State GOP lawmakers use lame-duck legislative session to weaken incoming Democrats Evers and Kaul
compiled by MCJ Editorial Staff
“Sore losers” is how one Wisconsin Democratic state legislator reportedly described Republican lawmakers who pushed through legislation Wednesday severely limiting the power of Democratic Governor-elect Tony Evers and fellow Democrat, Attorney General- elect Josh Kaul. The legislation was passed after an all-night debate during a lame-duck legislative session purposely aimed at reducing the authority of the governor’s office once outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker leaves in January.
Walker has reportedly signaled his support for the legislative package, and has 10 days to sign it once it’s delivered to his desk. In a press statement after the passage of the GOP measures, Evers noted Wisconsin had never seen anything like what occurred in the early morning hours Wednesday when the legislative package was passed.
“Power-hungry politicians rushed through sweeping changes to our laws to expand their own power and override the will of the people of Wisconsin who asked for change on November 6th,” read Evers’ statement.
Also responding to the state GOP’s actions, U.S. Cong. Gwen Moore, a former state assembly person and senator, called what the Republicans did a “power grab,” and “a direct threat to our state’s democracy.”
Moore said Instead of a peaceful transition of power, state Republican legislators have “disgraced the state in a midnight legislative session more befitting of a strong man dictatorship than the United States of America.”
“As Wisconsinites, we must stand strong in the face of greed and intolerance to overcome this period of darkness and begin our return to Wisconsin’s progressive roots.”
Despite Republican concerns the governor’s office had too much authority, political pundits and observers see the GOP moves as protecting key Republican achievements from being undone by Evers:
• The massive $3 billion subsidy Walker spearheaded to bring Foxconn to Wisconsin along with thousands of jobs. Evers reportedly said he may renegotiate the deal.
• Shield the controversial state jobs agency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) from his control and allow the board to choose its leader until September of 2019. Even if that maneuver doesn’t work, it will at least delay Evers’ ability to maneuver on the Foxconn subsidy.
• Weaken Evers’ ability to put in place rules that enact laws; and would limit early voting to no more than two weeks before an election, a restriction similar to what a federal judge ruled was unconstitutional. As it relates to the state attorney general’s office, the legislation would weaken Kaul’s office by requiring a legislative committee, rather than the attorney general, to sign off on withdrawing from federal lawsuits.
This would stop Evers and Kaul from fulfilling promises to withdraw Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit seeking repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The two then candidates made opposition to the lawsuit a central plank in their respective campaign platforms.
Judges could, reportedly, block such efforts by the governor and attorney general if they became law by issuing temporary injunctions, which could last the duration of the cases.
The Republican power-shift is seen by many locally and nationwide as a way for GOP lawmakers to salvage something from a November state mid-term election that saw them get clobbered, losing all the statewide races thanks to a stronger than usual Democratic mid-term turnout.
However, Republicans still retain legislative majorities due, political observers note, to alleged gerrymandered districts that tip the electoral map in their favor. The state GOP legislators’ success is most likely being watched by Republicans nation-wide in states where they have suffered significant losses in statehouses and governors’ mansions.
While Wisconsin lawmakers on both side of the aisle battled with each other, a similar struggle was taking place between Michigan lawmakers on limiting the powers of that’s state’s incoming Democratic governor.
Perhaps Wisconsin and Michigan Republicans were taking their cues from lawmakers in North Carolina who, two years ago, took similar steps to limit its governor’s powers.
The Republicans maneuverings the above-mentioned states, and others have and may take, will most certainly be challenged in the courts. Critics these actions as an undermining of the nation’s political system and the will of the people who voted for change.