State News: Gerrymandering, Sheriff Clarke, Prevailing Wages

Supreme Court to Hear Gerrymandering Case

The U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear an appeal of the lawsuit that struck down Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn legislative map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

The move gives Republicans defending the map a chance at vindication, and it gives Democrats challenging the map a chance to set a new standard in redistricting cases that could upend partisan gerrymanders throughout the country.

In a separate order, the court granted a stay requested by Republican Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. That means the current Republican-drawn legislative map will remain in place while this appeal proceeds, and court-watchers say it increases the likelihood that the current map will remain in place for the 2018 election.

The 2-1 decision that struck down Wisconsin’s legislative map found Republicans were so partisan and so precise in their drawing of Wisconsin’s legislative map in 2011 that they had silenced the voices of Democratic voters in the process.

While redistricting challenges are common, the U.S. Supreme Court has never upheld a partisan redistricting lawsuit. The Democratic plaintiffs in Wisconsin’s case are hoping to change that.


Prevailing Wage Repeal Battle Continues

Democrats and veterans groups are continuing to fight a repeal of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage laws.

The laws set minimum salary requirements for workers on government-funded construction projects. In 2015, GOP lawmakers repealed those requirements on local projects. This session, they’ve introduced a bill that would extend that to state-funded projects.

Matt Bell, an Army veteran and owner of a contracting business in McFarland, said the repeal of prevailing wage would hurt his business.

“If you create a work environment that suppresses wages, drives people from a meaningful career in construction and encourages out-of-state construction companies to take Wisconsin jobs, you will drive people of out their jobs that they love and deny them the ability to provide for their families,” Bell said.

Opponents to the plan also cited a new study from the Midwest Economic Policy Institute that contends the repeal would cost taxpayers more, as lower wages would shift more people into state welfare programs.

Supporters say the repeal would reduce the cost of taxpayer-funded construction and even the playing field for union and non-union contractors.

The bill has yet to receive a vote in committee.


Gableman Won’t Seek Second Court Term

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman won’t seek another 10-year term in 2018. Gableman is part of the court’s 5-2 conservative majority.

“In decisions large and small, I have fulfilled my promises and put my judicial philosophy into practice,” Gableman wrote. “I trust the people of Wisconsin will elect a successor who is similarly committed to the rule of law.”

Sauk County Circuit Court Judge Michael Screnock is the third person to officially announce a bid for the seat and is a “conservative jurist,” according to his spokesman.

In the past nine years, Gableman has regularly sided with other conservatives on high-profile issues before the court. That has included writing some of the court’s most prominent decisions.

He authored the 2014 opinion that upheld Walker’s signature collective bargaining law, known as Act 10.

He also authored the 2015 opinion that shut down the investigation known as John Doe 2, which was looking into whether Walker’s campaign broke the law when it coordinated with conservative groups during the 2012 recall election.


Clarke ‘Rescinds’ Job Acceptance

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is no longer a candidate for a position in the agency, according to officials with the U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Last month Clarke was stepping down as Milwaukee County sheriff and taking a job as an assistant secretary at the DHS, although no one at DHS ever confirmed that Clarke was even offered a job.

The sheriff rose to national prominence last year as an outspoken Trump supporter.


Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2017, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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