Thursday, February 22, 2024
Thursday, February 22, 2024

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020, 2021 & 2022 Triple GOLD Award Recipients

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Breaking News

Denver Schools Facing ‘Unprecedented Challenge’ With Influx of Migrant Students

Denver’s public school system has been taking in as many as 250 new students a week since the new year, which it attributes to the increase in the number of migrants arriving in the city.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero called the situation an “unprecedented challenge” in a message to the community posted on the district’s website. The district said the influx of new students will cost an additional $837,000 “to support additional needs across the system.”

From July 1, 2023 to January 2024, there were 3,221 new-to-country students with more than 1,300 coming to Denver schools since Oct. 1, 2023, the district stated.

The district is hiring more staff to deal with the increase in students and focusing on hiring people who are bilingual, according to the superintendent.

“The pace of new arrivals has remained steady since the start of 2024, with roughly 200-250 students joining us each week,” a report to the school board stated last week.

On Feb. 5, the city of Denver started enforcing 42-day limits on migrants living in city-owned shelters.

“We are watching enrollment data closely over the next few weeks to see if/how our student population moves in response,” the report stated.

The school district provides a phone number to call “to speak to someone in your language.”

The district has struggled with dwindling enrollment since the pandemic. Enrollment reached 93,800 in the 2019-20 school year and then fell to 90,300 in the 2020-2021 pandemic year. In 2021-22, enrollment stayed about the same at 90,250 and then dropped to 89,200 in 2022-23.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been sending migrants from Texas to sanctuary cities across the U.S. On Feb. 12, Abbott posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that Texas has bused more than 16,200 migrants to Denver.

"Texas will not stop until President Biden secures the border," Abbott stated on X.

Denver Public Schools did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Wisconsin Assembly Eyes Limits on Governor’s Veto Powers

(The Center Square) – Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly are taking the first step to reign in some of the governor’s veto power.

Lawmakers on Tuesday took up Assembly Joint Resolution 112, which would change the Wisconsin Constitution to stop the governor from raising a tax or a fee on his own.

“Wisconsin's unique partial veto is considered one of the most powerful policy tools in the country,” Rep. Amanda Nedweski, R-Pleasant Prairie, told reporters. “From Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson's infamous Vanna White veto, to Democrat Gov. Tony Evers 402-year tax increase, we have seen abuse of the partial veto addressed with proposed constitutional amendments by legislatures nearly 30 times in the last century.”

Nedweski said this proposed constitutional amendment would apply to Evers specifically, but would apply to all future governor’s as well by banning the governor from single handedly increasing taxes or creating fees.

“The will of the people is the law of the land, not the will of the governor,” Nedweski added. “This would appropriately rebalance power between the executive and the legislature, and further restrict the executive from completely rewriting the law. The governor is not a legislator, and the partial veto was not intended to give the governor legislative power.”

Tuesday's vote was the first vote for the plan. It would need to pass the legislature again next year before it would go to the voters, likely next spring.

“We very narrowly crafted this legislation to address the specific situations that we believe members of the public would find the most egregious, the ability for a single person to increase taxes or fees on the people of Wisconsin with the single stroke of a pen,” Nedweski said. “The people should not be subjected to political trickery that does not reflect their will as represented by their legislators.”

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Robin Vos: Medical Marijuana Not Going to Happen This Year

(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s assembly speaker is not calling his proposal for medical marijuana dead, but he says it’s not going to happen this year.

Speaker Robin Vos told reporters Thursday there are too many different views of marijuana to find a consensus on a strict-medical only plan.

“I think we have now seen, unfortunately, people who from the very beginning have said that they have concerns that this will lead to widespread recreational marijuana and many of my colleagues on the other side continue to say that that is their goal which of course that's their right,” Vos said.

Vos’ plan would create five state-owned marijuana dispensaries that would sell non-smokable marijuana to people with 15 specific health conditions.

Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate, specifically, don’t like the idea of state-owned pot shops.

“I still think we have the votes in the Assembly to pass it,” Vos added. “I've not had anybody come to me who was a supporter and say they have changed their position. But when we see that the Senate wants to have a more liberal version than one that we're willing to pass, it probably doesn't leave us enough time with the waiting days of the session to get an answer that both chambers can adopt.”

Democrats in Wisconsin have made no secret of their support for fully legal, recreational marijuana and never signed on to Vos’ plan either.

Wisconsin remains one of just 12 states without a medical marijuana law. Wisconsin is one of 26 states that has not legalized recreational marijuana.

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Trump’s First Criminal Trial Date in New York Scheduled for March 25

Former President Donald Trump’s first criminal trial date, in a case involving porn actress Stormy Daniels, will be March 25.

A New York judge rejected a request to dismiss the case from Trump. He faces charges in multiple states while commanding the lead for the Republican nomination in the presidential race.

His lawyers, appearing before Judge Juan Manuel Merchan, said the case will interfere with his campaign to return to the White House. Trump has three other prosecutions unresolved, one of which involved a district attorney under heavy scrutiny in Georgia on Thursday.

