Monday, April 15, 2024
Monday, April 15, 2024

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WILL Says State Agency Acted ‘Unlawfully’ Against Part-time Law Enforcement Officer

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Liberal Justice Anne Walsh Bradley Not Running for Reelection

(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s next supreme court race could be even more contentious and even more expensive than the last one.

Liberal Justice Anne Walsh Bradley on Thursday surprised the state when she announced she will not run for re-election next year.

"My decision has not come lightly. It is made after careful consideration and reflection. I know I can do the job and do it well. I know I can win re-election, should I run. But it's just time to pass the torch, bring fresh perspectives to the court," Walsh Bradley said in a statement.

She is one of Wisconsin’s longest serving justices, serving her third 10-year term on the court.

“In the 177-year history of the court, only four justices have served longer than my length of service,” she wrote.

Walsh Bradley’s decision means the next election will be open.

Former Republican attorney general, and current Waukesha County judge, Brad Schimel has already jumped into the race. There aren’t any declared Democrats yet.

Schimel on Thursday said Walsh Bradley’s decision isn’t changing anything for him.

“From the beginning of my campaign, I made it clear that I’m not just running against one person, I’m running against this Court’s leftist majority,” Schimel said. “I wish Justice Ann Walsh Bradley well in retirement after decades of public service. I look forward to continuing the fight to bring integrity and respect for the Constitution back to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin’s last race for the supreme court, in April of 2023, set records for spending. The race between Justice Janet Protasiewicz and former Justice Dan Kelly cost more than $56 million. That makes the 2023 Wisconsin race the most expensive judicial race in American history. Many court observers and politicos in Wisconsin say the 2025 race could be just as expensive, or even more expensive.

Protasiewicz’s victory flipped the Wisconsin Supreme Court to a 4-3 liberal majority for the first time in 15 years.

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State Bar of Wisconsin Changing Diversity Definition to End Discrimination Suit

(The Center Square) – The State Bar of Wisconsin isn’t ending its diversity clerkship that faced a federal discrimination lawsuit, instead it is changing the definition of diversity.

The State Bar agreed to tweak the program and make it about the diversity of ideas and experiences, rather than base the clerkship on race and gender.

“The settlement clarifies the definition of ‘diversity’ but makes no changes to the program,” State Bar Executive Director Larry Martin said. “The Diversity Clerkship Program, which has been creating opportunities for Wisconsin-based law students for three decades, will continue to exist and to operate in its current form.”

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty sued, saying it’s against the law to hire anyone based on race or gender.

WILL Associate Counsel Skylar Croy said they have had to make it a habit to remind people of that fact.

“Defeating unconstitutional DEI programs has become WILL’s area of expertise, and we are not stopping here,” Croy said in a statement. “While we are pleased with this victory, we know the fight is far from over. In fact, this is only the beginning of a movement, and our lawsuit will provide a roadmap for future victories in all 50 states.”

WILL has also sued over DEI programs at the University of Wisconsin that it says are race-based.

The bar said the only thing that is changing about the Diversity Clerkship is the focus on race in its definition of diversity.

“Under the settlement, the new definition states: Diversity means including people with differing characteristics, beliefs, experiences, interests, and viewpoints. Diversity promotes an environment in which all individuals are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their differences and without regard to stereotypes, and helps to ensure a better understanding and consideration of the needs and viewpoints of others with whom we interact,” the bar added.

WILL sued on behalf of Daniel Suhr, who is a lawyer in the state and is required to be a member of the bar.

After the settlement, Suhr said the new definition is the first step toward restoring fairness to the Diversity Clerkship.

“Premier internship opportunities should be available to students based on merit – not race. I am proud to partner with WILL to set a strong precedent for the next generation of law students,” he said in a statement.

The Diversity Clerkship Program is a 10-week, paid summer job where first-year Marquette University Law School and University of Wisconsin Law School students are matched with law firms, corporate legal departments and government agencies.

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Group Allegedly Involved in Pre-pandemic Wuhan Coronavirus Research to Testify Before Congress

Lawmakers plan to interrogate the head of Eco Health Alliance, the group accused of conducting dangerous coronavirus research in Wuhan, China just before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic will hold a public hearing May 1 where Dr. Peter Daszak is expected to testify. Daszak is the president of Eco Health Alliance, a U.S. nonprofit health research company that used taxpayer-funded grants to conduct coronavirus research.

The lawmakers on the committee also allege that newly obtained documents show Daszak’s previous testimony misled the committee or misrepresented the facts.

“These revelations undermine your credibility as well as every factual assertion you made during your transcribed interview,” the letter said. “The Committees have a right and an obligation to protect the integrity of their investigations, including the accuracy of testimony during a transcribed interview. We invite you to correct the record.”

