A3 Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Judges: Legislative boundaries unconstitutional
By TODD RICHMOND Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. — Federal judges struck down Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn legislative districts as unconstitutional on Monday, marking a victory for minority Democrats that could force the Legislature to redraw the maps. The three-judge panel didn’t order any immediate changes to district boundaries, instead saying they would give state attorneys and the voters who challenged the old maps 45 days to offer suggestions. State lawyers plan to appeal the 2-1 ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, but for now the decision offers hope for Democrats who have been in the minority for six years and lost more ground in this month’s elections. The lawsuit focuses on Assembly districts, but since Senate districts are based on the Assembly maps the ruling invalidates both chambers’ maps. “The court has clearly indicated the map is unconstitution-
and a better message that continues to resonate with voters,” he said. Republicans drew the maps in 2011 after they took full control of state government in the 2010 elections. They haven’t relinquished control of either house since. Assembly Republicans didn’t lose a seat and defeated a Democratic incumbent in this month’s elections to gain their largest majority in the chamber since 1957. Senate Republicans also didn’t lose a single seat and defeated a Democratic incumbent to gain their largest majority since 1971. A dozen voters sued in July 2015, arguing the maps unconstitutionally discriminated against Democrats by diluting their voting power. They called it the worst example of gerrymandering — a term for dividing districts to gain an unfair advantage — in modern history. One effect, plaintiff attorney Gerald Hebert argued during a trial in May, was to reduce the number of swing districts from 19 to 10. The plaintiffs also
al and that Wisconsin citizens deserve a fair map,” said Sachin Chheda, director of the Fair Elections Project, which organized the lawsuit. “We’re confident this is the first step in democracy being restored to the people of Wisconsin.” Republican state Attorney General Brad Schimel, whose state Justice Department defended the boundaries, issued a statement saying the agency plans to appeal and the decision doesn’t affect the results of this month’s elections. A spokeswoman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald referred questions to justice department. Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s spokesman, Tom Evenson, had no immediate comment, saying only that Walker’s office was reviewing the decision. Assembly Republican Speaker Robin Vos said Republican victories in Wisconsin are not because of redistricting. “Republicans win elections because we have better candidates
noted that under the new maps in 2012 Republicans won 60 of 99 Assembly seats even though Democrats won a majority of the statewide vote. Attorneys for the state countered Wisconsin is trending Republican and argued there’s no legal way to measure gerrymandering. They added that partisanship should be expected when one party draws legislative boundaries. The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to come up with a legal standard for deciding when redistricting becomes unconstitutional gerrymandering. Plaintiff attorneys offered the judges an equation that included measuring and comparing each party’s wasted votes in an election. State lawyers argued the equation lacked any constitutional basis and there was no way a court could measure gerrymandering. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kenneth Ripple and U.S. District Judge William Griesbach heard the case. Crabb was appointed by Democratic
President Jimmy Carter, Griesbach by Republican President George W. Bush and Ripple by Republican President Ronald Reagan. Crabb and Ripple accepted the equation. “We find that (the maps were) intended to burden the representational rights of Democratic voters throughout the decennial period by impeding their ability to translate their votes into legislative seats,” Ripple wrote for the majority. “We find that the discriminatory effect is not explained by the political geography of Wisconsin nor is it justified by a legitimate state interest.” Griesbach wrote in dissent the Republicans’ maps were politically motivated but comply with traditional redistricting principles. Republicans likely would have retained legislative control in the 2012 and 2014 elections without the new maps, he said. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca called Monday’s ruling “a historic victory.” “Voters,” he said, “should be able to choose their representatives, not the other way around.”
Council member Bill Plemel said he had seen Robinson’s list, and while he didn’t agree with all of the items, he agreed with Robinson putting resolving the tax problems first. “The situation with the tax roll is the No. 1 objective,” added Council member Heather Nelson, who had sent other members some background reading on setting goals and objectives, as well as the steps needed to bring Graff into place, or an onboarding process. Council member Frank Pohlmann said he wanted to see the council get past the discussion of goals and objectives into compiling all of the ideas from all nine members as soon as possible and begin forming a plan. “I’m ready to go,” Pohlmann said, suggesting that the chairman of the Judicial and Legislative/Personnel and Labor Committee sit down with Mayor Jean Stegeman to go through people’s written ideas. He, too, listed the tax situation as a priority, along with looking at the future financial implications of a review and mapping of the city’s sewer and water lines through a SAW Grant, which could lead to costly revamping of the municipal system. Council member Dennis Klitzke said he wanted to see the council establish some short-term goals right away and let Graff get settled and “get to know people. It will give us time to work on longer-term goals.” Stegeman said she and Plemel, who is chairman of J&L/ P&L, could work together to compile the lists and bring them back to council. “We aren’t sorting, we are compiling a list,” she assured council members, who were all asked to send their lists to both Stegeman and Plemel by tonight. She also spoke of the need to have Graff involved in setting goals and objectives. “It’s a good list,” she said of the onboarding steps Nelson made available to council members. “He’s started new jobs in new cities as least twice before. He should have some ideas.” Nelson said it was important to have things ready for Graff when he arrived, “to make him feel welcome.” Those things included introduction to staff and key individuals; touring of the facilities, and eventually, the city; introduction to telephone, email and technical equipment; and introduction to the community. Earlier in the meeting, Cheryl Hoffman, library director, said Spies Public Library will host a public meet-and-greet event there Dec. 7, where people can meet Graff informally. Pohlmann said Jamo could handle or delegate much of the onboarding process, but added that Graff needs to have a role in the process. “Rob can fill out certain things,” Pohlmann said of the list Nelson created, “but how it works needs to be determined by (Graff).” He said it was important to have Graff establish his “own entry plan, or in the first week or two, he could meet the wrong people.” Nelson said she wanted the city to handle the small details needed to make it a smooth transition and make information accessible. New employees “feel so much more welcome when you have that attention to details,” she said. “By no means is it an exclusive list.” Jamo said he would handle many of the introductory details on the list. Both Plemel and Council member Josh Jones said they believed the council was further ahead in establishing a course of action for the new city manager than how is was handled in the past.
