State News

Republicans move quickly to limit Evers’ authority, stifle voter turnout

As part of a session while Gov. Scott Walker remains in office, GOP leaders aim to pass a series of reforms this week to significantly disempower newly-elected state Democrats as well as boost their electoral chances down the road.

Image By: Katie Scheidt and Katie Scheidt

State Republicans have released a series of proposals that could be passed as early as this week to limit the authority of Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and empower the state Legislature in a final extraordinary session under Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

The bills would severely weaken the incoming governor’s authority over the implementation of laws and public benefits, as Democrats accuse the GOP of trying to consolidate power in the Legislature — which is firmly in their grasp.

“I’ve said all along I’m committed to working across the aisle, but I will not tolerate attempts to violate our constitutional checks and balances and separation of powers by people who are desperate to cling to control,” Evers said. “I stand with the people of Wisconsin, and we will be taking any steps necessary to prevent power-hungry politicians from overriding the will of the people.”

The legislation would take away Evers’ power to appoint the chair of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, instead allowing the board itself to do so, taking away much of the governor’s influence on economic controversies like Foxconn.

Republicans could also significantly handicap incoming Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul’s ability to act independently of the Assembly or opt out of the state’s lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act.

“The authors of this bill seem to think that they know better than the voters of Wisconsin,” Kaul said. “They’re wrong. And that’s not how democracy works. I am calling on the members of the legislature to reject this horrible bill.”

GOP legislative leaders have argued against the sentiment that Evers earned a mandate from voters to backpedal on the state’s conservative momentum, claiming their reforms will balance power with an executive branch that has garnered too much influence.

“Wisconsin law, written by the legislature and signed into law by a governor, should not be erased by the potential political maneuvering of the executive branch,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said in a joint statement. “In order to find common ground, everyone must be at the table.”

In addition to limiting the influence of newly elected state Democrats, the GOP may also change the date of the 2020 state supreme court election at a cost of $7 million so it will not coincide with that year’s Democratic primary for president in an effort to boost the chances of the conservative candidate.

Related legislation would slice how long early voting runs in the state to just two weeks prior to an election.

Republican leaders have also signaled they may consider a bill to protect individuals with preexisting conditions regardless of whether the ACA continues to be enforced, a concept Democrats agree with but do not see as feasible without the Obama-era legislation.

“The legislature is the most representative branch in government and we will not stop being a strong voice for our constituents,” Vos and Fitzgerald said.

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