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 A dangerous proposal is being fast-tracked in the State Capitol. An intrusion of the legislature upon the judiciary, AB 161 would damage the critical checks and balances which protect citizens from the abuse of power by one branch of government. 

Proponents of the bill complain that, currently, one judge elected by voters in one county is able to block implementation of a statute that was passed by the full legislature and signed by the Governor. They cite the injunctions on voter ID and parts of the collective bargaining law as examples.

Yet that is why we have higher courts. If the state believes a judge has incorrectly blocked a law as unconstitutional, it may appeal the ruling and seek to reverse a preliminary injunction. In the case of voter ID, the state sought a stay of the injunctions from two circuit court judges, two appeals court panels and the state Supreme Court. A total of 15 judges and justices—not just one—declined to stay the injunctions. Thus a process already exists to appeal a preliminary injunction. It is not an easy process, nor should it be. Judges have to be able to block laws they deem to be in violation of the constitution.

This bill could allow the legislature to pass unconstitutional laws without consequences. The Wisconsin Legislative Council, the legislature’s independent nonpartisan legal research service, has concluded that the proposed law may very well violate the state constitution

Contact your state legislators and urge them to reject AB161 and its companion bill SB154. Click here to find your elected official’s contact info

New lawmakers were sworn in earlier this week with a lot of talk of bipartisanship. We'll see how that translates into action.

 Mining. One thing that does not bode well is that Senators Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) and Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) have not been assigned by their party leaderships to the mining committee. The two senators led a Select Committee in 2012 to study the issues and devise mining legislation that “provides the certainty the industry asked for while also protecting our environment, especially our water,” according to Sen. Cullen, quoted in The Capital Times.

 The League of Women Voters believes mining policy should not weaken environmental protection, and it must provide ample opportunities for citizen input and, when needed, legal remedy.

 State budget. Citizen Action’s Robert Kraig says that of all the budget decisions Governor Walker is likely to make this year, “none will have a bigger impact than whether Wisconsin accepts over $12 billion in federal health care reform money over the next decade to fill the holes in BadgerCare.” Read Kraig's column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

 Last fall John Keckhaver, who leads a public policy consulting firm in Madison, spoke to the League’s legislative committee about how to follow the state budget. He noted the budget is a “nearly continuous process.” Last year the Governor sent instructions to state agencies, and the agencies submitted their requests. In February the Governor will release the executive budget, which will be introduced as legislation. It will have analysis and hearings before having a vote in each house. Here are ways to follow the budget process:

Visit the Legislative Fiscal Bureau website for official documents and nonpartisan summaries

Subscribe to Keckhaver’s budget alerts on his website

Subscribe to the Wisconsin Budget Project blog

Call your legislator’s office with specific questions.

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Position on Mining Legislation 

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network opposes any new mining legislation that weakens environmental protections or reduces opportunities for citizen comment or legal redress. 

Current mining law balances the needs of mining companies against the public interest in clean air and water. It recognizes that mining inevitably leads to pollution and destruction of natural areas, yet offers reasonable environmental protection if the DNR is vigilant, and has sufficient staff, time, and information. Any compromise of these elements would constitute a give-away of our natural heritage and our civic legacy. 

Adopted by LWV Ashland-Bayfield Counties board of directors August 15, 2011; recommended by LWVWI Education Network Legislative Committee August 16, 2011; adopted by LWVWI Education Network board of directors August 19, 2011. 

 

 

What a year for voters in Wisconsin! Six statewide elections in ten months, a bitter mining debate and several new laws which threaten democracy in our state. Yet the people were up to the challenge. Wisconsinites voted in record numbers, spoke out at public hearings, wrote to their representatives, and challenged laws that violated our constitution. Thank you for being part of the action!

Despite restrictive new laws, local Leagues across the state registered thousands of voters. Leagues conducted public forums to educate voters and wrote letters to lawmakers and newspapers, calling out attempts to weaken our democracy.

The League won a key court victory in March, resulting in a permanent injunction on the unconstitutional Wisconsin voter ID law. The case is currently in Appeals Court and is likely headed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2013.

Next year is shaping up to bring more challenges! Lawmakers are already talking about taking away same-day registration, politicizing the Government Accountability Board, and instituting a new photo ID law. They are already drafting legislation to make it harder for people to vote – before addressing the need for jobs!

With your help, the League of Women Voters will continue to fight voter suppression in Wisconsin. The League will advocate in 2013 for positive reforms to modernize voter registration and reduce the influence of special interest money in our elections. We will fight to protect our natural resources, as well as citizen input, in our state's mining laws.  We will work for a state budget that stewards tax dollars wisely and protects our most vulnerable citizens.

The League needs your support to continue to be a vibrant and visible advocate for good government in Wisconsin. Please make a tax-deductible contribution today. Here are three ways to do it:
1.      Designate your gift for the Voter ID Lawsuit. There is still a matching gift challenge until the end of the year!
2.      Support the League’s ongoing advocacy and education with a gift to where it’s needed most.
3.      Become a sustaining advocate. Setting up a monthly contribution is easy, convenient and secure.
 
Thank you so much for your all you have done this year to make democracy work in Wisconsin. Our work is cut out for us in 2013, and we can’t do it without you.
 
Sincerely,
Melanie

Melanie G. Ramey
President
 
P.S. You can support both the state League and your local League by checking the“Birthday Club” box when you contribute!


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