Nearly 1 million Wisconsin citizens actively seeking to restore democracy in the state still have several months to go, but it’s not too early to proclaim the worst is over and the end is in sight.
The unchecked extremism of Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s one-party control of the state officially ended with the resignation of Republican state Sen. Pam Galloway ahead of her likely recall.
Galloway’s Senate career was short and bizarre. Galloway was one of those Republican extremists elected in the Tea Party “Obama Backlash Election” of 2010 that not only gave Walker the governorship, but also gave Republicans control of both houses of the Legislature.
Despite her medical training as a physician, Galloway demonstrated what has to be described as shocking indifference toward protecting public health. Not only was Galloway a primary sponsor of the state’s concealed carry law to encourage more deadly weapons on our streets, but also in recent months she fought to exempt schools from being required to protect student athletes from concussions.
The immediate effect of Galloway’s resignation is to end the two-year Republican control of the state Senate. Because Democrats picked up two Senate seats in last summer’s recalls, Democrats and Republicans are now evenly divided, with 16 votes each in the Senate.
Democrats are expected to win a few more Senate seats in four recall elections set for May and June.
Senate Change Is Significant
Republicans losing their Senate majority is much more significant than it ordinarily would be going into a legislative break. These are not ordinary times.
Because Republicans under Walker used tactics of such questionable legality to pass their extreme legislation, ending one-party rule will allow courts that still believe in upholding the law to stop some of the Republicans’ most brazenly dishonest legislation in its tracks.
Overturning the Republicans’ corrupt redistricting plan should be the first victory for democracy.
Every 10 years, following the new census, state politicians are required to draw lines for new legislative districts to assure equal representation as required by the U.S. Constitution.
A panel of three federal judges already rebuked Republicans for unethical and illegal actions connected to their redistricting plan, which intentionally manipulated boundaries to try to assure Republican legislative majorities for the next decade. To accomplish that, Republicans partially disenfranchised more than 300,000 people and chopped apart a Latino district in Milwaukee.
Because courts prefer legislators to do their own redistricting, if possible, the judges several times asked Republicans to correct the legal and constitutional problems raised by opponents. State Republicans, arrogant in their control of the Legislature, refused.
Now the judges are expected to declare the Republican plan illegal and send it back to the Legislature to come up with a constitutional plan.
Since Republicans no longer control the Senate, they will either have to compromise with Democrats on a plan or allow the judges themselves to do the redistricting.
Another brazen Republican assault on democracy was the most restrictive photo ID requirement for voting in the nation.
One court already has declared the law unconstitutional and another issued a temporary injunction to stop more than 220,000 qualified voters in the state from being disenfranchised.
Since both decisions were based on the state constitution, Republican legislative leaders smugly predict the Wisconsin Supreme Court will ultimately overrule the lower courts and uphold the voting restrictions.
Republican confidence is based upon an openly corrupt Republican majority that currently controls the court. But Republicans could be losing their automatic grip on the court just as they’re losing power in the Legislature.
Last week, Justice David Prosser, a former Republican leader in the Legislature, became the third member of the four-person Republican majority on the court to be charged with an ethical violation by the Wisconsin Judicial Commission.
Justice Pat Roggensack, usually the fourth member of the Republican majority, is up for re-election in 2013. Does she really want to go into that election joining three other justices, widely considered to be corrupt, in overruling two separate court decisions stopping the disenfranchisement of more than 200,000 Wisconsinites?
A perfect metaphor for what Walker has done to democracy in Wisconsin is his failed attempt to allow a wealthy mining corporation to rewrite mining regulations without regard to environmental damage from open-pit mining in northwest Wisconsin.
Walker’s yearlong administration has left behind enormous destruction and gaping wounds in our democracy. It was done in the fraudulent name of job creation, as it has now been documented that Wisconsin is near the bottom of the nation for job creation under Walker.
Now that Republicans have lost their Senate majority, Walker’s ability to pass damaging right-wing legislation has been blocked. Federal and state courts already are rolling back some of the Republicans’ most blatantly illegal actions.
To completely dig out from beneath the debris of Walker’s enormous destruction to Wisconsin, the recall is on the way.
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