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La Crosse state Rep. Billings upset public not part of Republican plan for unveiling new way Wisconsin could draw voting maps



FILE - Wisconsin state Rep. Jill Billings.

Call it the Iowa-ish model, a new plan for drawing voting maps in Wisconsin that was thrown at lawmakers Tuesday.

“In an unusual move, the Republicans called for a recess for a press conference (on Tuesday), in the middle of our voting on the Assembly floor, which is unusual,” Rep. Jill Billings described on La Crosse Talk PM.

La Crosse Talk PM airs weekdays at 5:06 p.m. Listen on the WIZM app, online here, or on 92.3 FM / 1410 AM / 106.7 FM (north of Onalaska). Find all the podcasts here or subscribe to La Crosse Talk PM wherever you get your podcasts.

The news conference was to announce the new redistricting plan taken from the Iowa model, which is considered the gold standard for drawing maps. The plan is supposedly nonpartisan, but Billings and the rest of her Democratic colleagues were not made aware it was even happening, let alone a part of crafting it.

“Within 48 hours, they’re going to bring a bill on the floor,” Billings continued, a day before Thursday’s vote. “Never had a public hearing, so the public has never had a chance to give input on this. It’s not the Iowa model. It’s different from the Iowa model, in that the power still lies with the majority in the Assembly.”

Billings said the process is basically a three strikes and you’re out model that then just reverts back to the way Wisconsin currently draws maps — where the party in power in one particular year draws them.

This new process would have a nonpartisan committee draw the maps and the Legislature and governor either vote for or against them. If they don’t agree the first time, they’re redrawn. If they don’t agree again, they’re redrawn.

“By the third map,” Billings said, “if no agreement is made — and again, the majority party controls all of this, because they have the majority votes — then, if they can’t by the third map, then the Legislature draws the map. So, we’re back to where we were before, where the majority party draws the map and they’ll gerrymander it.”

UW-Stevens Point political science professor, Dr. Ed Miller, will be join La Crosse Talk PM at 5 p.m. Thursday to explain just how seldom the maps have been agreed upon by both parties. In 2000, Miller was was part of a group the state Supreme Court brought in to create a mechanism for drawing maps when state government deadlocks.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, the top Republican, is being criticized for talk of considering impeaching the newly-elected state Supreme Court justice, as a lawsuit that could throw out the GOP-drawn voting maps lingers. So, the timing for the Iowa-ish model is precarious, but Billings brought up another reason for his surprise plan.

“(Vos) decided he was going to stop wasting taxpayer money on lawsuits, which is a joke,” Billings said. “I mean, it’s amazing the millions and millions he’s spent so far.”

Among the lawsuits where millions in taxpayer funds has already been wasted by Vos include the repercussions from hiring former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to investigate the 2020 election, which found no evidence of fraud and ended with Vos firing the guy. The GOP has also committed nearly $2 million in taxpayer money to fight the current lawsuit over their maps.

The plan was also unveiled in the midst of a lot of other drama happening in the Legislature. The Assembly is going to vote on, and likely pass, six childcare bills that don’t have Democratic or industry support. The state is also going to vote to fire Wisconsin Election Commission administrator Megan Wolfe, which is controversial in its legality. And, the Assembly just passed an income tax cut for those making between $18,000 and $405,000 that the governor has basically already vetoed and said he’ll veto again.

As for Thursday’s vote on the new map drawing plan, Billings stated the obvious.

“So we’re not happy with this plan that they threw at us and will be on the floor in 48 hours, again with no public input,” she said. “They totally cut the public out of commenting on this redistricting plan that they have. It’s unfortunate. It’s just another way for Vos to keep his power.”

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Timmy

    September 15, 2023 at 12:07 pm

    Fake outrage.

    In other matters, where are we on the tax cut?

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