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Mike Brandt

Mike Brandt speaks at a Community Conversations session Dec. 1 at the Menomonie Public Library. The next session is scheduled for Jan. 5.

Community Conversations presenter Mike Brandt led a public discussion Dec. 1 in Menomonie of the proposed Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act that has bipartisan support in Congress.

This act, proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., addresses the revolving door between industry and government, financial conflicts of interest, transparency in government and judicial ethics.

This legislation includes bans on lawmakers and top executives becoming lobbyists. A U.S. Office of Public Integrity would enforce ethics laws and increase transparency to the public and press. Corporations and industry would be restricted from influencing or delaying laws, Brandt said.

A new office of Public Advocate would allow lawsuits by the public to hold agencies accountable for failing to enforce laws and would advocate for public interest in executive branch rule making, Brandt said.

Under the act, reform of the courts would ban judges from owning stock; they would not be able to accept gifts and free seminars from private individuals or corporations. Judges would be required to report their finances, recusal decisions and speeches.

In the second part of our session, Sue Suechting of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby showed James Redford’s documentary “Happening, A Clean Energy Revolution.” Of interest were the new renewable energy technologies of solar thermal facilities using infrared wavelengths of light and hydropower turbines in low-flow irrigation ditches. The improved technology in solar panels and wind power make renewable energy sources more cost-effective than fossil fuels. Renewable energy is rapidly creating a multitude of jobs, according to the documentary.

In 2015 a decision by the three-member Nevada State Public Utility Commission allowed Nevada Power to cut paybacks to those who had installed solar panels on their roofs. This ruling effectively closed down the large solar installation industry in Nevada; 18 months later, with newly-elected representatives, the Nevada legislature reversed the 2015 decision and passed 11 new clean energy bills.

The topic of the next “Community Conversations” will be Racism in the United States, presented by Beth Ann Hartung from politically-focused, grassroots citizen group Blue Jean Nation. This session is cosponsored by the Menomonie Public Library and will be held Jan. 5 at the library meeting room, 600 Wolske Bay Rd., from 1-3 p.m. The public is invited.

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