State News: Supreme Court Ends Gerrymandering Challenge; More

Supreme Court Ruling Effectively Ends Gerrymandering Challenge

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled July 25 that federal courts do not have the power to decide cases related to partisan gerrymandering, effectively ending a Wisconsin lawsuit against legislative maps drawn by Republicans in 2011.

The court ruled 5-4 that “partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” in an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

The Supreme Court rejected the Wisconsin case in June 2018, but the door was left open to future gerrymandering rulings that could affect the state’s legislative maps. 

Gov. Tony Evers released a statement calling the ruling “devastating for our democracy, our system of government, the right to participate in the democratic process and the notion that people should come before politics.”

Republican leaders lauded the court’s decision.

“We hope the high court’s ruling puts an end to the litigation in Wisconsin associated with redistricting,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) in a prepared statement. “The Supreme Court has now confirmed what we have said all along – that it was not a matter for the federal courts to second-guess the Legislature on these issues.”

Foxconn Appears to Push Back Plant Opening

In March, the tech manufacturing company announced that construction on the Mount Pleasant Gen 6 fabrication facility would begin this summer and would be operational by the end of 2020. On June 25, however, an email sent by the Wisconsin Economic and Development Corporation with the subject line “Special Bulletin: Wisconn Valley News” updating bid opportunities, said the factory was now set for completion in early 2021.

A spokesperson for Foxconn said there is no delay but offered few additional details.

Foxconn’s plans have changed several times since announcing its intent to build flat screens in Wisconsin in 2017 with a so-called Gen 10 plant. Foxconn said market changes prompted the company to shift to a smaller Gen 6 facility. Some continue to question the future of Foxconn, particularly after the company briefly changed course earlier this year.

So far, only one building on the campus has been completed: a 120,000-square-foot multi-purpose facility that opened in late 2018. 

Habitat For Humanity to Develop Large-Scale Housing

Habitat for Humanity is hoping to develop 62 acres of land in Sun Prairie in Dane County during the next eight years to help address the need for affordable homes there. The project, which calls for 125 single-family lots, parkland and a mixed-use area will be unveiled in four phases. Only about 40 percent of the development will be for families that apply for Habitat for Humanity homes – about 50 houses in the development. The other 60 percent will be sold on the open market to help Habitat pay for infrastructure such as streets, said Valerie Renk, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Dane County.

This is one of several large-scale developments taken on by Habitat for Humanity and may be the second in Sun Prairie if approved by its city council.

National Rainbow Family Gathering Arrives in Northern Wisconsin

Northern Wisconsin is preparing for up to 10,000 people from across the nation to gather in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest this week. Forest officials say it’s the first time a group known as the Rainbow Family of Living Light has chosen Wisconsin as the site of its national gathering.

The Rainbow Family is a loose-knit group of people who have gathered every year in a national forest since 1972 to take part in creative and spiritual activities and pray for peace. 

Hilary Markin, a spokesperson for the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, said at least 2,000 people had already arrived as of Friday. The U.S. Forest Service is working with multiple law-enforcement agencies to prepare for thousands more people during the event, which began Monday.

Rainbow Family members alleged that they’ve been harassed by members of the U.S. Forest Service’s incident-management team at past gatherings, including stops to conduct vehicle searches for drugs. 

The height of the gathering is expected to take place on the July 4 holiday, when Rainbow Family members typically gather to meditate and pray in the morning. The gathering wraps up July 7.

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