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‘Wisemen’ redistricting panel DOA?

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: A stricter abortion bill, childhood immunization rates drop; a “welfare queen” case; a wild Wisconsin meeting; and Justin is back.
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‘Wisemen’ redistricting panel DOA?

Before you could say, “What will Tony Sutton say about this?” the state GOP’s point man on redistricting, Michael Brodkorb, was out ripping the idea of a panel of state wisemen (and women) handling the map-drawing circus this time around. Rachel Stassen-Berger on the Strib’s “Hot Dish Politics” writes: “Former Vice President Walter Mondale, former U.S. Rep. Tim Penny, former state Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, former House Speaker Steve Sviggum and former Minnesota Supreme Court chief justice Kathleen Blatz say a panel of retired judges, not self-interested lawmakers, should draw the lines that determine political boundaries. ‘Where we’re hoping the public would pick their politicians, increasingly this system allows the politicians to pick their public,’ said Mondale.”

To this Brodkorb replied: “ ‘Elected representatives should be involved in the redistricting process, not an unelected panel of retired political appointees.’ ” Stassen-Berger adds: “It is unclear if his comment represented his view as executive assistant to the Minnesota Republican Senate caucus or as the deputy chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party. Brodkorb is also the party’s lead on redistricting issues.”

Here at MinnPost, Doug Grow says: “This idea, which always is praised by good-government types, has been floated before. And it has run into a brick wall: the Legislature. In the past, there has been only mild interest shown by legislative leaders to give up this piece of power. A bill that would have created the nonpartisan commission did pass the DFL-controlled Senate last year but not the House. Neither Republican nor DFL leaders are embracing the idea with much enthusiasm this year.” Maybe they haven’t thought about it yet, what with all those jobs creation bills they’re cranking out.

Speaking of jobs, the state’s GOP lawmakers are pushing a new stricter abortion bill. Stassen-Berger and Eric Roper file on that development, saying: “This November’s elections swept in a wave of anti-abortion lawmakers, reigniting an emotional debate that has often divided the Legislature in the past. A separate measure to block state funding of abortion for poor women also awaits legislative action. Fewer than 2 percent of the 12,386 abortions performed in Minnesota in 2009 involved fetuses older than 20 weeks, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota said those cases often involve fetuses with fatal medical conditions. ‘This ban is a cruel attempt by anti-choice forces to curb access to care for women in the most desperate of circumstances,’ said NARAL executive director Linnea House.”

Minnesota’s rate of child immunization has slipped down to barely above the national average, according to a new report. KSTP’s Josh Simeone reports: “A report released by the National Immunization Survey suggests Minnesota childhood immunization rates are backsliding. The 2009 NIS shows the state’s childhood immunization rate dropped in two years from 80.5 percent in 2007 to 76.9 percent in 2009.The 2009 numbers, according to the survey, are only hovering over the national average of 75.7 percent.” Simeone’s piece links to a story on immunizations that colleague Mark Albert did in November ‘09.

Remember Ronald Reagan’s mythical “welfare queen”? The one tooling around in a Cadillac supported by welfare checks? Well, in a way, she turned up in Duluth. Mark Stodghill of the News-Tribune writes: “A Duluth woman, who with her husband was accused of buying a new Cadillac Escalade SUV and a new Nissan Titan pickup even while drawing St. Louis County welfare benefits, pleaded guilty Monday to welfare fraud. … Tari Lauer received a used Cadillac Deville from her deceased father’s estate, which was not reported to the county. Three months later, she purchased a $37,000 Chevrolet Avalanche sport utility truck. Four months later she purchased a $67,094 Cadillac Escalade and bought her husband a $38,680.07 Nissan Titan on the same day. A month later, the couple purchased a 2007 Ford Mustang convertible for $18,283.43 that is registered in both their names. The complaint alleges that Tari Lauer said her drug addiction and her husband’s ‘deliberate orchestrating of the situation and taking advantage of her’ caused the fraud.” It’s not clear if she also bought the bus she threw the hubby under.

If what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, Wisconsin Republicans got a taste of Tea Party town hall hysteria last night. Jay Sorgi of WTMJ radio writes (and includes video): “Budget protesters shut down a town hall meeting in Wauwatosa. ‘Shame, shame, shame’ were among the words that came out of protesters mouths as the meeting ended, according to a video taken at the meeting that was placed on YouTube. Menomonee Falls Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner and Wauwatosa Republican State Senator Leah Vukmir were hosting the events at the Wauwatosa Library.”
The legal thinking behind that ethics complaint against Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin is kind of interesting. Ray Gustini in The National Journal writes: “The Wisconsin Democratic Party says it doesn’t matter that Walker was actually speaking to a Buffalo Beast writer Ian Murphy. Wisconsin state party chairman Mike Tate invoked the logic of a popular TV series: ‘If you watch To Catch A Predator,’ he told reporters Monday, ‘it’s not really a 13 year old boy in the house, but the law is violated all the same.’ Presumably, this analogy applies to the portion of the complaint involving the alleged misuse of state resources. Wisconsin law prohibits officeholders from using their position to ‘obtain financial gain or anything of substantial value for the public official, a member of his or her immediate family, or an organization with which he or she is associated.’ The California trip and ads for GOP officials seem to meet the ‘substantial value’ criteria.     Former Wisconsin attorney general Peg Lautenschlager told the Capitol Times of Madison that Walker shouldn’t simply dismiss the complaint as grandstanding. ‘There clearly are potential ethics violations, and there are potential election law violations and there are a lot of what look to me like labor law violations,’ said Lautenschlager, a Democrat.”

Greg Sargent, writing The Washington Post’s “Plum Line” blog, leads with Wisconsin-related items, including former Congressman Dave Obey predicting Walker will be recalled and noting the cash infusion driving a new TV ad campaign. “Quote of the morning, from former Wisconsin Rep. and top labor ally David Obey: ‘It is apparent to me that if the Governor does not engage in meaningful compromise, he will be recalled. Because when you go after the jugular, and try to put workers out of business, that is when they will mean business in the way they respond.’ ” And: “National Dem base remains intensely engaged in Wisconsin fight: The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America, who are running that ad featuring ordinary Wisconsinites making the case against Governor Scott Walker, will announce today that they’ve raised over $530,000 online from 23,700 grassroots donors — and are expanding their buy for the third time. It’s a sign that the national Dem base’s interest in this battle is only intensifying as the national media loses interest.”

Well, Justin Morneau of the Twins finally played in an actual game … and hit a three-run double. USA Today’s Seth Livingstone writes: “The 2006 AL MVP appeared in a game on Tuesday for the first time since suffering a concussion last July 7. OK, it was only a ‘B’ game against the Pirates on a back field at the Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers, but he did crack a three-run double on his second trip to the plate, eliciting cheers from the small morning crowd.”