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Editorial: Imagine a Legislature that listens to the people

Here’s some simple advice for the state Legislature, whose members were sworn into office last week: Represent the will of the people.

What does that mean? When the public overwhelmingly supports a policy decision, get it done.

We the people of Wisconsin actually agree on a lot.

For example:
— 84% of registered voters in the latest Marquette Law School poll said they support legal abortion in the case of rape and incest. And a majority — 55% — support Roe v. Wade’s constitutional projections. Only 37% of statewide respondents favored the repeal of Roe last June.
Lawmakers should listen. They should get rid of Wisconsin’s ancient law forbidding abortion in virtually all cases, including rape and incest. Approved in 1849 — before women had the right to vote — Wisconsin’s long-dormant law is now enforceable again, forcing women to travel to other states for the procedure.

The Republican-run Legislature shouldn’t cling to a puritanical law that close to 9 out of 10 people oppose across Wisconsin. They should agree with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers that women deserve some freedom to choose.

— 78% in the Marquette poll said they favor more state funding for police. Only 15% were opposed.

That means the next state budget should increase state aid to local governments, because local governments run police and sheriff’s departments. The budget also should address drunken driving, which is on the rise.

— 73% support requiring businesses to provide paid leave for the parents of newborns. Only 18% don’t like the idea.

Approving a paid-leave mandate would bring Wisconsin into the civilized world. Democrats have been supportive for years. Now Republicans are coming around.

Get it done to help more families thrive.

— 64% of respondents to a previous Marquette poll supported the legalization of marijuana, similar to neighboring Illinois and Michigan. That was more than twice as many as the 30% who opposed legal pot.

Evers and the Democrats are on board. Top Republican lawmakers last week were moving closer to accepting medical marijuana, which more than 80% of respondents have favored.

Just as the prohibition of alcohol didn’t work a century ago, neither has the ban on recreational marijuana. State lawmakers should respect the freedom of adults to safely use the mild drug, while working to prevent teen use and drugged driving.

— 63% of respondents in the latest Marquette poll support increasing state aid to public schools, rather than steering more money to private schools. Only 29% prioritized private schools.

That means the next state budget should include a solid increase for public K-12 education. It’s not just polling that shows the need for greater investment. Voters approved 64 of 81 school referendums in last fall’s election.

Why would the Republican-run Legislature disregard the will of the people in so many cases? The main reason is gerrymandering. They don’t have to fear voters because they’ve shaped their legislative districts to unfair advantage. While the two major parties collected similar numbers of votes statewide last fall, the Republican-controlled Legislature nonetheless maintained huge majorities of 64-35 in the Assembly and 21-11 in Senate.

Gerrymandering is the main reason why.

The Marquette poll asked voters about that, too, back in late 2021:

— 63% of respondents (including 62% of Republicans) favored a nonpartisan commission to draw fair voting districts. Only a quarter of those surveyed said the politicians should control the process.

Lawmakers, please respect your constituents. Approve nonpartisan redistricting the way the Republicans in Iowa have done, with bipartisan backing. That’s the most important action of all.

From the Wisconsin State Journal

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