Thursday, November 30, 2023
Thursday, November 30, 2023

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

12 Ways a Liberal Supreme Court Would Destroy Wisconsin


What’s at stake? Everything.

A contested and extremely important state Supreme Court race is underway. Two conservatives (Jennifer Dorow and Dan Kelly) are facing two liberals (Janet Protasiewicz and Everett Mitchell) in the Feb. 21 primary. The top two vote-getters will advance to the April general election.

We can’t underscore enough how important this race is.

If either liberal wins, the left will seize outright control of the state Supreme Court. The consequences would be immense. Power has already been hanging in the balance of a single vote. As of June 2022, the Wisconsin Court had issued more 4-3 decisions “than at any time in the last 70 years.” according to WPR. If a liberal is elected in April, expect a lot of 5-2 decisions or 4-3 in the direction of the left.

A new liberal-controlled court would likely undo everything from Gov. Scott Walker’s signature reforms to the 1849 abortion law. A new liberal court would shift power to the governor and redraw the Legislature to Democrats’ favor. Gun rights, school choice, voter ID – it’s all on the line.

We have compiled the 12 top ways a liberal Supreme Court would destroy Wisconsin:

1. Legislative Maps

The leading liberal candidate for the court, Janet Protasiewicz, outright declared the legislative maps “rigged,” despite ethics codes barring judges from prejudging cases.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court (the liberals + sometimes conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn) initially approved Gov. Tony Evers’ legislative and congressional maps. The Evers’ maps were challenged at the U.S. Supreme Court. SCOTUS approved Evers’ Congressional map but remanded the legislative maps back to the Wisconsin Supreme Court because they failed a couple of key tests.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court had basically three options: fix the Evers’ maps to address the SCOTUS concerns; draw their own maps; or approve the GOP maps. They chose to approve the GOP maps in a 4-3 decision, with Hagedorn flipping to the conservative side.

A new liberal-controlled court would likely choose to draw its own maps, giving Democrats an advantage in the state Legislature, hoping to undo the Republican majorities there Those Republican majorities are the only thing stopping Evers’ agenda from running through Wisconsin like a freight train.

2. Abortion

Protasiewicz has been clear that she is pro-abortion and opposes the overturning of Roe V. Wade. A new liberal court would almost certainly strike down the state’s 1849 law banning abortion. In fact, Protasiewicz’s first TV ads focused on abortion.

“I believe in a woman’s freedom to make her own decision on abortion. It’s time for a change,” she says in one.

Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul has already filed a suit to invalidate the 1849 law. Kaul is arguing the 1849 law is unenforceable because lawmakers passed other changes to abortion laws since then. They did so because Roe vs. Wade was in place then.

For example, Republican lawmakers banned abortions after five months of pregnancy. If the 1849 law is invalidated by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Republicans almost certainly could not revise the law further because Evers would veto any changes.

Other than maps, abortion is the left’s top target.

3. Act 10

In 2011, Wisconsin passed Act 10, which limited the rights of public employee unions to demand collective bargaining. Act 10 did not restrict the rights of unions to represent their members. Public sector unions may not include health insurance costs, or larger benefit packages in their contracts. Act 10 limits salary raises to the consumer price index.

Last year, the MacIver Institute reported that Act 10 resulted in savings to school district budgets of $15 billion.

According to the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, Act 10 has allowed flexibility in the employment process for teachers. Now, good teachers can be rewarded with merit pay while bad teachers can be more easily removed.

Protasiewicz has already called Act 10 “unconstitutional,” telegraphing that a liberal court could seek to invalidate it. And you can bet that unions would bring a new case.

4. Election Integrity

Expect a liberal court to be extremely hostile to any efforts to tighten up election integrity.

In July, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, with Hagedorn joining the conservatives, ruled that “most ballot drop boxes aren’t allowed in the state and that a voter can’t have someone else return — in person — their completed absentee ballot on their behalf.”

