Chris Rickert: Clarke spurs Walker’s sudden interest in science | Recent columns by Chris Rickert

It’s not surprising that the train wreck known as Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke finally made a stop in Wisconsin’s capital.

It would be surprising, though, if Clarke’s latest controversy boosted Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s faith in science, given that science has not been among the guiding lights for his party or his administration over the last six years.

The deputy and Clarke deserve the benefit of an impartial investigation into whether a crime was committed and, if so, whether Clarke had any role in allowing it to happen.

On Wednesday, Walker said he doesn’t make decisions based on news stories and that it was up to the voters to decide Clarke’s fate. He also said he’d like to see a “scientific report” on the incident.

Scientific reports on one’s political allies aside, let’s look at some of the ways Walker, his party and his administration have treated science:

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  • Republicans have introduced measures to ban research on fetal tissue, something researchers say could hamper efforts to find life-saving cures. Walker has said in the past that he opposed the use of embryonic stem cells in research, but as governor has not made the issue a priority.
  • Walker signed a state ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, saying fetuses can feel pain at that gestation. Medical researchers have concluded that isn’t possible until 27 weeks.
  • Republicans are working to pass legislation that would loosen rules for high-capacity wells, despite studies showing such wells are lowering surface water levels generally in the Central Sands region. Walker helped kick off the yearslong push to weaken well regulation when he signed a Republican bill in 2011 that limited state agencies’ ability to put conditions on well permits not specifically authorized by statute.
  • The Department of Natural Resources, led by Walker appointee Cathy Stepp, last year scrubbed language from its website linking the burning of fossil fuels to climate change — a link the vast majority of scientists say is real. Walker has criticized efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and refused to say if he believes human activity is related to climate change.
  • Continuing a long bipartisan trend of cutting resources for the DNR, the Republican-led Legislature in 2015 agreed to Walker’s proposal to cut about half of the agency’s senior research scientist positions.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson did not respond to requests for comment on what exactly Walker was looking to get from a “scientific report.”

Actually, a lot of science has already gone into what we know about the Milwaukee…

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