Trump’s defense lawyer, Todd Blanche, said the president should not be spending the next two months in preparation for a trial when he should be on the campaign trail. Trump, after the decision, said he would be in court during the day and “campaigning during the night.” It echoes previous statements he has made.

This New York case, with a prosecution led by District Attorney Alvin Bragg, was the first for the former president to be charged with a crime. Others followed in Florida, Georgia and Washington, D.C.

Trump and his legal team say no crime was committed. Prosecutors say he falsified internal records kept by his company, hiding the true nature of payments that involve Daniels ($130,000), former Playboy model Karen McDougal ($150,000), and Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen ($420,000). Prosecutors say the money was logged as legal expenses, not reimbursements.

Reportedly, the payments kept quiet accusations of sexual affairs, including birth of a child.

Cyrus Vance Jr., whom Bragg followed into the office, declined to pursue the case. The charges are punishable by up to four years in prison.

Witness Says Relationship Between DA Fani Willis & Nathan Wade Started Years Earlier

A former friend of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis testified Thursday that Willis' romantic relationship with a special prosecutor started years before Willis hired him to lead the election interference case against Donald Trump.

Robin Bryant-Yeartie, a friend since college and former Fulton County District Attorney's Office employee, said that Willis began a romantic relationship with Nathan Wade in 2019 shortly after they met at a judicial conference.

Wade, who took the stand after Bryant-Yeartie, said the relationship with Willis started in March 2022, after he had been hired in November 2021.

The conflicting testimony during a contentious legal hearing Thursday comes as Judge Scott McAfee looks to determine if Willis should be removed from the case.

In August 2023, a Fulton County grand jury indicted Trump and 18 others, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former state Republican Party Chair David Shafer, on charges they tried to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

Bryant-Yeartie testified that she had a falling out with Willis when she resigned from the Fulton County District Attorney's Office.

Judge Scott McAfee has yet to decide if Willis can continue on the case. The hearing is expected to resume Thursday afternoon and could go into Friday.

The morning hearing was tense, filled with objections from multiple lawyers representing the different parties.

Vos: Vote on Evers’ Maps Part of Republican Strategy

(The Center Square) – The top Republican in the Wisconsin Assembly says the legislature has done what the Wisconsin Supreme Court suggested and passed new maps. Now, he says it’s time for the court fight over redistricting to stop.

Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly and Wisconsin Senate on Tuesday approved Democrat Gov. Tony Evers’ preferred maps. The vote is part of a strategy to head off maps that do even more damage to Republicans in the state from the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told reporters that strategy is aimed not just at getting the least-worst maps for Republicans but is also aimed at getting on with the 2024 elections and avoiding a multi-million-dollar court battle.

“To actually be and we begin the campaign talking about ideas and why our side is better for Wisconsin, I think that is a better answer than drawn out court battles and going through millions of dollars of taxpayer expense when there's really no need to do so,” Vos said.

The legislature sent Evers the maps Tuesday, which means he has until Tuesday to sign them.

If he does, Vos said, the entire fight in front of and about the Wisconsin Supreme Court would then end.

“Once we pass the maps, more or less, the lawsuits stop. There's no need for us to try to do an appeal to the Supreme Court because the legislature has adopted a map. It's been signed by the governor. There's no need for us to go through this process to say that Janet Protasiewicz is biased, and we need a Caperton decision, because she won't be deciding on the maps,” Vos explained. “So, I think a lot of the things that we have for the potential to go to the U.S. Supreme Court with and win on are no longer viable. Which is why if the governor signs the map, I am supremely confident that that is the map that we will run on in November.”

Vos said he is also confident that Wisconsin Republicans can win under Evers’ maps. He said Republicans have better candidates and a better message.

Evers’ maps would give Democrats a decided advantage in November, if not flip the legislature from Republican-controlled to Democrat-controlled.

Evers on Tuesday said he would sign the maps if Republicans passed them unchanged.

Special Counsel Jack Smith Asks Supreme Court to Hurry Up on Trump Request

Special counsel Jack Smith asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to reject former President Donald Trump's request to delay his Washington D.C. case on charges of election interference.

On Monday, Trump filed an emergency motion with the nation's highest court to pause an appeals court ruling that rejected his claims of presidential immunity. Smith told the high court there was no reason for a stay in the case. Smith wants the Supreme Court to allow Trump's election interference case to move ahead.

"Delay in the resolution of these charges threatens to frustrate the public interest in a speedy and fair verdict – a compelling interest in every criminal case and one that has unique national importance here, as it involves federal criminal charges against a former President for alleged criminal efforts to overturn the results of the Presidential election, including through the use of official power," Smith's team wrote.

Trump's defense team said anything other than a stay would result in "irreparable" harm to Trump.

"Conducting a months-long criminal trial of President Trump at the height of election season will radically disrupt President Trump’s ability to campaign against President Biden – which appears to be the whole point of the Special Counsel’s persistent demands for expedition," Trump's team wrote in Monday's filing.

