Wisconsin Legislature OKs weakening governor, AG


Republicans in several states including Wisconsin are holding lame-duck sessions to block or cripple the power of their incoming rivals, but citizen-rights groups say voters are the ones being stripped of their power.

Wisconsinites expect more from us and I hope at some point the Legislature will rise to the occasion and work with me to solve the pressing issues facing our state. The bills now go to outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has signalled his support.

Specifically, the bills curtail the governor's ability to make administrative changes to joint state-federal programs like unemployment insurance, food stamps and Medicaid and the attorney general and governor's authority to end lawsuits brought by the state, a move created to keep Wisconsin in a legal action seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Gov. -elect Tony Evers has said he is considering all options in fighting this pending legislation.

The legislation also would limit in-person early voting to a two-week window.

The Wisconsin power grab may be anti-democratic, but at the end of the day, it represents the death rattle of anti-democratic Republican rule.

An hours-long Monday public hearing on the bills before a Wisconsin legislative committee was repeatedly disrupted by protesters' shouts, while Democratic lawmakers railed at Republicans.

"This morning, fresh of an election defeat, the Republican-controlled legislature voted to subvert the will of the people". Democrats and other opponents argued the measure provided inadequate coverage and would cause premiums to skyrocket, making coverage unaffordable for people. The measure had always been stalled in the Senate due to lack of GOP support.

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Republicans did concede a portion of the measure. That measure is meant to prevent Evers and the incoming Democratic attorney general, Josh Kaul, from following through on their campaign promise to end Wisconsin's challenge to the federal Affordable Care Act. The bill would also limit early voting in Wisconsin and give state lawmakers more power over the state's economic development agency, which Evers has said he would like to eliminate. The votes fell largely along party lines; no Democrats supported the measures. The new legislation will rescind much of that power from his Democratic successor.

In November, Democrats in Wisconsin won the governor's mansion and the race for attorney general after closely fought elections. After the 2020 census, Republicans won't have the trifecta control of Wisconsin that they'd need to keep their gerrymander in place - because Tony Evers will still be governor.

The proposal up for a vote would weaken the governor's power to put in place administrative rules enacting state laws. The Legislature would be allowed to substitute the attorney general with private attorneys, funded by tax-payers, whenever state laws are challenged in court.

Evers, who beat Walker by just over 1%, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he would take "any steps possible" to stop the legislature, including lawsuits.

The proposal would also restrict early voting to no more than two weeks before an election. The last lame-duck session in Wisconsin was in 2010 when Democrats tried unsuccessfully to enact labor agreements.

The measure would prevent incoming Democratic Gov. -elect Tony Evers from withdrawing a federal waiver request to implement the work requirement for able-bodied adults younger than 50. It is particularly disturbing that legislative Republicans would chose to poison the well of bipartisanship before duly elected officials are allowed to take office. The Assembly was expected to pass the bill later Wednesday, sending it on to Walker for his consideration. That would make the bills available for both the Senate and Assembly to vote on Tuesday.

Republicans pushed on Tuesday night into Wednesday through protests, internal disagreement and Democratic opposition. As Evers notes, both he and incoming AG Josh Kaul ran on a platform of activism, so the impulse behind this effort may well be understandable. When Evers takes office in January, it will be the first time in eight years that Wisconsin has been run by a divided government.