Wisconsin Supreme Court Changes Course; Longtime Dane County lawmakers retire amid high turnover

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Also on For the record: New Wisconsin Policy Forum report finds lagging state aid for higher education

MADISON — A Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling released late Friday is all but certain to set the legislative maps for the state’s August and November elections — and draw a slew of legal challenges with a impact on the upcoming elections.

The court pivoted from an earlier decision this year by selecting Gov. Tony Evers’ maps as those that most closely followed the ‘least change’ approach the court had already taken to reaching a decision, after the legislature controlled by the GOP and the Democratic Governor could not. Not agreeing on a new slicing map.

RELATED: Maps, Districts and Wisconsin’s Political Future: An Introduction to Redistricting

The U.S. Supreme Court challenged the state court’s decision on the governor’s map last month, and on Friday Justice Brian Hagedorn reversed his earlier stance and joined conservative justices in selecting the proposed maps. by Republicans in the Legislature instead.

Rob Yablon, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, joined Naomi Kowles on For registration to break down the critical impact of the decision. The U.S. Supreme Court debated whether there was enough evidence to add a majority-black seventh district to Milwaukee under federal voting law, which allows race to be considered under conditions limited when drawing up political maps. The GOP map reduces the existing six majority black districts to five instead.

“The only districts that the United States Supreme Court questioned were the few districts in the Milwaukee area. And so it would have been entirely sufficient for the Wisconsin Supreme Court to simply adjust those districts and leave in place the rest of the map that it had previously adopted,” he explained. “It’s a bit like having a flat tire in your car; you add air to the tire, you don’t get a new car. They have a new car here.

The maps extend the Republican advantage in what critics say is already a heavily Gerrymander state, where Republicans have controlled the legislature for the past decade under maps drawn in 2010 while Democratic presidential candidates won the statewide voting in two out of three general elections in this time frame.

“I think that opens the door to that possibility,” Yablon said of how the selected cards are bringing Republicans closer to a veto-proof majority in the legislature. “If 2022 is a strong year for legislative Republicans, they could cross that anti-veto threshold.”

Pensions on the rise: Dane County Reps. Sondy Pope and Gary Hebl on legislative roll

Joining several others in announcing their departure from the state legislature this week, Reps. Sondy Pope (D-Mt. Horeb) and Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie) joined For registration to weigh in on the high turnover of this cycle while reflecting on nearly 40 combined years of Dane County representation in the Assembly.

Nearly a quarter of the Assembly has now announced he will leave or retire at the end of the current session, alongside a growing number of state senators as well.

Together, Pope and Hebl — Assembly seat neighbors and longtime friends — reminisced about another era of the legislature in the early 2000s. It was still controlled by Republicans, but it was also a time when “hearings made sense,” Rep. Pope said. The two parties met for legislative baseball games, and the atmosphere of bipartisanship was different.

Pope recalled one particular Republican bill presented to the education committee around 2004, one that she and many others disagreed with and families came to testify against.

“The committee that introduced it and wanted it passed actually changed their minds. The hearings made sense. And the debate happened, and it made sense, and people reflected on what they heard, and the bill didn’t pass. It wouldn’t happen today,” she said.

RELATED: Candidates line up for seats left by incumbent lawmakers

New report reveals lagging state aid for higher education

A Wisconsin Policy Forum report released this week finds state and federal aid for Wisconsin students has lagged in the past decade after nearly doubling in the first decade of the millennium.

Forum Director of Research Jason Stein and UW-Parkside Chancellor Dr. Deborah Ford joined For registration to explain how the delay in aid may be impacting declining enrollment and labor shortages in Wisconsin.

“Downstream, we’re not going to be as competitive as a state,” Dr. Ford said of the link between financial aid and a lagging workforce. “Downstream, we won’t be able to deliver the talent that our employers say they need and want.”

“We need nurses, we need programmers, we need engineers, we need those workers in our economy,” Stein said. “If we don’t have them, we’re going to be less productive, in some ways potentially even less healthy as a society.”

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