January 26, 2015

Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan introduces right to vote amendment

Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI)

Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI)

Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan is proposing a right to vote constitutional amendment. “Right now there is not an explicit right to vote in our U.S. Constitution,” said the Madison Democrat, who introduced the “Pocan-Ellison Right to Vote Amendment” with Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison and a group of other House Democrats. “It’s certainly implied, they talk about discrimination in voting. But when they wrote the U.S. Constitution, white male property owners who were over 21 were the only people who could vote.”

Pocan said a constitutional amendment is the best solution, as individual states attempt to make it harder to vote. “I think it would reduce the individual fights we have state-by-state,” he said. “We see voting restrictions happen in the states, and the best way to deal with that is rather than state-by-state, is to make sure that there is an explicit right to vote within the constitution, so that the burden then falls on a state that makes it harder for someone to vote, rather than someone having to prove that they’ve been harmed by a state law.

Pocan and Ellison point to data from the Brennan Center for Justice, which found that more than 80 restrictive bills were introduced in 29 state legislatures last year.

Scott Walker at Iowa Freedom Summit this weekend

WRN photo

WRN photo

He hasn’t made it official yet, but this weekend Governor Scott Walker heads to Iowa, to meet and greet people who could help him if he decides to run for President in 2016. Whether it’s Washington D. C. faces like Senator Marco Rubio, or those with governor experience, like Rick Perry, Walker said he has a unique message.

“From our standpoint, we’re starting to share a little bit of the message of what we’ve accomplished here in the state of Wisconsin, of who I am, and what we’ve done here in the state,” Walker said during a stop in DePere on Thursday.

Walker said it’s all about promoting the Wisconsin comeback. “My belief is, talking to voters here in the state and around the country, is that people want someone new, someone fresh with big bold ideas from outside of Washington.”

Walker – and a gaggle of other GOP presidential hopefuls – is scheduled to attend the weekend Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines on Saturday. The event hosted Citizens United and Iowa Congressman Steve King is billed as “a launch point for conservative ideas as we head towards 2016.”

Walker said there will be no announcement of his candidacy until after state lawmakers adopt a new 2 year state budget.


Wisconsin Democrats mark Citizens United anniversary (VIDEO)

On the five-year anniversary of Citizens United, activists in Wisconsin and elsewhere continue efforts to push back. The 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling means corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts to support political campaigns. At a Capitol press conference in Madison on Wednesday, Jim Bowman of Appleton said that’s been to the detriment of voters.

“I talked with a Packer fan recently about how we might solve this problem,” said Bowman. “Why don’t we just replicate the NFL’s solution? The NFL caps players’ salaries to establish a level playing field between teams.”

Leveling the political playing field is the goal of a resolution by state Representative Lisa Subeck, a Madison Democrat. “All that this resolution would do is put an advisory referendum on the ballot, to give our constituents the opportunity to be heard on what is arguably one of the most important issues of our time,” Subeck said.

Subeck said local referendums asking voters if the U.S. Constitution should be amended to invalidate Citizens United have already passed in 54 Wisconsin communities. “These are areas, in many instances who have Republican representatives who could make a difference in moving this bill forward,” she said. “We should want to hear what our constituents have to say, and we should empower them.”

Subeck’s measure, which is sponsored by Green Bay Senator Dave in that chamber, will be a tough sell in a Republican-controlled legislature. A similar effort by Representative Chris Taylor failed to gain GOP support in the previous legislative session.

Senate approves change in way chief justice is selected

Senate floor debate (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Senate floor debate (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Republican members of the state Senate approve a proposed constitutional amendment that would change the manner in which the head of the Supreme Court is selected.

Under current statute, the most senior member of the state’s high court serves as chief justice. Under the proposed change to the constitution (SJR-2), the seven justices on the court would select their leader. Democrats call it a partisan effort to go after current Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

Republicans contend justices would get along better if they choose their own chief. Bill sponsor, Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst), says he finds it interesting that people assume if the change is made, the current chief justice will be voted out of her position.

AUDIO: Senate minority leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) says it’s a “blatant power grab in all things state government.” :69

Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) says lawmakers are “massively micro-managing” the court. “We’re playing in someone else’s sandbox we have no business being in.” He says, “And as for those who run against ‘big government,’ this is big big government. This is over stepping our bounds.”

Abrahamson, a supreme court justice for 38 years, has served as leader of the high court for the past 18 years. Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) asks, “If it’s not broke, why are we fixing it?”

AUDIO: Taylor asks whether this is “the will of the people.” :28

Democrats are also upset the amendment is scheduled for a statewide vote at a time when fewer voters get to the polls.

The measure, up for second consideration, passed the Senate along party lines Tuesday (17-14) and was sent to the Assembly, which is expected to take it up on Thursday. If approved, the amendment would likely go on a statewide ballot in April. The proposal needs to pass through two consecutive sessions of the legislature and then be approved by voters on a statewide referendum.

State Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley announces re-election bid

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley

A member of the state Supreme Court plans to seek another ten year term on the bench. Justice Ann Walsh Bradley officially announced her re-election campaign Tuesday morning, outside of the Marathon County Courthouse.

Bradley has served in the state’s highest court for two terms already. She was first elected to the bench in 1995 and was re-elected in 2005. In a statement, she said “After twenty years on the Supreme Court and nearly thirty as a judge, I understand the importance and the critical role of our highest court. I will never stop working to defend individual rights, hold our government accountable under the constitution, and protect the people of Wisconsin.”

Bradley will face at least one other challenger, after Rock County Circuit Judge James Daley announced his candidacy this past November. If another challenger emerges, there will be a primary in the race in February. If one does not, Bradley and Daley will face each other in a statewide election on April 7.