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the GOP of threatening the health care of millions. A SOLUTION Nothing’s been decided, but here’s one likely scenario: The new Congress, which convenes Jan. 3, tries to quickly approve legislation repealing Obama’s health care law, maybe completing it by Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration or soon after. But the repeal would not take effect until the future, perhaps a year later, to give lawmakers time to fashion a replacement. The version Obama vetoed had a two-year delay. Seemingly acknowledging that two-step process, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Sunday on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump “wants to focus out of the gate on repealing Obamacare and beginning the process of replacing Obamacare.” Because Republicans will control the Senate by just 52-48, Congress will first have to approve special budget procedures to prevent Democrats from stopping repeal legislation by filibuster. Bill-killing filibusters require 60 votes to end. GOP RISKS One GOP danger: Congress and Trump might repeal Obama’s law, but while they’re laboring on a replacement, nervous insurance companies begin pulling out of markets and raising premiums. Insurers have been doing that under Obama, but now it would occur under a Republican government. Another hazard: Congress’ work could spill into the 2018 campaign season, when the entire House and a third of the Senate
12th. Class sizes, including high school learning labs, shall not exceed 27 to 1 as of the start of each semester.” Currently there are 27 classes within the junior and senior high that are overloaded and this has been an ongoing problem within the district for many years, Flores said. “This is not new,” Flores said. “This isn’t the first time. It’s something that really bothers the staff because it’s an ongoing problem.” The last case, in 2014, went before a judge in Lansing, whose job was to find a solution that both sides could agree upon. “The solution last time was that we gave up the remedies in the contract that stated what would happen if the district violated the contract — it was compensation that the district would pay the teachers in one way or another,” Flores said. “On a handshake agreement we gave up that language because the district wanted that out of the contract. In return, staff who had overloaded classrooms get a token financial compensation. It wasn’t very much, but it was a token. It was the district admitting that they had done wrong. “We took the language
out also on the promise that this would never happen again — this was a handshake agreement that didn’t last very long.” According to Flores, staff members who had one overloaded class received $250, while those who had more than one got $500 — this was through the Unfair Labor Practice settlement. In the 2015-16 school year, a moratorium (a temporary prohibition of an activity) on class sizes was granted by the MCDEA to show cooperation with the district, so the budget could get under control, Flores explained. “This grievance will be going through arbitration,” she said. “The compensation was significantly less than previously and they also wanted a moratorium/ clause in our contract that stated no further payments for future violations.” Flores said the district has failed to meet the deadline after two agreements to extend the timeline were granted. “We were very disappointed that the district seems to not take this ongoing issue seriously,” Flores said. “Their offer was not only unacceptable to MCDEA, but is another example of how the district undervalues and disrespects its employees. This is an ongoing problem that needs a permanent solution.”
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face re-election. Republicans will grow increasingly timid about anything that might anger voters. GOP PATHWAYS Virtually all Republicans want to get rid of the health law’s mandates that individuals buy coverage or risk IRS fines, and that large employers insure workers. They also want to erase taxes on higher-earning people and the health care sector. And they’d like to retain parts of the law guaranteeing coverage for people with pre-existing medical problems and keeping children under age 26 on family plans. REMAINING QUESTIONS Thirty-one states — including Pence’s Indiana, where he is governor — plus the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid coverage to 9 million additional people under Obama’s law. Curtailing that program will divide Republicans. Taxing the value of some employer-provided health plans, aimed at curbing the growth of costs, is “a political land mine,” says GOP economist Douglas HoltzEakin. Republicans have long resisted tax increases. Obama’s law mandates coverage for individuals because without that requirement many healthy people would forgo policies, driving up costs for everyone else and destabilizing insurance markets. Ryan has proposed shielding people from higher premiums if they’ve had “continuous coverage,” allowing higher rates for people who have not had policies, but Republicans have yet to decide how to keep insurance markets viable.
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