Wisconsin taxpayers will spend another 425-thousand dollars to help majority Republicans try to keep the new legislative districts they drew last year -- and possibly give them an edge in this fall's elections. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said Governor Scott Walker increased the limit on what outside attorneys can be paid to help the Justice Department defend a lawsuit against the new maps. The firm of Reinhart-Boerner-Van Deuren had a 500-thousand-dollar cap -- but that's now 925-thousand-dollars. The firm has already charged taxpayers 288-thousand for its work. That's on top of the 400-thousand tax dollars that G-O-P lawmakers gave Michael Best and Friedrich for helping to draw up the new districts -- which will be the subjects of a trial in federal court over the next two days.
Testimony begins this morning in a lawsuit in which Democrats and Hispanics are trying to get the maps declared unconstitutional. The court tried but failed over the last two days to get Republicans to agree to re-draw the maps on their own, so the plaintiffs' objectons could be addressed. The plaintiffs say the new maps dilute the power of Hispanics in the Legislature, and require too many people to wait six years instead of four to vote for their new senators. The G-O-P said it drew the maps in accordance with population changes as required every 10 years.
The federal government will spend 50-million dollars this year to try and keep the invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Administration officials have told the Associated Press about an updated plan. It includes the first water sampling to see if the bloated carp has taken hold in Lakes Michigan and Erie. There will also be additional netting and trapping in rivers that connect with the lakes -- plus tests of chemicals that can lure the carp to places where they can be captured. Officials also plan to test an acoustic water gun. The goal is to scare the bloated carp away from shipping locks near Chicago which help connect Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River, where the carp has flourished in recent years. The Army Corps of Engineers is studying the best ways to prevent carp from the Mississippi from reaching the Great Lakes. The study is expected to be done by 2015, and Wisconsin and four other states have asked a federal court to speed up the study.
Governor Scott Walker will spend this weekend in the nation's capital at a meeting of the National Governors Association. The Republican Walker is a member of the governors' Health-and-Human Services Committee. That panel will talk about ways to make health care services more efficient, and to assure that the system remains sustainable. The governors' meeting begins Saturday. It ends Monday with a visit to the White House for a session with President Obama. Walker and the nation's other state leaders will also meet with Cabinet members, business leaders, and others while in Washington.
Wisconsin lawmakers are looking for a compromise mining bill that majorities in both houses can accept. But Senate finance chair Alberta Darling says all sides are far apart -- and it would take "almost a miracle" to strike a deal by the time the Joint Finance Committee meets later today. Supporters of Gogebic Taconite's proposed iron ore mine near Hurley are racing to get an agreement before lawmakers adjourn for the year on March 15th. The finance panel was scheduled to make a recommendation today on the Assembly's version of the mining package passed last month. But Senate leaders say their house will not pass that version. And Assembly leaders rejected a more moderate package proposed on Tuesday by senators Dale Schultz and Bob Jauch. Senate G-O-P leader Scott Fitzgerald says two main issues are holding things up -- the question of whether a time limit for the approval of mining permits can be stretched out -- and whether mining opponents could challenge D-N-R decisions in a case hearing before a final permit is issued. Fitzgerald says a proposed fee by mining companies to cover emergencies is a lesser sticking point. But once tax credits are figured in, state fiscal analysts say Gogebic Taconite would pay about the same under either package.