State News

GOP disempowers state offices in lame duck session before Democrats take them

In an unprecedented move, state Republicans have passed a series of reforms to disempower the offices of the governor and attorney general on key issues before they fall into the hands of Democrats.

Image By: Michael Makowski

In an extraordinary lame duck session that began late Tuesday evening and lasted well into Wednesday morning, state Republicans have stripped Gov.-elect Tony Evers and other state Democrats of some powers in a final move to protect existing conservative reforms.

Scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon, the Legislature failed to vote on some of the most pressing bills until after 4 a.m. Wednesday, after GOP leaders spent most of the night drafting legislation that would pass both chambers.

“Today’s extraordinary session codifies into law reforms that have been eight years in the making,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau. “Law written by the legislature and passed by a governor should not be erased based on the political maneuvering of an incoming administration.

The legislation will make it more difficult for Evers to put in place administrative rules of his own when enforcing laws without the approval of the Republican Legislature, prevent him from pulling out of a state lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act and take away his control over the state’s economic development agency, which Evers says should be done away with.

“We must make sure that Wisconsin’s business environment continues to thrive,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s why our reforms to protect the WEDC are critical — we will continue to help Wisconsin businesses grow and prosper without the looming threat of the agency being shut down.”

The GOP bills also have severely hindered incoming Attorney General Josh Kaul’s power, dissolving some of the department of justice’s most influential powers into the Legislature and allowing legislators to sidestep the attorney general in many legal battles.

The moves have been condemned by state Democrats and others as a blatant power grab and an undermining of democracy and the will of Wisconsin voters.

"Wisconsin has never seen anything like this,” Evers said. “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 Nov. 6.”

Protests, with crowds of several hundred, began when the legislation was discussed in hearings on Monday, and continued into the Capitol building Tuesday afternoon and evening, with many being escorted out of legislative chambers for loudly condemning the GOP’s efforts.

“Today, legislative Republicans nullified the results of that election and overrode Wisconsin voters,” said State Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison. “Never before in the history of our state has an Extraordinary Session been used to disregard the will of the voters and take away power from a newly elected Governor and Attorney General.”

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