Expect a liberal court to go in the other direction if it gets a new challenge, and it will.

“Zuckerbucks” and other election integrity issues could also end up before the court.

5. Concealed Carry

In 2011, Wisconsin passed Act 35 which allowed licensed people to carry concealed weapons in public. The law also allows for a person to carry, without a license, a concealed weapon in their home or place of business.

A liberal court would likely be hostile to the state’s concealed carry law. In 2022, the Wisconsin Supreme Court broadened the concealed carry law, saying that it people with disorderly conduct convictions couldn’t be invalidated from carrying concealed weapons.

6. Castle Doctrine

In 2011, Wisconsin enacted 2011 Wisconsin Act 94, known as the castle doctrine law.

According to the State Bar of Wisconsin, “the law affords a presumption of immunity in civil and criminal actions to individuals who use deadly force in self-defense against persons unlawfully or forcibly entering their home, motor vehicle, or place of business. It also prohibits consideration of whether the actor had an opportunity to flee or retreat before he or she used force.”

Expect the left to target this law.

7. Safer at Home Law

We doubt that lockdowns will ever be a realistic possibility again. The COVID-19 panic has waned. However, if such a situation ever presented itself, you can rest assured that a new liberal court would have kept the state locked down.

According to Wisconsin Public Radio, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the “Evers’ administration exceeded its authority when state Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm issued the ‘Safer at Home.'”

“This case is about the assertion of power by one unelected official, Andrea Palm, and her order to all people within Wisconsin to remain in their homes, not to travel, and to close all businesses that she declares are not ‘essential’ in Emergency Order 28,” conservative Chief Justice Patience Roggensack wrote for the majority.

A liberal court would likely have upheld these powers.

8. Right to Work

In 2015, Wisconsin passed 2015 Wisconsin Act 1 which created a “right-to-work” law for private sector employers and employees. Wisconsin “became the 25th state in the country to enact a ‘Right to Work’ law,” according to “That law prohibits collective bargaining agreements from requiring an employee, as a condition of employment, to become or remain a union member or to pay any union dues, fees, assessments, charges, or other expenses to a union.”

It has had a lasting impact allowing employees to make their own union membership decisions across Wisconsin.

Multiple unions sued, arguing that “right-to-work” was “illegal taking of property without just compensation, prohibited under the Wisconsin constitution.”

A new liberal court would likely favor the unions if a new challenge was brought forward.

9. School Choice

Educational freedom, school choice, and parental rights will be at stake if the left seizes control of the state Supreme Court.

A Wisconsin Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of vouchers dates to 2003. The Wisconsin Institute on Law and Liberty explains, “The Wisconsin Supreme Court held that the parent’s choice for the voucher, even if it is a religious private school, does not violate the Establishment Clause of the Wisconsin Constitution because the parent (not the government) is directing the dollars.”

Expect a liberal-controlled court to be hostile to educational freedom and school choice issues.

Expect a new liberal court to also neuter parents’ rights when it comes to school district gender policies. WILL sued to bar a Madison school district policy “that allows students to self-identify their names and pronouns without parental permission.” The state Supreme Court, with Hagedorn joining the liberals, had declined to rule on the underlying issue.

Another example: In 2019, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty wrote, “In Koschkee v. Taylor, we win again before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, establishing that educational policy in the state of Wisconsin is made by the legislature and not by the state Superintendent of Public Instruction.” A new liberal court would likely shift powers back to DPI in cases brought before it.

10. Voter ID

As NPR put it, “Wisconsin’s ID law has been the subject of litigation ever since it was passed by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011.”

Liberals challenged its constitutionality. In 2014, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the state’s photo ID law for voting. “Writing for the majorities in Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Walker and League of Women Voters v. Walker, Justice Patience Roggensack ruled that Wisconsin’s Voter ID law was constitutional,” the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty wrote.

A liberal court would probably strike the law down.

