With newly elected Scott Walker in the governor’s office and a firm grip on the legislature, Wisconsin Republicans in 2011 had a unique opportunity to redraw the state’s electoral maps and fortify their party’s future.
Aides were dispatched to a private law firm to keep their work out of public view. They employed the most precise technology available to dissect new U.S. Census data and convert it into reliably Republican districts even if the party’s fortunes soured. Democrats were kept in the dark, and even GOP incumbents had to sign confidentiality agreements before their revamped districts were revealed to them. Only a handful of people saw the entire map until it was unveiled and quickly approved.
In the following year’s elections, when Republicans got just 48.6 percent of the statewide vote, they still captured a 60-39 seat advantage in the General Assembly.
Now, the Supreme Court is being asked to uphold a lower court’s finding that the Wisconsin redistricting effort was more than just extraordinary – it was unconstitutional.
A new proposal would make it more difficult for the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to make sweeping budget changes outside of public view.
Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, and Rep. Scott Allen, R-Waukesha, sought support from colleagues last week for the so-called “Budget Transparency Act.”
The proposal likely would have prevented the 2015 committee passage of a measure to curtail access to public records, said a spokesman for Nass, Mike Mikalsen.
It requires public notice of at least 48 hours for budget motions going before the budget-writing finance committee. There is no current law requiring public notice of such motions, which committee members make to propose changing individual parts of the governor’s budget proposal.
The bill calls for the motions to be posted online at the website of the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
Institutions around the University of Wisconsin System are being held back by outdated facilities and low employee pay, according to campus leaders, who made their pitch Friday for lawmakers to chip in more state funding to remedy those problems.
The chancellors of several UW campuses, along with System President Ray Cross, asked legislators during a meeting of the Board of Regents at UW-Milwaukee to increase funding for building maintenance and construction in the 2017-19 budget, and to provide $78 million to boost compensation for workers.
Those costs have been sore points for UW officials in a budget they have mostly praised otherwise because it increases operating funding for the System by $36.2 million.
While System officials requested $794.5 million worth of capital funding for renovations and new construction at UW campuses, Gov. Scott Walker’s capital budget proposal would provide just $128.3 million.