environmental update involving Foxconn. The EPA has raised concerns over the amount of air pollution in southeastern Wisconsin and will make a decision within the next three months on how much companies like Foxconn will need to curb their emissions. At the center of this decision will be newly-appointed head of the Chicago EPA office, Cathy Stepp, who previously served as DNR secretary in Wisconsin. During her DNR tenure, Stepp worked to have the state exempted from smog regulations. According to an EPA spokesperson, Stepp will consult with ethics staff at the agency before deciding she needs to recuse herself from the decision.

And next Friday night, Marquette Law School Pollster Charles Franklin will be here with the first statewide numbers on the state Supreme Court race. Until then, I’m Frederica Freyberg. Have a great weekend.

Announcer:

Funding for "Here and Now" is provided, in part, by Friends of Wisconsin Public Television.

For more information on "Here and Now's" 2018 election coverage, go to WisconsinVote.org.

Share this page

Have questions, comments, or story ideas?


WisContext

WisContext serves the residents of Wisconsin, providing information and insight into issues as they affect the state.