Wisconsin’s current political landscape looks wildly different than it did just a few years ago. Long a state with reliably Democratic leanings, everything changed in 2010 when conservative outside groups helped flip the state legislature and governor’s office from blue to red.
Led by Governor Scott Walker, the state’s new Republican leadership quickly set about imposing its extreme conservative agenda. They introduced an assault on collective bargaining rights that effectively cut public workers’ pay and destroyed their ability to negotiate over health coverage, safety, or sick leave. The severity of the bill prompted impassioned protests centered around the state capitol and forced Republican lawmakers to use underhanded measures to pass it without a single Democrat. Although a judge initially blocked the law because of the Republican tactics, it was reinstated by the state Supreme Court, which had maintained a conservative majority thanks to a narrowly re-elected justice whose campaign got significant support from right-wing interest groups.
In 2011, Republicans enacted one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country – although it was later placed on hold due to court challenges – as well as a Stand Your Ground-style gun law and a measure allowing concealed weapons in public parks, bars, and near schools. They also passed a budget cutting taxes for businesses and the wealthy, increasing the burden on low-income families, and slashing $800 million from K-12 education in a way that hit high-poverty districts the hardest. The next year, they passed an abstinence-only education bill and limited certain types of abortions. In 2013, Walker signed one bill forcing medically unnecessary ultrasounds on women seeking abortions and another – currently under injunction – imposing requirements that could force some of the state’s abortion clinics to close. So far this year, Republicans have stalled a minimum wage increase, interfered with local minimum wage laws, and further limited voting opportunities.
Read more after the jump.