11. Restrict Police Powers

Expect a liberal-controlled court to restrict the powers of police at the detriment of public safety and police investigations. Expect them to expand the rights of criminal defendants.

These changes could come in the areas of search and seizure, lineups, interrogations, and more. For example,  the court previously “held that a traffic stop may be based on a law enforcement official’s objectively reasonable mistake of law.” These kinds of cases would swing against cops.

In other cases, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “a divided Wisconsin Supreme Court…threw out one conviction but upheld another in cases in which drivers challenged whether police officers’ really had probable cause for detaining them or were acting solely on hunches and bias over past drug use.”

In 2005, the state Supreme Court, in cases involving criminal defendants’ rights, started embracing a concept known as “new federalism.” This “refers to a tendency to look first to the state constitution and assign greater rights than the Supreme Court to parallel provisions in the federal constitution,” Wisconsin explained. Expect a comeback of that concept to grant criminal defendants more rights in Wisconsin than the U.S. Constitution requires.

12. The Governor’s Power

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty recently prevailed on a case limiting Evers’ veto authority. “We prevail in the state Supreme Court in Bartlett v. Evers, overturning certain of Governor Evers’ vetoes, ending the abusive veto that allowed governors to rewrite laws passed as part of the budget,” they wrote.

Expect a liberal court to expand Evers’ power.

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Henry Kissinger dies

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger Dies at 100

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who help steer U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam and China, died Wednesday. He was 100.

His consulting firm, Kissinger Associates Inc., announced the death.

Kissinger, born as Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Germany in 1923, left Nazi Germany for America in 1938. He served in the 84th Army Division from 1943 to 1946 after becoming a U.S. citizen. He was awarded the Bronze Star. He later served in the Counter Intelligence Corps in occupied Germany.

President Richard Nixon appointed Kissinger National Security Adviser in 1969. He went on to serve as Secretary of State under Nixon. When Nixon resigned in 1974 amid the Watergate scandal, Kissinger stayed on and served under President Gerald Ford.

"Kissinger played central roles in the opening to China, negotiating the end of the Yom Kippur War in the Middle East, and helping to bring America's role in the Vietnam War to a close. He worked to set the former Rhodesia on the path to representative government and negotiated key arms control agreements with the Soviet Union," according to Kissinger Associates Inc.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, a Vietnamese diplomat, "for jointly having negotiated a cease fire in Vietnam in 1973," according to the Noble Foundation. Le Duc Tho declined the Nobel Peace Prize.

"Kissinger’s tenure as Secretary comprised many controversial issues, including his role in influencing U.S. policies towards countries such as Chile and Angola," according to his official State Department biography.

Kissinger also was known for his "shuttle diplomacy" missions, in which he traveled between Middle East capitals to try to bring peace.

Kissinger also had many critics. HuffPost's obituary of Kissinger had the headline: "Henry Kissinger, America's Most Notorious War Criminal, Dies At 100". HuffPost cited as perhaps Kissinger's most notorious crime a secret four-year bombing campaign in Cambodia against the neutral nation during the time of the Vietnam War.

Kissinger is survived by his wife, Nancy Maginnes Kissinger, two children by his first marriage, David and Elizabeth, and five grandchildren.

He will be interred at a private family service.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests considering donations to: Animal Medical Center, Development Office, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065 or Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036.

Wisconsin Truancy AB 995 School shutdowns

Report: Wisconsin Truancy Rates Soar in Past Decade

(The Center Square) – Many children in Wisconsin schools have not returned to class since the COVID outbreak.

A new report from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty looks at the spike in chronic absenteeism, particularly since the start of the 2020 school year.

“The first step in the education of a student is them being present to absorb the material. But when a student is regularly not in school, this process breaks down,” Will Flanderrs wrote in the report. “Getting kids into school on a daily basis is a responsibility shared by school districts and parents. While there is no one change that can magically reverse the downward trend in attendance, it is vital that this issue be at the forefront for policymakers concerned about the education of the next generation.”

