Wisconsin Senate Passes Bill Limiting Governor's Powers

Leroy Wright
December 6, 2018

Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz said as debate began for more than nine hours late Tuesday night.

- Lawmakers did not pass three proposals that were originally part of the package: moving the 2020 presidential primary election; allowing Republican legislative leaders to intervene in lawsuits and hire their own attorneys, pushing aside the attorney general; and instituting a state-level guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions that would have been weaker than the one in place under federal law. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, joining all Democrats voting against. A Medicaid work requirement was passed shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday.

"Since the release of the extraordinary session bills on Friday night, I have been working tirelessly with my policy staff, legislative service agencies, my Senate colleagues, and leadership to understand and pare down these bills to common-sense codification and technical fixes that don't overstep the powers granted to the legislature".

Still, even if voters in North Carolina didn't understand every nuance of the legislature's play in the 2016 lame-duck session, Democratic-leaning voters had a sense Republicans overreached, said Thomas Mills, a Democratic strategist in that state. Fred Risser, a Democrat from Madison.

In Michigan, where Democrats last month won the governor's mansion as well as the races for attorney general and secretary of state, Republican lawmakers introduced measures last week that would water down the authority of those officeholders on campaign finance oversight and other legal matters. Sen.

Republicans pushed on through protests, internal disagreement and Democratic opposition to the measures created to reduce the powers of incoming Democratic Gov. -elect Tony Evers and Democratic Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul. 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. That would stop Evers and incoming Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul from fulfilling their campaign promises to withdraw Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit seeking repeal of the Affordable Care Act. A legislative committee, rather than the attorney general, would have to sign off on withdrawing from federal lawsuits. Republicans hold a 12-4 majority on that committee. Democrats blamed partisan gerrymandering by Republicans for stacking the electoral map against them.

The lame-duck shenanigans in Wisconsin followed an effort by Michigan Republicans to undercut ballot initiatives that would have raised the minimum wage and granted workers paid sick leave.

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Assembly Speaker Robin Vos countered that the bills would ensure a balance of power between the Legislature and the executive branch.

Lawmakers also voted to limit early voting in Wisconsin and make it more hard for Evers to alter Wisconsin's voter ID law.

Patrick Marley covers the state capitol for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and he explains what's in these bills.

The measure also attacks voting rights by restricting early voting to no more than two weeks before an election. But the lawmakers ignored the backlash and McCrory signed off on a plan to curtail his successor's authorities, setting a precedent for Midwestern Republicans, who suffered heavy defeats in 2018.

The most powerful position in the state will now be in the hands of the person who, as vote counts demonstrate, is actually the most representative of the people of Wisconsin: Tony Evers. That would make the bills available for both the senate and assembly on Tuesday. The effort comes after Evers and Kaul focused heavily on the issue.

"This is like the middle school child asking permission to go to the bathroom", Vinehout said.

The measure, which would require regulators to only accept studies used by the Environmental Protection Agency, which under the Trump administration is rejecting previously accepted studies that cite proprietary data, is believed by activists to be fast-tracked so it can make it to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's desk before Democratic Gov. -elect Gretchen Whitmer takes office.

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