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More than 1,200 missing in the California wildfires. Also on the Monday rundown: A pair of reports on gun violence in the nation; and concerns that proposed changes to 'Green Card' rules favor the wealthy.

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2015 in Wisconsin a Year of Highs and Lows

2015 was a year of highs and lows in the state Legislature, according to the executive director of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. (legislature.wi.gov)
2015 was a year of highs and lows in the state Legislature, according to the executive director of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. (legislature.wi.gov)
December 14, 2015

MADISON, Wis. - The executive director of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Matt Rothschild, thinks people will remember 2015 as a year of big victories and big setbacks for democracy in the Badger state.

He counts among the biggest victories the quick and huge public pushback, when on the Friday before the Fourth of July weekend, the Republicans leading the state budget process inserted an item which would have gutted the state's landmark Open Records law.

"People were outraged about that and they must have hurled tomatoes at legislators in the July 4 parades," he says. "Because after the July 4 weekend the legislators came back and said, 'Well, on second thought, we're not going to do that.'"

Rothschild also points to the ever-increasing number of counties and municipalities in Wisconsin that have passed referenda to tell the nation's lawmakers to pass an amendment repealing the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which said in effect that money is speech.

Rothschild also says there were plenty of not-so-good moments as well, as he sees it. He cites the passing of a law that now forbids state prosecutors to launch John Doe probes into suspected incidents of corruption in government, and the new laws regarding money in politics.

"The Legislature writing into law a terrible clause that candidates can now coordinate with outside groups, and also in the law that corporations can give directly to political parties, which has been against the law in Wisconsin for more than 100 years," he says.

According to Rothschild, there is reason to be optimistic about what's ahead for the state in terms of politics and democracy in 2016.

He points to more and more examples of what he calls "brave legislators" crossing party lines to vote for what he calls "common-sense legislation for the good of all Wisconsinites" and hopes the trend will continue. And he cites much greater citizen involvement in politics.

"These good people will work hard to fight back against this assault on democracy in Wisconsin that we've been suffering under for the past five years, and I think the pendulum is beginning to move, and we need to give that pendulum a big Badger shove," says Rothschild.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI