From The Capital Times - December 6, 2017

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Demand Public Hearings in the State Senate and Assembly on Redistricting Reform Legislation Now!



For Release: Tuesday - November 21, 2017

Legislative Leaders Continue to Ignore Public Outcry for Public Hearings
on Fair Voter Maps Legislation


Wisconsin Assemby Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald have said recently that the Republican-controlled Legislature is by and large finished with its legislative agenda for the 2017-2018 session. They are expected to adjourn in early to mid-Spring for the year to "concentrate" on stockpiling special interest campaign cash for their re-election campaigns, while continuing to draw full-time salary and benefits. Great gig, if you can get it.

Keep in mind, Wisconsin is by far the smallest state in the nation, population-wise, that has a "full-time" Legislature. For what?

Now, it's possible the Legislature may move to do a few more things during the first three months of 2018. Perhaps they will decide to exempt toddlers who have concealed carry permits from the 21-year-old legal drinking age in Wisconsin. Or, perhaps they will act to outlaw gatherings of two or more Wisconsinites who talk about the rotten state of political discourse as potentially "riotous" behavior. Or, officially change the name of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to "Do Not Resuscitate," thus saving taxpayers nearly $43 because the agency can continue to use its DNR stationery. But we don't need environmental regulations in this state any more!

Having too much time on their hands is a problem for this Legislature.

But there is at least one more thing they really ought to do before they close up shop to beg for campaign cash in 2018.

Fitzgerald and Vos must allow public hearings to be scheduled and conducted on redistricting reform legislation before the Legislature adjourns sine dine in 2018.

That legislation is Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 44 – the exact same legislation that has been introduced for the past four legislative sessions. GOP legislative leaders didn't allow public hearings during 2011-12 or 2013-14. Vos finally did do it in 2015-16, on April 1, 2016 – after the legislative session officially adjourned and only because Common Cause in Wisconsin and The Wisconsin State Journal teamed up to embarrass Assembly Campaign and Elections Committee Chair, State Rep. Kathleen Bernier (R-Lake Halle), into holding one.

But during 2017, when the unconstitutional Wisconsin 2011 gerrymandering lawsuit is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, and public interest in this critical issue is extremely high, there has been nothing but "crickets" from Fitzgerald and Vos. In fact, Vos recently went out of his way to criticize Republican Governor John Kasich of Ohio for having the audacity to support fair election maps and oppose hyper-partisan gerrymandering. How dare that Kasich side with citizens over political bosses!

Clearly, Robin Vos, Scott Fitzgerald and your state legislators need to hear from you, the citizens of Wisconsin about your support for Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 44 again, and your demand that they schedule a public hearing on the legislation immediately. Public hearing(s) before Christmas would be good...

And, if you haven't done this yet, please sign our online petition in support of the redistricting reform legislation. If you have already signed it, please urge family and friends to do so at your upcoming Thanksgiving gathering! Ending hyper-partisan gerrymandering is a subject everyone can agree on around the holiday table! :-) We have nearly 4,000 individual signees so far and would like to boost that total up to 5,000 by year's end.

Thanks so much for your active support for democracy in Wisconsin, and Happy Thanksgiving to you from all of us at CC/WI!





CONTACT:

Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



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Monday, November 6, 2017

State Senate to Vote Tuesday on Dangerous, Misguided Legislation That Will Undermine The U.S. Constitution



For Release: Monday - November 6, 2017


Completely Unnecessary and Unwanted Measure to Amend the U.S. Constitution
in a Dangerous Way Will Come Up for a Vote

Despite many other pressing state issues of great concern to Wisconsin citizens, Republicans in the State Senate have carved out time on Tuesday, November 7th, to vote on a measure no one is calling for except for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and some other wealthy special interest groups that bankroll the state GOP – such as Wisconsin Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

A measure to make Wisconsin the 28th state (of 34 needed) to call for an Article V Constitutional Convention – AJR 21 – a misguided measure written for the stated purpose of adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but which would take us well beyond even that draconian, disastrous outcome was added to the State Senate calendar late on Friday, without advance warning. And no wonder. No real Wisconsin citizens are clamoring for this.