The report shows truancy rates in Wisconsin public schools have more than doubled since 2012.

“About 10% of students were chronically absent in 2012 compared to more than 20% today,” the report notes.

The report also shows some of Wisconsin’s worst-performing schools have the highest absentee numbers.

“Beloit, Racine, and Milwaukee are among the districts with the lowest Forward Exam proficiency, but highest absenteeism,” the report said. “Many of the districts with the lowest rates of absenteeism are elementary-only districts – suggestive of the fact that students tend to skip school significantly more as they age and parental oversight declines. Many of Wisconsin’s largest-enrollment school districts are found at the top.”

Racine Schools have the highest absentee rate, followed by Beloit Schools, Milwaukee Public Schools, Ashland Schools and Green Bay Area Public Schools.

Wauzeka-Steuben Schools have the lowest absentee rate, followed by Stone Bank Schools, the Paris J1 district, Swallow Schools and Kohler Schools.

WILL’s report also looks at the effort to fight chronic absenteeism, which is largely non-existent in many communities.

“In most of Wisconsin, actual charges under the state’s truancy laws are quite rare. The most common charge is for contributing to the truancy of a minor,” the report notes. “This charge has been levied 359 times between 2018 and 2022, with only 109 eventual convictions. A very small number of counties contribute to the overall numbers.”

WILL’s report shows Winnebago and Marathon counties account for more than 70 of those 109 convictions. Prosecutors in Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Beloit did not record a single truancy conviction between 2018 and 2022.

WILL’s suggested solution is not more prosecutions but rather more education for parents.

“There is conventional wisdom, especially among low-income parents, that attendance in early grades is less critical than, say, high school attendance. But the reality is largely the opposite: students who fall behind early in subjects like reading are often never able to catch back up,” the report states. “Another key factor in reducing absenteeism is making sure that students feel safe in school. A number of studies over the years have found that a negative school environment, or even news of recent school violence, lead to higher rates of absenteeism. WILL has done extensive work over the years on the ways that politically correct discipline policies have harmed school safety. Moving away from softer discipline policies and returning resource officers to schools where needed could improve not only safety, but also attendance.”

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Wisconsin Lawmakers Coming Together on Telehealth Changes for Mental Health Treatment

(The Center Square) – The plan to change Wisconsin’s telehealth rules for mental health treatment is coming together at the State Capitol.

The Senate Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse Prevention, Children and Families held a hearing Tuesday on Senate Bill 515 which would allow out-of-state mental health providers to take patients in Wisconsin without having to get a license to practice in Wisconsin.

“Overall, this breaks down barriers. It allows other providers to provide other services. And it allows people to get the help that they need,” Sen. Rachel Cabral-Guevara, R-Appleton, said.

The plan would essentially make Wisconsin’s COVID-era telehealth program permanent.

Supporters say it will also help battle Wisconsin’s “crisis level” shortage of mental health providers.

“The shortage is all the more stark when you look at rural areas of the state,” Institute for Reforming Government’s Alex Ignatowski told lawmakers. “The average throughout the state is one mental health provider for every 470 residents. But if you go to Buffalo County that jumps to 13,030 residents per one mental health provider.”

The proposal already cleared the Wisconsin Assembly, where Cabral-Guevara said there were some changes to get Wisconsin’s Medical Society to drop its opposition.

“There were two amendments that were added. One limits the scope to just mental health providers. So, it takes out physicians, PAs, and nurses, and it puts in therapists, counselors, social workers, and psychologists to provide a little bit narrower scope,” Cabral-Guevara said. “The other one provides that an out-of-state provider needs to register with DSPS so that we know these folks are registered within their state, and we have accountability here in our state.”

Ignatowski said the move to the break-down barriers and eliminate burdensome regulations is a good thing.

