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Democrats' Fresh Start press conference

Assembly Minority Leader Gorton Hintz, D- Oshkosh, was joined on Tuesday by his fellow Assembly Democrats for a news conference at the Capitol.

Assembly Democrats on Tuesday laid out a set of proposals they say would restore principles of democracy undermined by the Legislature's Republican majority.

"Good policy doesn’t happen without good government," said Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, in a news conference highlighting the measures, most of which are unlikely to find support in the Republican-led Legislature. 

Democrats said the bills they're proposing would give Wisconsin a "fresh start" after eight years of Republican control of the legislative and executive branches. While Republicans retained strong majorities in both chambers of the Legislature in the 2018 election, voters chose Democratic Gov. Tony Evers over former Republican Gov. Scott Walker on Nov. 6. 

With the next set of legislative electoral maps set to be drawn in 2021, state Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, argued Democrats and Republicans should come together now to change the state's redistricting process, putting it in the hands of a nonpartisan board rather than partisan elected officials.

"It is the time to take action to guarantee that no party will have the power to rig the legislative elections like we’ve seen these past eight years," Hansen said.

A legal challenge to the state's current maps is making its way through the court system.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has advocated for keeping the state's current approach, as dictated by the state constitution, arguing no person or commission can truly act independently without partisan bias.

"I certainly believe the current process is the best way because it’s the most democratic," Vos said in October

Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, said she will introduce legislation that would undo some changes made to the state's campaign finance laws by bills passed in 2015

Sargent's bill would place limits on contributions made by individuals, campaign committees and political parties, and would end the use of segregated funds for political parties and legislative campaign committees.

"(Voters') voices are being drowned out by the constant flood of money into our campaigns," Sargent argued.

Democrats will also introduce three constitutional amendments, which would require approval by both the Legislature and voters to take effect. 

The first amendment, introduced by Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, would bar the state Legislature from changing the powers of the legislative, executive or judicial branches between a fall election and the start of a new legislative session. 

A second amendment would enshrine the state's open records law in the state constitution, and a third would make the state's open meetings law apply to the Legislature. 

Democrats announced their proposals while Evers met with Republican lawmakers from the Assembly and Senate

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.