A convention like this has never been called and assembled before in our nation's history (since the first and only Constitutional Convention establishing the nation in 1787) and it could be a very destructive and dangerous event. A convention of this type could go well beyond a balanced budget measure and go on to alter or eliminate citizen rights currently protected by the Constitution. Voting rights, civil rights, women's rights, an end to democracy and freedom itself. The possibilities are endless.

The measure passed in the Assembly in June. Seven Assembly Republicans joined all the Assembly Democrats in voting against the call for a "ConCon," which is a good nickname for this abomination. Public opposition played a big role in their votes against it. Prospects for passage in the Republican-controlled State Senate had appeared much less certain at that time. GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) had expressed grave reservations about the matter, as had other State Senate Republicans. But Fitzgerald, without explanation, appears to have "changed his mind" and caved into special interest pressure.

It is vitally important that you contact your State Senator today, Monday, and demand that he or she vote against AJR 21. It is our understanding that all Democratic State Senators currently oppose AJR 21. But your call to them is still important, so please do not hesitate to contact them if they represent you. If you are not sure who your State Senator is, check here.

The following Republican State Senators are particularly important to contact as they are not co-sponsors of the ConCon resolution and/or some, including Fitzgerald, have expressed doubts about it in the past:

Robert Cowles
- State Senate District 2
Dan Feyen - State Senate District 18
Scott Fitzgerald - State Senate District 13
Devin LeMahieu - State Senate District 9
Terry Moulton - State Senate District 23
Luther Olsen - State Senate District 14
Jerry Petrowski - State Senate District 29
Roger Roth - State Senate District 19
Van Wangaard - State Senate District 21

If the measure passes in the State Senate, we lose. It does not need Gov. Scott Walker's approval, although not surprisingly, he strongly supports it.

Here is some background information about the measure: Jay Heck appeared on statewide Wisconsin Public Television's Here and Now program in June, in opposition to the Article V Constitutional Convention measures. He was also a guest on Wisconsin Public Radio's Joy Cardin program on the same subject, which you can listen to here. For more on this, go here, here, and here.

Please act today! A few calls and messages to some of these "reluctant" Republican State Senators could help persuade them to do the right thing and vote against AJR 21!




CONTACT:

Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Wisconsinites Overwhelmingly Support Greater Judicial Transparency and Recusal



For Release: Tuesday - October 31, 2017


Public Hearings & Recent Polling Demonstrate
WI Supreme Court Majority is Badly Out of Touch

Common Cause in Wisconsin spent much of the month of October conducting three public hearings around Wisconsin on the subject of judicial recusal. We organized these public events after the Wisconsin Supreme Court, last April, voted 5 to 2 to reject a petition proposing stronger recusal rules for Wisconsin judges at all levels, submitted to the Court last January from 57 retired jurists, including two former state supreme court justices. The same five justices who voted to reject the petition, also voted against even holding a public hearing on the issue – which has become increasingly important in recent years.

At out final public hearing on judicial recusal, held on October 24th in Madison, more than 150 citizens attended a packed, "standing room only" event, with hundreds more viewing the live stream video online. Wisconsin Eye also video-taped and recorded the event, which you can view here.

Our thanks to Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, former Dane County Circuit Court Judge, and former Chair of the now-dissolved Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, Gerald Nichol and League of Women Voters of Wisconsin executive director Andrea Kaminski, who all joined CC/WI Director Jay Heck as panelists at the hearing. And thanks to the dozens of citizens, including many former judges, who testified before the panel or asked excellent questions.

Earlier in October, we had terrific audiences and public participation at our public hearing in Green Bay on October 2nd at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and on October 11th at our public hearing at the Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee. Thanks to the excellent panelists and citizens who attended and participated in those events. You can access the Facebook video of the Green Bay hearing here and the Milwaukee hearing here.

Also during October, Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, NC conducted a poll of 1,116 Wisconsin voters that included two questions on judicial transparency and recusal. The results demonstrate how overwhelmingly Wisconsinites favor stronger judicial transparency and recusal rules. Here are the questions from the polls and the results:
Question: I am going to list some proposals people have made regarding strengthening State Supreme Courts and state judicial systems. For each one, please say whether you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose it. Here’s the first one: The public has a right to know exactly which people, organizations, and businesses give money to judges’ elections and what a judge’s financial ties are. For transparency and accountability, states should require strict and prompt reporting of all campaign contributions and spending before Election Day, so the public can know which special interests are trying to influence the election and future court decisions. Do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this proposal?