One of those obtained documents appears to show Daszak saying he plans to work with Wuhan researchers.

A federal grant database shows that Eco Health Alliance received millions of dollars since 2014 from the federal government to study coronaviruses that originate in animals and in some cases can transfer to humans, with an emphasis on China.

A key and highly disputed part of the inquiry is whether Eco Health Alliance’ research included making coronaviruses more dangerous,.

Under former President Donald Trump, the federal National Institutes of Health cut all funding to the group in question over the controversy.

Under the Biden administration, funding has been restored, and NIH has emphatically stated that Eco Health Alliance did not play a role in the start of the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, in the absence of a definitive answer, misinformation and disinformation are filling the void, which does more harm than good,” NIH said in a 2021 statement. “NIH wants to set the record straight on NIH-supported research to understand naturally occurring bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, funded through a subaward from NIH grantee EcoHealth Alliance. Analysis of published genomic data and other documents from the grantee demonstrate that the naturally occurring bat coronaviruses studied under the NIH grant are genetically far distant from SARS-CoV-2 and could not possibly have caused the COVID-19 pandemic. Any claims to the contrary are demonstrably false.”

In 2022 and 2023 NIH awarded Eco Health Alliance a total of at least $1,230,594 to research “the potential for future bat coronavirus emergence in Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam.”

The idea that the COVID-19 virus began in a Wuahn lab was once denounced as a conspiracy theory but has now gotten more widespread credibility.

The FBI announced last year after its investigation that COVID-19 most likely came from a Wuhan lab. That news came just after the Department of Energy also said the Wuhan lab was most likely the origin of COVID-19, though neither agency expressed a high degree of confidence in that theory.

Other groups have suggested it came from the Wuhan wet market, though no definitive answer has been settled on.

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Biden Cancels Replenishment of Strategic Oil Reserves

The Biden administration will pause its replenishment of the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves because oil has become too expensive, the White House said.

Earlier in his term, Biden drained about half of the U.S. oil reserves down to their lowest level in decades in order to try to lower gas prices, which surpassed a record national average of more than $5 per gallon in 2022 before coming back down. Now, Biden’s effort to replenish those reserves have been stalled.

Critics warn that lower oil reserves are a national security issue for the U.S. If the reserves are low when a larger war or crisis occurs, refilling the reserves could be much more difficult and certainly more expensive.

“It’s pure insanity to watch the Biden Administration cut American oil production and then claim they can’t refill our critical reserve because of the price,” Daniel Turner, founder and executive director for Power The Future, said in a statement. “Joe Biden drained the SPR for political reasons, cut our domestic production for his climate agenda and now he’s leaving our critical reserve more vulnerable because he’s incompetent. As a result, Americans are paying more at the pump, more at the grocery store and our SPR is less full during a time of rising turmoil in the Middle East.”

Biden has taken fire from Republicans for hindering U.S. oil production and lowering the reserves. The Biden administration has increased regulatory pushback for oil domestic production while raising ongoing concerns about climate change.

“The Biden administration’s war on U.S. energy is crippling hardworking Americans and has led to our Strategic Petroleum Reserves being at their lowest levels since the 1908s,” U.S. Rep. Mike Collins, R-Ga., wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Reverse course and restore U.S. energy dominance!"

Evers Vetoes Legislation to Ban Males From Girls Sports

(The Center Square) – Add this to the list of vetoes from Wisconsin’s governor.

Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday vetoed the Republican-backed legislation that would have banned trans athletes from girls sports in the state.

“I will veto any bill that makes Wisconsin a less safe, less inclusive and less welcoming place for LGBTQ people and kids, and I will continue to keep my promise of using every power available to me to defend them, protect their rights, and keep them safe,” Evers said in a statement.

The legislation would have kept anyone born a male out of girls sports in middle school, high school and at the college level.

Republicans approved the plan on a party-line vote. Rep Barb Dittrich, R-Oconjomowoc, was the author.

On Tuesday she said Evers turned his back on biological girls, and the vast majority of Wisconsin voters with his veto.

“Today, Wisconsin’s governor took a position against federal Title IX and against Wisconsin’s girls in a disgusting veto of the Save Women’s Sports Act that I authored with Sen. [Daniel] Knodl,” Dittrich said. “While he and his ilk continue to gaslight our citizens that this legislation was about hate and exclusion, he ignores the fact that the legislation provides categories for every Wisconsin student while respecting and protecting the safety and merit of our state’s biological girls.

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, the group that runs high school sports in Wisconsin, allows trans athletes to compete.

