Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Political Reform Plows Ahead Through Snow and Winter

Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update
Wednesday - February 19, 2014

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686

1. Good-Sized Audience Braves Snow to Attend Edgewood College Reform Forum Monday
2. Non-Partisan Redistricting Reform Now Backed By Nineteen Wisconsin Daily Newspapers
3. Disgraced Former Assembly Speaker is Back Lobbying in the Capitol
4. Former Federal Communications Commission Chair in Wisconsin to Warn of Media Consolidation and Domination
5. CC/WI "On the Road" Again for Redistricting Reform: Next Week in Greenfield

1. Despite periods of heavy snow and treacherous driving, 85 citizens ventured out into a cold winter Monday evening to attend Common Cause in Wisconsin's Reform Forum at Edgewood College in Madison. The diverse and opinionated panel for the event, moderated by Wisconsin State Journal Editorial Page Editor Scott Milfred, was composed of State Senators Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center), Fred Risser (D-Madison), Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Edgewood College Social Science Professor Steven Davis, Conservative blogger and activist David Blaska and CC/WI director Jay Heck.

The need for non-partisan redistricting reform in Wisconsin was a focal point and was highlighted by Professor Davis' presentation of legislative and congressional district maps and statistics regarding the competitiveness of elections in Wisconsin and other gerrymandered states such as Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania -- compared with states that have non-partisan redistricting such as Iowa and Arizona. The disastrous 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision. Citizens United vs, F.E.C. and its effect on elections in Wisconsin was discussed, with all but Blaska asserting that it needed to be overturned. Wisconsin's extreme and restrictive 2011 voter photo ID law (Act 23) which has been enjoined by the Courts and has not been in effect, and new attempts to re-introduce it in another form as well as other possible upcoming restrictions on voting in Wisconsin were explored.

Senator Schultz made news by announcing he regretted his 2011 vote in favor of voter photo ID and would not be voting for any attempts to further restrict voting during his remaining time in office. The future of elections for the State Supreme Court and whether Wisconsin ought to change the current system and move toward a merit selection system instead was debated as was whether or not Wisconsin ought to make it easier for political parties, other than the two major parties, to be able to grow and thrive.

Thanks to everyone who attended the event. A video of the entire forum will be available soon for viewing by those who were unable to attend Monday evening. Stay tuned.

2. Last week's "alternative" public hearing on non-partisan redistricting reform in the State Capitol sponsored by Senator Schultz and State Senator Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) and this week's Edgewood College forum have combined to keep this issue front and center on the statewide radar screen. The number of Wisconsin daily newspapers that have endorsed this reform has, by our count, climbed to an unprecedented nineteen: Appleton Post-Crescent, Beloit Daily News, The Capital Times, The Chippewa Herald, Eau Claire Leader Telegram, Green Bay Press-Gazette, Janesville Gazette, Kenosha News, La Crosse Tribune, Marshfield New Herald, Manitowoc Herald Times, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Racine Journal Times, Sheboygan Press, Stevens Point Journal, Tomah Journal, Wausau Daily Herald, Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune and the Wisconsin State Journal. That's a big number and a powerful voice for reform in Wisconsin.

Support for (or opposition to) non-partisan redistricting reform to be in place prior to the 2021 redistricting process is shaping up to be a potent political issue in the upcoming 2014 elections. Candidates opposing this reform will do so at their peril.

3. Former Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen (R-Town of Brookfield) was toppled from power with four other Wisconsin legislators of both political parties in 2002 in the "Legislative Caucus Scandal," the most serious political scandal to rock Wisconsin in a century. Jensen was ultimately convicted of a misdemeanor in a retrial that was moved from Dane to Waukesha County in 2010. As part of the plea deal settlement, Jensen was barred from state public office for the rest of his life. But he was not banned from being a powerful, influential lobbyist for school "choice" in Wisconsin and last week Jensen was back in the State Capitol to testify for the first time since he left elective office.

4. Former Federal Communications Commissioner and Chair Michael Copps, now with national Common Cause, was in Wisconsin last week to warn against further media consolidation, decry a recent court decision against "net neutrality" and to boost independent and local media as a necessary safeguard and vital source of information for citizens in the face of the current corporate media onslaught.

A profile of Copps and his important mission were featured recently by Progressive Magazine editor Ruth Conniff which you can access here. Copps also spent an hour on statewide Wisconsin Public Radio discussing these issues when he was here and you can listen to that here.

5. For more than a year, CC/WI has been "spreading the gospel" about the urgent need to adopt non-partisan redistricting reform in Wisconsin. Next week, we take our on-going "road show" to Greenfield -- which is in the district of State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) who, in her capacity as the Chair of the Senate Committee on Elections and Urban Affairs, has refused to even schedule a public hearing on the non-partisan redistricting reform legislation (Senate Bill 163 and Assembly Bill 185) introduced nearly ten months ago. CC/WI director Jay Heck will speak at the Greenfield Library next Wednesday evening, February 26th, during a program that begins at 6:15 PM. If you are in the area, be sure to attend for what promises to be an interesting evening. Full details are here.

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

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