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Constitutional amendments advance

The entrance to the Wisconsin Supreme Court inside the state Capitol is seen, Sept. 15, 2011. (courtesy of FOX 11).
The entrance to the Wisconsin Supreme Court inside the state Capitol is seen, Sept. 15, 2011. (courtesy of FOX 11).

MADISON (WRN)  The state Assembly has passed a pair of proposed constitutional amendments, aimed at limiting recalls in the state and making changes to the leadership of the state Supreme Court.

The Assembly on Thursday approved first consideration of a constitutional amendment that would limit the ability to recall elected officials in Wisconsin to those who have been charged with a felony or an ethical violation. Republicans argued the change is needed to prevent a situation from occurring again like the one seen in the state in 2011 and 2012, during which Governor Scott Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and 13 state Senators were targeted by recalls. The recalls, which primarily targeted Republicans, were brought on by the controversy surrounding Governor Walker’s bill that limited collective bargaining for most public employees.

Democrats contend the proposal is an overreaction to an unprecedented time in Wisconsin politics. State Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine) urged Republicans not to give in to the temptation to make a change simply because of the fatigue over the Act 10 debate.

First consideration of the measure passed on a party line vote. It now heads to the state Senate.

A second proposed amendment would change the process of selecting the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. Currently, the chief justice the longest serving member on the court. Under the amendment, the person holding the position would be selected by fellow justices, and would serve a limited term. The change would abolish a more than century old policy of having the most senior member of the court fill the post, for as long as they serve.

Democrats blasted the proposal as an attack on Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who has often found herself at odds with the court’s conservative majority in recent years. Republicans defended the switch, with State Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) arguing that such an important position on the court should be based on a decision made by the court, not because of longevity.The amendment passed in the state Senate earlier this week. It will have to pass both chambers again next session, before it goes to a vote on a statewide ballot.

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