Reason and intellect no longer residency requirements in the Republican brain

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Kurt Vonnegut

Now that statehouse Republicans have voted to end (not entirely, but effectively) local government residency requirements for hired public employees, what's next? Well, logically, why wouldn 't the GOP next decide to end the requirement that elected officials actually reside within the districts they represent? (Not that they all now do, all the time, by the way).

After all, the residency requirement for lawmakers was designed expressly to encourage our chosen representatives to be more responsive to and understand the issues of their constituencies. By effectively ending local residency rules for non-elected public workers, the GOP has now argued that police, firefighters and other public employees don't need to "live among 'em" in order to well understand the needs of the citizens they are hired to serve.

Indeed, if these local public employees were to persist in listening to their constituencies, they might in their day-in, day-out chores discover and share around practical reasons to disagree with the conservative political power base centered in Madison. And any such resulting disagreement would not sit well with  the GOP High command, because these unflattering ideas could become infectious.

I know, it's a stretch. At first glance it might sound crazy to imagine Republican state lawmakers going after the residency law affecting them. But look at the logic of it from their perspective. Why do THEY need to live in some godforsaken district when they'd prefer to make home in, say, Door County?

It's not like their constituents get them elected, anyway. These days, after all, tens of thousands and even millions of dollars of campaign contributions from places like Kansas are mostly responsible for that. So why not make it possible for a state senator serving Milwaukee's far north shore to, for instance, live in Waukesha. Hell, why couldn't Wisconsin GOP legislators just live in Kansas, if they liked, and phone it in whenever necessary? Telecommuting is all the rage, isn't it?

Crazy to contemplate, you say. But just look at the the Wisconsin GOP record. Not only are Republicans gunning for local residency ordinances; before that measure affecting local public workers came to the Assembly floor, the state's Repubs undid the legal standard that said a lawsuit had to be filed in the district where the alleged offense occurred. This the GOP did because it didn't want to fight suits against its interests on turf it deemed too favorable to Democratic Party interests. The conservative-heavy, Madison-based State Supreme Court a huge exception, of course.

Nor did the GOP like it when state lawmakers charged with crimes in public office had their cases heard in the jurisdiction where the alleged crime was committed, namely Dane County, where the legislature meets and works. Prime example: former State Rep. Scott Jensen was able to beat serious charges of misconduct by stringing out the case for years until his pals made it possible for the case to be moved to the friendly GOP confines of Waukesha County -- his home county, where majorities had repeatedly elected him to office. No innate advantage there for him, of course.

[Hey, if I steal office supplies and money from a public employer in Madison and then I"m caught, could I insist on having my case heard in, oh, I dunno, Rice Lake? Nope. Only works for felonious legislators, apparently.]

This rather dramatic change in the way lawsuits involving government are filed also has allowed conservative groups in general to go judge shopping across the state and find courts that are, shall we say, more inclined to believe the GOP's often quaint, inane and even anti-democratic arguments. Mostly because, you see, many government-related cases (such as the suits against Scott Walker's union-busting Act 10) are heard in fairly liberal Dane County, where Republicans assume the legal philosophy of the general judgeship tends to the left of Vlad Lenin. In-Justices David Prosser, Miichael Gableman et. al. notwithstanding.

Level playing field? Rule of law? Home rule and local control? Justice? No thank you, we're Republicans.