Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Legislature passes lame duck bills limiting executive power

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker left with the help of the Mary and Don Miller family from Plainfield Wis. flipped the switch to light the state Christmas Tree in the Capitol Rotunda Tuesday Dec. 4 2018 at the Capitol in Madison Wis. The Senate and Ass Wisconsin Republicans forge ahead with power-stripping bills
Andrew Cummings | 09 December, 2018, 04:14

Wisconsin's Republican-led Assembly and Senate passed two of the measures they are considering, Britt Cudaback, spokesman for the governor-elect, told CNN Wednesday morning.

Give Republicans lawmakers the majority of appointments to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the state's quasi-private job-creation agency, which Evers has said he wants to reorganize. That would stop Evers and Democratic Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul from fulfilling promises to withdraw Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit seeking repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

The bill would limit the governor's ability to put in place administrative rules that enact laws and give the Legislature the power to control appointees to the board that runs the state economic development agency until September 1.

Critics said the bills were part of a concerted effort by Republicans in several states, where they control the legislature but have lost executive offices, to deny power to incoming Democrats.

"When you're passing laws that undermine a democratically elected governor and attorney general, it's no longer a democracy", Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz said in a phone interview.

"The seeds you're planting may grow into something you will regret", said Sen. Representative Chris Taylor, a Democratic lawmaker from Madison, mused with regard to the proposal to limit the governor's ability to pursue health care changes, "If this is such a great accountability measure, I wonder why you haven't proposed it before?"

One proposal would let lawmakers intervene in court proceedings at any stage, "whenever the Legislature or a House of the Legislature deems such intervention necessary in order to protect any right or interest of this state".

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature approved a sweeping package of bills to curtail the powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.

The 141-page bill also sets out protections for the state's voter ID law and places tight restrictions on early voting, which is historically decided by counties and typically boosts turnout among Democrats, especially in cities in 2018.

Wisconsin's GOP Senate Majority Leader, Scott Fitzgerald, seemed ill-prepared for the wave of condemnation directed at his caucus, saying that he was "a little surprised" by the reaction and calling the demonstrations "over the top".

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker arrives for the lighting of the state Christmas Tree in the Capitol Rotunda Tuesday Dec. 4 2018 at the Capitol in Madison Wis. The Senate and Assembly are set to send dozens of changes in state law to Walker’s desk Tuesda

"This is not the Wisconsin way, this is Walker's way", she says.

Assembly speaker Robin Vos countered that the bills will ensure a balance of power between the legislature and the executive branch. In a statement released after the vote, Evers said he hopes Republicans will be more collaborative after he takes office.

Interestingly, in every one of these four states, Republicans managed to control a majority of seats while winning a minority of votes.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin defeated Republican challenger Leah Vukmir by almost 11 percentage points.

The legislation would also require legislative approval to withdraw from lawsuits, taking that away from the attorney general.

Perkins Coie lawyer Marc Elias, who is one of the top Democratic election lawyers in the country, said the GOP legislature is trying to "hamstring democracy", and suggestion action on voting rights issues.

Evers and Kaul had urged Republicans not to approve the bills during the lame-duck legislative session, warning that lawsuits would bring more gridlock to Wisconsin when the new administration - and the first divided government in 10 years - takes over.

Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton, took the unusual step after warning the crowd twice that Senate rules prohibited them from reacting to debate.

The proposal up for a vote would weaken the governor's power to put in place administrative rules enacting state laws. Wisconsin Democrats in 2010 unsuccessfully tried to push through public union contracts after Walker won election while promising to get tough with organized labor. "I mean, most of these items are things (that) we never really had to kind of address because guess what - we trusted Scott Walker and the administration to be able to manage the back and forth with the Legislature".

WHITE: Court challenges against power limits like these aren't unprecedented. Evers is scheduled to take office in January. But because of extreme gerrymandering, they wound up with 64 percent of the State Assembly seats. Walker wields his veto. For NPR News, I'm Marti Mikkelson in Milwaukee.

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