Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Redistricting "Deform" in Wisconsin and Other Indignities Foisted Upon Us

Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update - July 19, 2011

  1. GOP Redistricting Plan to be Rammed Through Legislature This Week
  2. Open Meetings Law in Wisconsin Needs Constitutional Amendment to Make it Applicable to the Legislature
  3. Wisconsin First State in the Nation to Completely Murder Public Financing of Elections
  4. National Anti-Reform Special Interest Network Uncovered in Wisconsin

A half a year into 2011, the Wisconsin Legislature and Governor Scott Walker continue to lay waste to Wisconsin's once proud and nationally-recognized reputation for honest, transparent good government that worked for the interests of its citizens rather than for narrow partisan and big-moneyed special interests.

The current regime in the East Wing of the Capitol and their legislative allies have launched vicious assaults on more than 30 years of bipartisan reform and in less than six months have succeeded in rolling back a number of laws and policies that made Wisconsin the "Laboratory for Reform and Democracy." Now, we are in danger of becoming more like Mississippi or Alabama -- a backwater state controlled by big money and political bosses.

Since January, Wisconsin has enacted into law the most extreme, restrictive voter identification system in the entire United States. It will be harder to vote in Wisconsin than in any southern state -- bar none. And, we are now the first state in the nation to completely eliminate public financing of all state elections. Public financing is under attack all across the nation but thus far, only Wisconsin has totally eviscerated and eliminated it at the behest of powerful special interest groups who will now totally dominate our state elections and the public policy-making process that follows.

And there is more..................

1. Today, the Wisconsin State Senate will "consider" and pass the most partisan, secretive redistricting plan in Wisconsin's history. The majority Republicans in the State Senate and Assembly concocted this monstrosity entirely in secret utilizing hundreds of thousands of dollars of scarce taxpayer money to pay partisan lawyers. It was "released" a week ago Friday and then given a single public hearing in Madison last week. There was no alternative permitted and no other process to undertake redistricting considered.

The endgame is a foregone conclusion.

CC/WI worked with Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison) and a number of other legislators to construct an alternative, non-partisan redistricting process plan (Assembly Bill 198) that would have a neutral entity like the Legislative Reference Bureau and/or the Government Accountability Board draw the district lines without partisan political considerations but rather according to community interests. The Legislature would simply be able to vote the plan up or down. Such a process has been the law in Iowa since 1980 and has worked wonderfully. Legislative and Congressional elections are far more competitive there and the districts "make sense" and are contiguous and compact -- not full of holes or lizard-shaped. And, it costs next to nothing to accomplish in Iowa and they were done with it in April!

Listen here to hear CC/WI and others talk about the redistricting process in Wisconsin and how it can and should be changed.

2. As we discussed earlier, Wisconsin has the infamous distinction of being the first state to completely destroy its once effective public financing system in the nation. Full public financing for the Wisconsin Supreme Court didn't even survive for two years. The Impartial Justice Law was enacted into law in early December of 2009 and was in effect for exactly one election -- the Prosser-Kloppenburg contest in April of this year when both candidates received public financing and took no private or special interest contributions. The other part of the law -- that would have provided both candidates additional public financing to help offset vast outside special interest group spending -- was not in effect because the State Supreme Court wrongly blocked a disclosure rule from being in effect for the election. But now, it is gone as is the remnants of the once effective state public financing law enacted in 1977. The Wisconsin State Journal had a front page headline article about it earlier this month.

3. When the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 4 to 3 late last month that the Legislature did not have to abide by Wisconsin's Open Meetings Law, it became clear that a constitutional amendment is needed in order to make the law applicable to the lawmakers who concocted it. CC/WI was asked to support a measure introduced by Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) and spoke in favor of it at a Capitol Press Conference earlier this month. You can read more about the proposal and CC/WI's reaction to it here, here, here and here.

4. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a conservative, corporate-funded national entity that brings legislators and corporate lobbyists together to concoct "boiler plate" one-size-fits-all legislation that is introduced by the wined and dined legislators in their states, resulting in a national attack on the citizens of those states. Included in the ALEC agenda is legislative proposals to restrict the ability to vote in states (including Wisconsin), destroy public financing of state elections (including Wisconsin) so that special interest money can rule as well as the complete corporate economic and conservative social agenda body of proposals. 

Read this very revealing and comprehensive article about how ALEC operates in Wisconsin that was put together by the Center for Media and Democracy which includes comment from CC/WI.

Jay Heck, Executive Director
Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703

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