Trans female athletes, those born male but who transitioned to female, must have undergone testosterone suppression therapy for a year before they can play on a girls team under WIAA rules.

Trans male athletes, those who were born female but who transitioned to male, only need to start taking testosterone in order to be able to play on boys teams.

“States across this country may give way to radical policies targeting LGBTQ individuals and families and threatening LGBTQ folks’ everyday lives and their ability to be safe, valued, supported, and welcome being who they are. As long as I am the governor of this great state, Wisconsin will not be among them,” Evers said.

Dittrich said the governor is out of touch.

“Tony Evers sets himself up against the vast majority of Wisconsinites with this disgraceful veto. According to Marquette University Law School polls, 70% of Wisconsinites agreed with this legislation. His veto today clearly demonstrates his disrespect for women and girls as well as for protecting their hard-fought achievements,” she said.

Gov. Evers Asks Wisconsin Supreme Court to OK Ballot Drop Boxes

(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s governor is asking the state Supreme Court to allow ballot drop boxes ahead of this November’s election.

Gov. Tony Evers filed a brief with the court, asking the new liberal-majority to overturn a ruling from 2022 that said ballot drop boxes are not allowed under state law.

“At the very heart of our democracy is the fundamental freedom to vote. In Wisconsin, we must work to protect that freedom and to empower our clerks and election administrators working hard at the local level to make decisions that are right for their communities. Drop box voting is safe and secure, and there is nothing in Wisconsin’s election laws that prohibit our local clerks from using this secure option, absent an incorrect ruling by our courts,” Evers said in a statement.

Wisconsin law does not specifically allow for ballot drop boxes anywhere other than the local clerk’s office.

The then-conservative-majority court based its ruling that banned ballot drop boxes on that fact.

But Evers says ballot drop boxes somewhere else in the community are no different than a drop box at the clerk’s office.

“All across our country, election officials have chosen to use drop boxes to ensure that all eligible voters can freely cast their ballots. And they’ve done so while keeping ballots safe and secure,” Evers added.

The governor’s brief argues the 2022 ruling against ballot drop boxes “causes confusion” among local clerks.

Ballot drop boxes became an issue in the 2020 election when they popped up across the state. The Wisconsin Elections Commission says 40% of ballots cast in that election were cast through a drop box.

Republicans have said the ballot drop boxes are not secure, and there’s no way to know who is dropping off which ballots.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments about ballot drop boxes in May.

Amendments Pass, ‘Uninstructed’ Tops 47,000 Votes, MPS Tax Hike Likely Approved

(The Center Square) – Voters across Wisconsin said yes to a lot of things on their ballots Tuesday.

Both of the state’s proposed constitutional amendments to keep outside money out of election operations passed, and a quarter-billion-dollar tax increase for Milwaukee Public Schools also likely gained approval.

The first amendment, which bans so-called “Zuckerbucks,” passed with about 54% of the vote. The second question, which bans outside election workers from working in Wisconsin, passed with about 58% of the vote.

Sen. Eric Wimberger, R-Green Bay, said Wisconsin voters made it clear that they want to keep out-of-state billionaires out of their elections.

“Whether there is actual election tampering or not, an impression of an injustice is as detrimental to society as an actual injustice. People need policies and procedures that instill confidence in the vote result, even if they don’t like the result. These amendments help create that confidence,” Wimberger said in a statement.

The amendments mean outside groups like the Mark Zuckerberg-funded Center for Tech and Civic Life will not be able to offer election grants like they did in the 2020 election.

Uninstructed voters

While both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump easily won primaries, Biden’s campaign may have cause to worry.

The Uninstructed Campaign saw more than 39,000 Democrats vote against President Biden on Tuesday.

The campaign urged Democrats and progressives to vote “uninstructed” as a way to protest the war in Gaza and pressure Biden into ending it.

The 39,000 votes are significant.

Biden won Wisconsin by about 22,000 votes in 2020, and he could lose the state this year if those uninstructed voters don’t vote for him in November.

Overall, Biden won the Democratic primary with 88% of the vote, and Trump won the Republican primary with 79% of the vote.

MPS Referendum Appears To Pass

It could take a little while to know if Milwaukee Public Schools will be getting a quarter-billion-dollar per-year tax increase.

The district’s $252 million referendum appeared to pass Tuesday.

The city’s school district says the ‘yes’ vote carried with 51% of the vote, but there’s only a 1,720-vote gap. Milwaukee’s election managers say they are waiting to count all of the city’s absentee ballots to declare the election complete.

MPS Superintendent Keith Posley said after Tuesday’s vote that the yes vote is a huge win for kids.

