Afternoon State News Briefs: Court rules minimum mark-up constitutionalWisconsin News
-- The 4th District Court of Appeals rules the state’s minimum gas markup law is constitutional.
MADISON - The 4th District Court of Appeals rules the state’s minimum gas markup law is constitutional.
That decision affirms a decision by Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi to deny a gas station owner’s argument the law violates the Wisconsin Constitution’s equal protection clause. Five years ago, Merrill gas station operator Raj Bhandari went to court with the argument the minimum markup law unfairly singles out gasoline retailers for regulation. Judge Sumi dismissed the suit. The appeals court concluded the law serves the state’s goal of achieving fair prices. An attorney for Bhandari says all the law does is limit competition and innovative approaches.
Controversy, recall elections and a super-heated political climate are expected to generate bigger-than-usual crowds at this year’s Wisconsin state party conventions. Green Bay is getting ready for a convergence of Republicans this weekend, with a spokesman saying this year’s attendance should top the 1,300 who showed up last year in Wisconsin Dells. Democrats meet next month in Appleton. A party spokesperson says the historic recall election, this November’s presidential vote and an open U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin can be expected to mean huge crowds for the Democratic state party convention June 8th and 9th.
The first independent poll numbers came out today in the governor’s recall election on June fifth. Rasmussen Reports gave Republican Scott Walker a five-point lead over his Democratic challenger Tom Barrett. Fifty-percent of 500 likely voters said they’d support Walker. Barrett got 45-percent. Two-percent said they’d vote for somebody else, and another two-percent were undecided. Rasmussen’s poll was taken yesterday, after Walker and Barrett won their respective party primaries on Tuesday. The margin of error is plus-or-minus four-and-a-half percent. Meanwhile, U.S. House Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Madison told MSNBC today that she does not believe next month’s recalls will trigger a new round of recalls in Wisconsin next year. Baldwin – the presumptive Democratic nominee the U.S. Senate this fall – called the Wisconsin recalls a “very rare occurrence.” She said it sprung up from grass-roots and quote, “You can’t replicate that on a routine basis.” Even so, Baldwin said Wisconsinites are more engaged politically than she’s even them before. She’ll face one of four Republicans in November.
A Wisconsin lawmaker wants a committee to suggest a policy on the use of e-mails and text messages between officials at public government meetings. Assembly Democrat Jon Richards of Milwaukee brought up the idea, after the Wisconsin State Journal looked at 7,600 e-mails and texts exchanged by participants at Madison City Council meetings from April of 2010 through 2011. Many of the texts were humorous exchanges or personal discussions of city issues. But Bill Lueders of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council is concerned that officials might be using cyberspace to hide important discussions while issues are being debated during meetings. Some Madison aldermen are concerned as well, and they want the Council’s organizational committee to consider new rules. Richards says a statewide policy should be considered. He notes that the state’s Open Meeting Law has not kept up with quote, “the communications revolution.” The state bans using e-mail to create quorums that can conduct public business. And Madison bans silent communications during meetings unless they’re saved as public records, and they don’t violate state laws.
A Wisconsin man who was caught hauling 70 pounds of marijuana on a South Dakota freeway has been found guilty of two criminal charges in that state. 37-year-old Mario Ernesto Mendoza-Cuellar was convicted of pot possession with the intent to deliver, and obstructing law enforcement. South Dakota’s attorney general announced the conviction, but did not say where in Wisconsin Mendoza-Cuellar is from. He was arrested last November, after he was caught with the marijuana during a traffic stop on Interstate-90 near Box Elder, South Dakota. Mendoza-Cuellar is scheduled to be sentenced June fourth.
A report released by the Milwaukee Police Department shows African-Americans made up the majority of traffic stops last year in four of the seven police districts. In one district nine out of 10 traffic stops involved an African-American driver. That was District-7 where just eight percent of those stopped were white. In District-4, 86 percent of stopped drivers were black, and two other districts were over 80 percent. Each of those police districts include local populations of more than 50 percent minority residents. The same report, released earlier today, shows more than half the victims of crimes are black.