“Currently 26 states have some sort of exception for out-of-state telehealth providers. These exceptions cover a number of medical and mental health provider groups, but often have a complex set of requirements. Wisconsin can do better,” Ignatowski said. “We know that providers from other states are not drastically different to the point that we need to impose duplicative licensure requirements or put up new bureaucratic barriers between providers and the Wisconsinites who need help now. There is no silver bullet for solving mental health the mental health crisis in Wisconsin, but SB515 will increase access to mental health services in Wisconsin and warrants your support.”

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New Home Sales in October Drop More Than Expected

New home sales in the U.S. dropped last month as mortgage rates have soared.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, new home sales fell 5.6% in October, more than expected.

“The median sales price of new houses sold in October 2023 was $409,300,” the Bureau said in its announcement. “The average sales price was $487,000.”

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate in the U.S. in October rose to nearly 8% before dipping closer to 7% in November. About this time in 2021, the average rate was around 3%.

That interest rate spike has been fueled in large part by the U.S. Federal Reserve, which has hiked the federal funds rate about a dozen times since March of last year in an effort to combat elevated inflation.

Both inflation and those rates can eventually come down, but it would take time.

“With interest rates edging higher in October, it was expected that new home sales would disappoint, however, as mortgage rates inched lower following Treasury's November 1 announcement of lower than anticipated funding needs, coupled with the market's perception of a decidedly more dovish Fed, rates have edged lower fueling a climb in mortgage applications,” Quincy Krosby, Chief Global Strategist for LPL Financial, said in a statement.

Abortion Would Be Severely Limited in 23 States Roe v. Wade Overturned

Study: States with Restrictive Abortion Bans See 2.3% Hike in Births After Roe Overturned

Roughly 32,000 babies have been born in states that implemented abortion restrictions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June, according to a new analysis.

In the first six months of 2023, “births rose by an average of 2.3 percent in states enforcing total abortion bans," leading to an estimated 32,000 births that might have otherwise been aborted, according to a new analysis published by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics initiated by the Deutsche Post Foundation.

“These effects may vary across demographic groups and tend to be larger for younger women and women of color; … vary substantially across ban states, with much larger effects observed in states that are bordered by other ban states and hence have long travel distances to reach facilities that remain open.”

Its November 2023 “Effects of the Dobbs Decision on Fertility” report states that the “U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization sparked the most profound transformation of the landscape of abortion access in 50 years. We provide the first estimates of the effects of this decision on fertility using a preregistered synthetic difference-in-differences design applied to newly released provisional natality data for the first half of 2023.”

The analysis is based on provisional data for the first six months of 2023. “If future research using finalized data and additional policy variation reveals continued substantial effects on birth, then we expect long-lasting and profound effects on the lives of affected pregnant people and their families, including effects on educational investment, employment, earnings, and financial security.”

As of Nov. 1, 2023, 14 states are enforcing bans on abortion in nearly all circumstances, the report notes. Because roughly 23% of American women seeking an abortion experienced an increase in driving distance to the nearest abortion facility (from 43 miles before Dobbs to 330 miles after Dobbs), the driving distance “represents the most profound transformation of the landscape of U.S. abortion access in 50 years.”

According to a different study by researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, nearly as many babies are believed to have been born in Texas alone since its new heartbeat bill went into effect Sept. 1, 2021.

Within eight months of the new law going into effect, there were nearly 9,800 live births in Texas from April to December 2022, according to the Johns Hopkins study. If the rate were consistent through November 2023, of an additional 1,225 live births a month, the number of babies born in Texas that otherwise might have been aborted is closer to nearly 32,000 since Sept. 1, 2021.

Suzanne Bell, a lead author of Johns Hopkins study, said their “findings highlight how abortion bans have real implications for birthing people, thousands of whom may have had no choice but to continue an unwanted or unsafe pregnancy to term. Notably, the majority of people who seek abortions live below or close to the poverty line. So many of these birthing people and their families were likely struggling financially even before the recent birth.”

