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Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Winter Sunset over Lake Superior from Bark Point  •  Reader photo by Peter Wagner
 
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Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over New Political Maps

  • The Wisconsin Supreme Court began hearing arguments Wednesday from several parties on redistricting, which will shape the boundaries for Assembly, state Senate, and congressional districts for the next decade.
     
  • The last redistricting decision from the court upheld the “least changes” standard, which was created in September by legislative Republicans and states that the new map should have as few changes as possible from the heavily gerrymandered 2011 maps. In response, Gov. Tony Evers and Black Leaders Organizing Communities (BLOC) submitted maps that adhered to the “least changes” standard better than the Legislature’s.
     
  • Much of the discussion centered on provisions designed to protect marginalized groups in the federal Voting Rights Act. Attorney Taylor Meehan, representing legislative Republicans, argued the Legislature’s maps should be passed in part because they were drafted with “race-neutral” criteria. She claimed Evers’ and BLOC’s maps are a “racial gerrymander” because they created an additional majority-Black Assembly district.
     
  • Attorney Doug Poland, representing BLOC, argued BLOC’s map creates an additional majority-Black voting district as a result of a growing Black population and shrinking white population in Milwaukee. Conservative Justice Patience Roggensack implied an additional majority-Black district is unnecessary because Milwaukee already has Black elected officials.
     
  • Arguments were ongoing Wednesday afternoon. The court is expected to adopt new maps by spring.
—Reported by Christina Lieffring 

Bills Would Add New Unemployment Restrictions but Offer No Other Solutions to Worker Shortage  

—Reported by Christina Lieffring 
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Former GOP Official Who Told People to 'Prepare for War' Will Be Election Worker

  • The man who stepped down as chair of the St. Croix County Republican Party after urging people to "prepare for war" will get to serve as an election judge in Hudson—and a council member who criticized the move has been forced to apologize.
     
  • John Kraft resigned a year ago as local Republican Party leader amid pressure from his own political party after making a series of social media posts in which he urged people to “prepare for war” against political opponents. Council member Joyce Hall issued an apology to Kraft during Tuesday’s City Council meeting rather than face censure.
     
  • At a Dec. 6 city meeting, Hall objected to Kraft’s inclusion among election site workers the City Council approved last month, saying his past social media posts gave her pause. Kraft subsequently filed an ethics complaint against her. Council members approved Kraft being an election worker.
     
  • In an interview Wednesday morning, Hall said she “did the right thing” by questioning whether Kraft should be allowed to work at election sites, given his previous actions. “[Questioning is] our job. We have the responsibility to make sure with poll workers that we are providing a safe environment for the voters,” Hall said. 
—Reported by Julian Emerson
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Don't Eat the Fish: DNR Issues Warning for Green Bay, Adjoining Rivers 

  • State officials issued a warning Tuesday against eating too much fish caught in Green Bay or on parts of the Menominee, Oconto, and Peshtigo rivers after tests showed elevated levels of chemicals linked to cancer, low birth weights, and many other health conditions in rock bass and other species.
     
  • While the highest levels of chemicals were found in rock bass, other fish also had lower amounts of the harmful compounds. The warning recommended eating only a single meal of Green Bay-caught rock bass per week. The warnings extended up the tributary rivers to the first dams.
     
  • The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Department of Health Services issued the advisory in a joint press release following sampling of fish in 2020. Delays due to increased demand for PFAS testing around the state held up the Green Bay results for over a year, the DNR said. Tests found elevated levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate, a type of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) that has been linked to numerous health conditions.
     
  • PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they take so long to dissipate after contaminating the environment. The discovery of PFAS contamination of water has become more common across Wisconsin as testing has become more commonplace. The DNR has attempted to implement rules to require PFAS testing and lower the acceptable limit, but Republican lawmakers blocked the rules from going into effect.
—Reported by JT Cestkowski
(Graphic by Morgaine Ford-Workman)

A Retirement Account for Kids? It Could Happen!

  • Children born in Wisconsin would get a head start on saving for retirement under a bipartisan proposal introduced Wednesday by state Reps. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) and John Macco (R-Ledgeview) and Sen. Janice Ringhand (D-Evansville).
     
  • The bill would create 401(K)ids, an IRA-like investment account for all children born or adopted in the state and would be the first of its kind in the country if it is approved. The plan is one of five recommendations made by members of the Governor’s Retirement Security Task Force, established in fall 2019 and headed by state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski.
     
  • “It’s an innovative way to start saving for kids from birth on,” Godlewski said of the 401(K)ids program. “As I toured the state, I heard over and over again, ‘How can we get people to start saving early?’ This is a really unique way to do that.”
     
  • The investment accounts will be managed by the state, which will provide an initial $25 investment when those accounts are started. In a joint statement, the bill’s sponsors said 401(K)ids will enable more Wisconsin residents “to accumulate significant assets and improve their financial security while reducing the need to take on debt.”
—Reported by Jonathon Sadowski
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