"MPS is grateful to the city’s voters for supporting our continued efforts to help students succeed in school and in life,” Posley said.

Opponents spent nearly a half-million dollars trying to defeat the tax hike question.

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‘Shameful’: President Biden Takes Fire for Transitioning Easter

President Joe Biden is under fire after the White House banned religious imagery for Easter this year and then proceeded to make this year’s Easter officially “Transgender Visibility Day.”

It’s unclear whether the White House choosing to mark the most important Christian holiday as a transgender holiday was an intentional decision or a political gaffe.

“The Biden White House has betrayed the central tenet of Easter – which is the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Banning sacred truth and tradition – while at the same time proclaiming Easter Sunday as ‘Transgender Day’ – is outrageous and abhorrent. The American people are taking note.”

Biden posted on X Sunday honoring the new holiday.

“On Transgender Day of Visibility, we celebrate the joy, strength, and absolute courage of some of the bravest people I know,” Biden wrote. “Today, we show millions of transgender and nonbinary Americans that we see them, they belong, and they should be treated with dignity and respect.”

After that, the criticism poured in.

“This is what Biden cares about and who he caters to. He is devaluing Easter and elevating trans recognition,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Downright shameful and despicable.”

The decision may backfire politically, and the Trump campaign quickly took the opportunity to blast Biden and call for him to apologize.

One senator called for firing the person responsible.

“Aside from being disgraceful and insulting to Christians, declaring a trans day of visibility on Easter Sunday is just *weird,*” Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, wrote on X. “The White House should apologize. Then Biden should fire whoever is responsible.”

Next year, Easter, the Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion, will be on April 20 and thus avoid the same conflict with the now official Transgender Day of Visibility, which will remain on March 31.

Notably, on the White House’s Spanish-speaking X account, they did not celebrate transgender visibility day but instead honored Easter and César Chávez Day.

“Apparently the White House fears that Spanish-speaking Americans might be offended by Biden’s decision to conflate Easter with ‘Transgender Day of Visibility’ – perhaps to an even greater degree than English speakers,” U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wrote on X. “Mr. President: it’s offensive to Christians – in all languages.”

Spring Election Puts Constitutional Amendments, Local Races on Wisconsin Ballot

(The Center Square) – he presidential contest in Wisconsin is all but decided, but voters will have some important choices on their ballots on Tuesday.

The spring primary will feature two constitutional amendments, nearly 100 school referendum questions and local races in communities across the state.

Constitutional Amendments

Wisconsin voters are being asked to ban outside money in the state’s election in a pair of constitutional amendments.

The first amendment deals with the so-called Zuckerbucks. Republican lawmakers pushed the proposal through the legislature after Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a state law that would have banned outside charities and non-profits from spending money on election operations.

The move comes after the Center for Tech and Civic Life spent about $6 million in Wisconsin during the November 2020 election. Almost all of that money went to the state’s five largest and most Democratic cities.

Republican lawmakers have said Zuckerbucks undermine people’s faith in the state’s electoral process.

The other amendment would make it clear only local elected leaders can manage elections. This too is tied to the 2020 election.

Emails showed the CTCL all but took over the election operation in Green Bay. CTCL workers had keys to the election office and access to both ballots and the voting list.

The amendment would specifically exclude anyone who is not an elected official or government worker from election management.

School referenda

Dozens of schools across Wisconsin are asking taxpayers for more money on Tuesday.

Ninety-one school districts have referendum questions on the ballot. Most are for day-to-day operations and to cover what the schools say are the “ongoing costs of inflation.”

The largest school tax question is the $252 million ask by Milwaukee Public Schools.

All of that money is earmarked for teacher salaries and school programs.

Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Keith Posley said over the weekend if the referendum fails, there will be cuts.

“We have a referendum budget, a ‘yes’ referendum budget and no referendum budget," Posley said. "And in the ‘no’ referendum budget, there's major cuts."

There has been no shortage of critics of the MPS referendum.

Both the city’s chamber and the Greater Milwaukee Committee, along with business leaders and others have said Milwaukee Public Schools are asking for a quarter-billion dollars more each year, for years to come while continuing to deliver some of the worst educational outcomes for kids in the entire country.

Local races

Voters will also be picking leaders for the government that is closest to home. Thousands of school board seats, as well as seats for town council and city council, and even judgeships are on Tuesday’s ballot.

There has been a lot of spending on school board races in Wisconsin.

New campaign finance reports show the Democratic Party of Wisconsin has spent $200,000 on local school board races. The same campaign reports show that Wisconsin Republicans have yet to spend any money on local school board races.

Polls open across Wisconsin at 7 a.m. and stay open until 8 p.m.

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