Monday, August 28, 2017

Redistricting Reform & Judicial Recusal

By Roger Utnehmer

Two branches of Wisconsin government are suffering the moral equivalent of emerald ash borer disease.

Like far too many once-beautiful trees throughout Wisconsin, the state legislature and Supreme Court are in danger of losing their luster.

Government derives its power from the consent of the governed. An informed electorate will never consent to the reapportionment and recusal corruption that’s plaguing the Wisconsin legislature and Supreme Court.

Every ten years the legislature, taking into account the most recent census data, re-draws district boundaries for the state senate and assembly. That practice has resulted in Wisconsin legislators picking their voters instead of Wisconsin voters picking their legislators.

It’s called “gerrymandering” and Wisconsin is among the most gerrymandered states in the country. When several hundred thousand more state-wide citizens vote for Democrats in state assembly races than Republicans and Republicans keep more than a two-thirds of the seats, the electoral process is as diseased as a dying emerald ash tree.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Money Doesn't Talk, It Screams

By Tom Frazier

As a registered lobbyist for almost 27 years and an unpaid, volunteer lobbyist for the last seven years, I have witnessed some major political changes, most of them not good.

One such change is obvious and that is the ever increasing influence of money in political decision-making. This influence was growing already when I retired at the end of 2009, but then the Supreme Court ruling in January 2010 in the Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for that influence. This 5-4 decision said that money was free speech and allowed for-profit corporations, non-profit corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns, including ads favoring one candidate over another.

The recent attempt by Speaker Paul Ryan and President Trump to pass the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) is an example of how bad the influence of money has become. The replacement, the American Health Care Act, contained a $1 trillion tax cut, primarily for the benefit of the wealthy, funded largely by a cut of $880 billion in Medicaid funding. This was an intentional strategy on the part of Ryan to make it easier to provide even larger tax cuts to businesses when Congress and the President moved on to tax reform. In an interview with Fox Business News on March 15, 2017, Ryan said:
“A trillion dollars…that’s 10 percentage points on rates for businesses. It takes the corporate rate from 35 to 20 [%]. That’s why doing this [health care] first makes tax reform that much easier to accomplish.”
Providing large tax cuts to those who don’t need them at the expense of huge cuts in health care for the most vulnerable (elderly, disabled, and children) is, I believe, cynical bordering on unconscionable.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Gerrymandering: Unconstitutional and Unaffordable

By Tom Frazier

“Gerrymander” is defined as: “To divide (an area) into political units to give special advantage to one group.” It was named after Elbridge Gerry, Governor of Massachusetts, who in 1812 signed a law redistricting state election districts. One district in Essex County was described as looking like a salamander, thus the word “Gerrymander” was created by combining the names.

Wisconsin has one of the worst cases in the country of using gerrymandering to give “special advantage to one group” – in this case Republicans in the state legislature. But gerrymandering is a bi-partisan problem according to Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. The two worst Democratic states are Rhode Island and Maryland, while Wisconsin and North Carolina comprise the two worst Republican states Heck reports. The big difference is that Wisconsin is the first such state to have a three-judge federal appeals panel rule that Wisconsin’s redistricting law “constitutes an unconstitutional political gerrymander.” The panel voted 2-1 to direct the state to develop a new redistricting plan and have it in place by November 1, 2017 for the 2018 elections.