This week, Democrats have been happy to over-exaggerate the importance of one newspaper’s over-exaggeration of our state’s redistricting process.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel decided to sensationalize the use of legal nondisclosure agreements early in the legislative process on redistricting, with several high-profile stories over the course of the week.
As you know, in Wisconsin, redistricting is required every ten years based on population changes. Our state’s process is to pass a bill through the legislature. As such, the redistricting maps were subject to the same requirements of transparency and openness as any other bill. All of those requirements were fully met.
However, Democrats and other groups had already decided before the census data was even received to file a lawsuit over the constitutionality of the maps themselves. With that lawsuit in mind, and knowing that the maps would eventually be the subject of additional lawsuits, members were asked to limit their public comments on the maps to save themselves the unnecessary hassle of turning up in depositions and finding themselves in the middle of those lawsuits.
In legislative rules define partisan caucuses as any meeting convened “by 2 or more members of a political party to discuss business related to the organization or agenda of that party … or to discuss any matter pending in or proposed for introduction in the legislature.” Therefore, discussions about redistricting between members are considered a legislative caucus, which are specifically exempted from the open meetings law.
In the past, attorney-client privilege would be extended to discussions on redistricting, but in this year’s case, a judge pierced that privilege by court order, leading to last week’s news articles.
The maps passed through the process exactly as required, and that redistricting is required by our state constitution every ten years. The maps have the presumption of validity, despite the politically-motivated over-reactions based on sensationalistic exaggerations from the press.
Bank Settlement brings $140 Million to Wisconsin
On Thursday, the Department of Justice and Gov. Walker announced a historic, multi-state settlement to a lawsuit over bad housing practices by six major banks. In short, the banks agreed to a nationwide settlement of $25 billion, divided up among a number of programs for affected homeowners and direct payment to states. Wisconsin’s portion of the settlement – contingent upon final approval – will take the following forms:
Ø $60 million in new bank-funded programs aimed at improving affected communities, including high-foreclosure and blighted areas;
Ø $31.3 million for refinancing programs for affected homeowners;
Ø $17.2 million in direct reimbursements of homeowners covered by the lawsuit; and
Ø $31.6 million to the attorney general for discretionary purposes