Afternoon State Government and Political Briefs: Judge dismisses lawsuits, recall elections go forwardWisconsin News
-- Recall elections against nine Wisconsin senators will proceed. Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess threw out a lawsuit today which challenged the legality of those contests.
MADISON - Recall elections against nine Wisconsin senators will proceed. Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess threw out a lawsuit today which challenged the legality of those contests.
He said the Government Accountability Board explored all the issues in great depth, and it still approved the elections. And Niess said the board had no clear duty to invalidate the recall votes. Both parties claimed the recall petitions against their members were not valid. Democrats said petitioners used fraud in getting many of their signatures, while Republicans accused recall organizers of filing improper paperwork with the state. The first recall votes are planned for Tuesday, with Democratic primaries. Those winners will then run against the six targeted Republicans August ninth. Three Democrats are also targeted.
The Republican version of Wisconsin’s new state legislative districts was released this afternoon. Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and his brother, Senate leader Scott Fitzgerald, are giving folks 11 days to review the maps before they vote to approve them on July 19th. This is the first time since the 1950’s that Republicans control both houses and the governor’s office during the redistricting process. And while legislative Democrats cannot stop the GOP’s maps from being approved, others are going to court to stop them. Former Democratic Senate leader Judy Robson of Beloit and 13 others want a three-judge federal panel to step in and draw non-partisan Assembly and Senate boundaries – just like they had to do for the last three decades. The process is being handled a few months earlier than normal. Critics say the GOP is trying to ram through their new maps before the recall elections – when it’s possible that Democrats could regain the majority in the Senate. The party in power can stack the new districts to include as many of their voters as possible, to try-and-control the Legislature for up to 10 years until the next redistricting. In a statement, the Fitzgeralds said they’ve fulfilled their constitutional requirement to re-draw district lines according to population changes in each 10-year Census.
The GOP’s congressional boundaries were also released. And as expected, central Wisconsin’s previous “community of interest” was split up in what critics say is an attempt to keep freshman Republican Sean Duffy of Ashland in office. Of the four major cities in central Wisconsin, only Marshfield and Wausau would remain in Duffy’s district. Stevens Point – the most Democratic city in the region – would move to House Democrat Ron Kind’s district in western Wisconsin, along with Wisconsin Rapids.
A new report said Governor Scott Walker’s administration did not set up a clear chain of command for handling the massive pro-union protests in February and March. Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch admitted the lack of organization. He said he had Wisconsin Emergency Management and the National Guard prepare the report, so the administration could learn what to do better next time. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel obtained the report. Among other things, it said there were no clear-cut decision makers for handling the protestors, and no chain of leadership from the executive branch to law enforcement. The report said planning work between various agencies didn’t start until well after the protests. And before then, the focus was on how to respond to possible union work stoppages instead of dealing with protestors. Huebsch told the paper that no one could have anticipated the thousands of people descending on the Capitol to protest the law which limits public union bargaining. And if he had to do it over again, Huebsch said he would have known more about his responsibilities – which he didn’t know in February. Also, the report said the administration did not have input in the decision to let people sleep in the Capitol and set up food and first aid stations. Huebsch said everyone was in a reactionary mode. But once things got going, it was sorted out quickly.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signs a bill allowing people to carry concealed weapons in the state. The bill signing this afternoon in the Wausau area leaves Illinois the only state not allowing concealed carry. Gun supporters say legalizing concealed carry in Wisconsin should have happened long before now. Opponents say it won’t stop crime and just means more guns on the street. The law goes into effect in November. It allows people who obtain a permit and go through training to carry concealed weapons in most public buildings – unless a sign is posted saying they aren’t permitted. Four months before Wisconsin’s new concealed carry legislation goes into effect, gun stores and companies offering firearms safety courses say lines are already forming. Shops in Milwaukee, Waukesha and West Allis are among those saying they have hundreds of names on waiting lists for the safety classes. Some stores are reporting they are increasing their inventory of weapons in anticipation of dramatically-increased demand for guns.
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville blamed the Democrats’ lack of action on a federal budget plan for today’s dismal employment report. The Labor Department said only 18,000 net jobs were added throughout the country last month, as the unemployment rate rose to nine-point-two percent. Ryan and Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, gave their response in a column in the National Review Online. They said America’s job creators want “certainty and confidence” in the economy – and it requires what they called a “credible plan to cut spending, prevent future tax hikes, and reassure our creditors that we’re restoring fiscal discipline.” Ryan and Sessions said the Democrats are quote, “punting their responsibility” – and as long as they keep doing it, we’ll keep getting more weak job reports. Businesses added 57,000 jobs in June while governments cut 39-thousand. Companies have pulled back on hiring after adding a monthly average of 215,000 jobs from February-through-April. Wages have dropped, too – and after-tax incomes are flat this year after adjusting for inflation. Ryan points out that unemployment has topped eight-percent for 29 straight months. That’s the long streak since the Great Depression. Stock futures took a nose-dive after this morning’s report.