Smith wants the D.C. case to move forward, whether the Supreme Court wants to take it up or not. And he wants it done fast.

"If, however, this Court believes that applicant's claim merits review at this time, the government respectfully requests that it treat the application as a petition for a writ of certiorari, grant the petition, and set the case for expedited briefing and argument," prosecutors wrote. "An expedited schedule would permit the Court to issue its opinion and judgment resolving the threshold immunity issue as promptly as possible this Term, so that, if the Court rejects applicant’s immunity claim, a timely and fair trial can begin with minimal additional delay."

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court dealt Trump's defense a major blow when it said he doesn't have presidential immunity to protect him from charges of election interference.

Smith's team of federal prosecutors charged Trump with four federal counts related to contesting the 2020 election and the storming of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021. The charges include conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction, and conspiracy against the right to vote and to have one's vote counted, according to the indictment. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Judge Tanya Chutkan previously delayed the trial date indefinitely. It had been set for March 4, the day before Super Tuesday. The judge has yet to set a new date for the trial.

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Gallagher Votes No Again as Mayorkas is First Sitting Cabinet Member to be Impeached in U.S. History

In its second vote attempt in exactly a week, the U.S. House on Tuesday night impeached Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who becomes the first sitting cabinet member to be impeached in U.S. history.

Mayorkas was impeached largely along party lines by a vote of 214-213, with three Republicans voting with 210 Democrats against.

As more than 10 million illegal border crossers entered the country in three years and a record number of known or suspected terrorists have been apprehended under Mayorkas’ watch, House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green, MD, R-Tenn., led the charge to impeach him.

Green filed the resolution to impeach Mayorkas on two counts alleging high crimes and misdemeanors, after holding over a dozen hearings and releasing multiple reports detailing how Republicans contend he was derelict in duty and created a national security crisis.

Article 1 states Mayorkas violated his oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, to bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and to well and faithfully discharge the duties of his office, has willfully and systemically refused to comply with Federal immigration laws.”

Article 2 states he violated his oath “to well and faithfully discharge the duties” because he “knowingly made false statements, and knowingly obstructed lawful oversight of the Department of Homeland Security of his office.”

“Congress has taken decisive action to defend our constitutional order and hold accountable a public official who has violated his oath of office," Green said after Tuesday's vote. "The House Committee on Homeland Security’s investigation and subsequent impeachment proceedings demonstrated beyond any doubt that Secretary Mayorkas has willfully and systemically refused to comply with the laws of the United States and breached the public trust. As a result, our country has suffered from an unprecedented border crisis that has turned every state into a border state, causing untold suffering in communities across our country.”

Green also urged the Senate “to do the right thing and remove Secretary Mayorkas from office following a thorough trial.”

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, countere: "This baseless impeachment will do nothing to secure the border – Republicans have admitted as much. Instead of providing the Department of Homeland Security the resources it needs or working together towards a bipartisan solution, they have rejected any solution for the sole reason that they can have a political wedge issue in an election year."

The Democratic-led Senate is expected to acquit Mayorkas. Democrats have argued Mayorkas’ failures do not constitute high crimes and misdemeanors, calling it a sham and political ploy.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, said, “For nearly a year the House Homeland Security Committee has taken a careful and methodical approach to this investigation and the results are clear: from his first day in office Secretary Mayorkas has willfully and consistently refused to comply with federal immigration laws fueling the worst border catastrophe in American history. He has undermined public trust through multiple false statements to Congress, obstructed lawful oversight of the Department of Homeland security, and violated his oath of office.

“Alejandro Mayorkas deserves to be impeached and Congress has a constitutional obligation to do so. Next to a declaration of war, impeachment is arguably the most serious authority given to the House and we have treated this matter accordingly. Since the secretary refuses to do the job that the Senate confirmed him to do, the House must act.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Mayorkas' impeachment trial will begin this month.

“The House impeachment managers will present the articles of impeachment to the Senate following the state work period. Senators will be sworn in as jurors in the trial the next day. Senate President Pro Tempore Patty Murray will preside,” Schumer said Tuesday night.

The first attempt to impeach Mayorkas failed last week after three Republicans voted with Democrats: U.S. Reps. Tom McClintock of California, Ken Buck of Colorado, and Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin. Gallagher has since said he is not running for reelection.

After missing last week’s vote, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, who is battling cancer, returned to Washington, D.C. With his vote, the House was able to impeach despite four members being absent. Two Florida Republicans, Reps. Brian Mast and Maria Elvira Salazar, and two Democrats, Reps. Lois Frankel (Florida) and Judy Chu (California), were not present to vote.

Chu said she tested positive for COVID-19 and would have voted against impeachment. Mast said he and Frankel were stuck at the Palm Beach International Airport. Salazar has not yet released a statement about her absence.

Johnson has appointed impeachment managers including Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyoming. After the vote, Hageman said, “Mayorkas willfully disregarded his oath to uphold our laws and repeatedly lied to Congress about his role in the border crisis and censorship of US citizens – the House held him accountable. As an impeachment manager, I will help make this case to the Senate.”

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