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POMMER: Doubtful Supreme Court would overrule redistricting

By Matt Pommer

Democrats are sniffling that the Republican-adopted legislative redistricting is unfair to them.

The redistricting plan is aimed at assuring Republican control of the Legislature for the next decade. The reapportionment plan is the first time since “one man, one vote” became the standard for a single Wisconsin party to draw the lines.

Political control in the state Capitol was divided in the wake of the censuses of 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, and 2000.

This year Republicans quickly moved to pass their plan without waiting for municipal governments to establish new ward lines for local elections. Republicans say they were just fulfilling their constitutional duty and predicted it would be upheld in the courts.

It is inconceivable that the state’s Supreme Court — with its 4-3, highly politicized conservative majority — ever would overrule any map approved by the Republican Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker. The court has a growing image of being a Republican rubber stamp.

The new political map, which would take effect next year, nicely takes care of the possibility that Republicans might lose any of the recall elections their senators face this month.

District lines have been changed to help Republicans retain control of the Assembly and state’s Senate in the 2012 elections. With the court seemingly in their pocket, Republicans are playing political hardball.

That continues the trend begun when the Legislature rushed both tort reform and public-employee labor law changes through in the first few months of 2011. One news account provided insight into how those votes seemed aimed at reducing the influence of trial lawyers and public employee unions, regular supporters of Democratic candidates.

The governor’s office threatened to run a Tea Party candidate against Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, in next year’s Republican primary unless he supported the controversial bill to emasculate public employee unions, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Cowles, who backed the governor, now is among the six Republicans facing recalls this month.

The Tea Party would seem to have a special obligation to Cowles to make sure he wins the recall vote.

One-party rule in Madison also was highlighted when a Walker commission on waste issued a preliminary report. Democratic members of the commission didn’t even know a preliminary report was being drafted.

Another example of Republicans going it alone was the restoration of a one-week waiting period for the collection of unemployment benefits. Traditionally changes in unemployment compensation provisions have followed the recommendations of a management-labor advisory committee on jobless benefits. That committee unanimously recommended eliminating the one-week waiting period but Assembly Republicans rebuffed the idea.

Many conservatives think that unemployment benefits just discourage people from taking jobs.

Matt Pommer worked as reporter in Madison for 35 years. He comments on state political and policy issues.

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