State Sen. Brian Hughes, R-Mineola, who authored Texas’ heartbeat bill, told The Center Square, “Each of these lives is a gift of God and reflects His image. And since passage of the Heartbeat Act, we have drastically increased funding for expectant and new mothers and their babies.

“In Texas, we are proving that we can save the life of the baby while we love, and respect, and support the mother.”

In addition to signing the state’s first heartbeat bill into law, Gov. Greg Abbott signed bills into law extending Medicaid health-care coverage to 12 months post-partum, appropriated more than $447 million for women’s health programs and invested over $140 million in the Thriving Texas Families program.

Prior to Roe being overturned, "In 2020, approximately 1 in 5 pregnancies ended in abortion," the IZA study states, noting that the majority of those seeking abortions, 75%, were low-income. Another 59% said they had previously given birth and 55% reported some kind of hardship including falling behind on rent or losing a job.

Hughes’ bill, SB 8, passed the Texas legislature with bipartisan support and was signed into law in May 2021. By October 2021, a federal judge halted it. By April 2022, the Fifth Circuit overturned that ruling and ended all challenges to the law. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in June 2022, Texas’ law went into full effect in August 2022.

Texas’ law is considered to be among the strictest in the nation. It bans abortions from being performed in Texas as soon as a heartbeat of the preborn baby is detected, with limited exceptions. It created a second-degree felony offense for a person who knowingly performs, induces or attempts an abortion. The offense is enhanced to a first-degree felony if an unborn child dies from an abortion. Anyone who violates the law performing an abortion can also be subject to a minimum civil penalty of $100,000 for each violation, with exceptions.

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Language Justice

Denver Schools Adopt ‘Language Justice’ Policy With Goal to Support Native Languages

The Denver school district is among the first in the country to adopt a “language justice” policy as a "long term goal."

The district would encourage non-English speaking students to be able to use their native language to learn as opposed to being educated in English, which advocates say is oppressive and rooted in racism.

Denver schools had about 90,250 students in 2022 with 35,000 multilingual learners with home languages other than English. The district has 200 languages spoken across the district, with Spanish as the home language for the majority of those.

The district included a draft of an equity document that includes a policy statement on "language justice." It was included in the Nov. 16 school board agenda. The document includes this definition for "language justice": "The notion of respecting every individual's fundamental language rights – to be able to communicate, understand, and be understood in the language in which they prefer and feel most articulate and powerful."

The district didn't respond to an email seeking comment. It's not clear how much such a policy would cost and the district didn't provide details in the school board agenda packet of how to implement it.

The Colorado chapter of the education advocacy organization Stand For Children stated it worked with the Denver school district to get the language justice policy adopted.

"We will continue to work with school leaders and staff to help provide knowledge of these policies and strategies to accomplish language justice in every classroom and school," Colorado Stand For Children posted on its website.

The Community Language Cooperative, which has advocated for language justice, referred to a chart that explained what is involved in the program.

"The organization has allocated significant funds to language justice efforts. This is a yearly budget line item," the chart states.

It also states that meetings or public events "are facilitated in the represented languages. ... Interpretation is made available to all participants, not just the non-English speakers."

The organization would also hire bilingual staff members, put them in leadership positions and pay them "equitably" to "ensure that bilingualism is a valued skill for the organization."

"It's not just a matter of hiring more interpreters and translators but rather creating systems and building the infrastructure that best supports linguistically diverse families and supporting multilingual staff," Rosa Guzman-Snyder, co-founder of Community Language Cooperative, said in an email to The Center Square.

The Community Language Cooperative, which provides translation services, explained in a post on The Colorado Trust's website how language justice could be implemented.

"Here’s how it works: When somebody speaks in English, [interpreter Luis] Gomez simultaneously whispers the Spanish interpretation into his mic, which feeds the headsets of everyone in the room. There’s another person whispering the English interpretation when somebody speaks Spanish," the post read.