Strongly favor 65%
Somewhat favor 17%
Somewhat oppose 8%
Strongly oppose 2%
Not sure 8%

Here’s the next question: Judges should not be the ones to decide whether or not they have a conflict of interest in a particular case. Instead, states should adopt clear and strong ethics rules and standards for when a judge must step aside, for example, if the judge has a business or financial interest in the outcome of the case, or if anyone involved in the case gave money to the judge’s election campaign. Do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this proposal?

Strongly favor 59%
Somewhat favor 23%
Somewhat oppose 8%
Strongly oppose 4%
Not sure 6%
The answers to these two questions show that 82 percent of Wisconsinites strongly or somewhat favor greater disclosure of campaign contributions and spending in judicial elections, while just 10 percent strongly or somewhat oppose greater disclosure. Similarly, 82 percent of Wisconsin strongly or somewhat favor the adoption of strong recusal rules for judges while only 12 percent somewhat or strongly oppose them.

The poll results and the testimony from panelists and citizens at CC/WI's three October public hearings demonstrate beyond dispute, that the Wisconsin Supreme Court's 5 to 2 vote and decision last April to reject considering the adoption of strong judicial recusal rules was misguided, massively out of line with the public's opinion on the matter, and just plain wrong. It is an issue that must be kept front and center during the upcoming April, 2018 election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court and beyond – until the Court does the right thing on this issue and adopts strong recusal rules.

Thanks everyone, for helping CC/WI to elevate this issue and in making your voices heard. With your help, we will keep this issue at the forefront.

Incidentally, Happy Halloween!






CONTACT:

Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

TONIGHT in Madison: Judicial Recusal "Public Hearing" with Justices Shirley Abrahamson & Ann Walsh Bradley




For Release: Tuesday - October 24, 2017


Why We Need Effective Judicial Recusal Rules in Wisconsin

Common Cause in Wisconsin is holding the last of three town hall "public hearings" on judicial recusal tonight from 6:30PM to 8:00PM in the Grand Hall at Capitol Lakes - 333 West Main Street, Madison, WI.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley will join former Dane County Circuit Court Judge Gerald Nichol as panelists. Nichol was the former Chair of the now-dissolved, nonpartisan Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

Wisconsinites would be shocked to know that our state is among the four worst in the nation with regard to the strength of recusal rules for judges receiving campaign contributions. Our current state recusal "non-standard" essentially states that justices may decide for themselves whether to recuse in a case involving a party who contributed to them. It was written verbatim by conservative special interest groups in 2010!

This past April, the Wisconsin Supreme Court considered a petition by more than 50 retired Wisconsin judges to establish reasonable thresholds for recusal of judges at all levels when they receive campaign contributions from a defendant or plaintiff – or if they benefited from spending by an “outside” special interest group involved in a case before their court.

Incredibly, the State Supreme Court voted 5 to 2 to reject this petition, and the Court did so without a single public hearing.

With a Wisconsin Supreme Court election looming in early 2018 to replace retiring anti-recusal Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, it is critical that Wisconsinites fully understand and raise their voices about this issue – which will be prominent in that election.

For more on precisely why stronger recusal rules for judges are urgently needed in Wisconsin, read this excellent analysis by Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy.

The Capital Times published this editorial on the importance of these events as well.

Press coverage of the October 11th public hearing in Milwaukee is here.

Attend this free event to learn more about this vital issue, to ask questions, and to share your thoughts.

We hope you can attend, and bring a friend or two with you! Click here to RSVP.

If you can't make it to Madison tonight, then join us online! We will be live streaming video of the event from Madison on our Facebook page here. You can also Tweet your questions to @CommonCauseWI on Twitter.

Co-sponsoring this event with CC/WI are the the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Dane County, The Madison Institute, and the American Association of University Women-Wisconsin.




CONTACT:

Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



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