Friday, 14 December, 2018

Walker signals support for lame-duck package

Tony Evers addresses the media flanked by Lt. Gov.-Elect Mandela Barnes and incoming Attorney General Josh Kaul Tony Evers addresses the media flanked by Lt. Gov.-Elect Ma
Leonard Rios | 06 December, 2018, 08:49

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate has passed a sweeping measure taking power away from the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general, and reducing how long early voting can take place.

The move mirrored an effort underway in MI, where the Republican-controlled legislature is also weighing new laws that would hamstring incoming Democratic leaders who prevailed in last month's elections.

Republican leaders in MI have also been criticized following the 2018 elections for aiming to limit state authority over clean water enforcement - a central campaign issue for Democrats who won in November - on their way out of office.

"This is rancor and politics as usual", Evers wrote. "This is part and parcel of a new philosophy of governing".

The Wisconsin legislation passed in a session marked by stops and starts as GOP leaders tried to muster enough votes in the Senate. They responded to the people by essentially appointing the losing side as Attorney General.

Evers said he is willing to work with Republicans in the future, but the bill challenges the checks and balances of democracy.

Incoming Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul, for example, had suggested the state would pull out of the ongoing lawsuit against Obamacare. Evers said during the campaign he would disband the organization. Democrats and other opponents argued the measure provided inadequate coverage and would cause premiums to skyrocket, making coverage unaffordable for people.

A spokeswoman for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who would have to sign the bills into law, said he would reserve judgment until they land on his desk.

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Democrats in the statehouse were apoplectic over the session's agenda, saying it contradicted the will of the voters. "Be fair. Give the voters the right to choose their governor and attorney general". Put simply: the Republicans are sore losers.

"I am deeply disappointed in legislative Republicans' decision to override the will of the people and ignore voters' clear desire for change". Another element would give lawmakers more power over the state's economic development agency, which Evers has said he would like to eliminate.

Walker has not explicitly endorsed the bills, but indicated to reporters he'd support it. But they retained legislative majorities thanks to what Democrats say are gerrymandered districts that tilt the map. "That's all we're going to say".

Protestors in Wisconsin have flooded the state Capitol this week, chanting slogans during Senate proceedings. "What's going on in Wisconsin today shouldn't be dismissed as just one state's experience".

Much of the current controversy amounts to "inside baseball", in the words of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, that hasn't broken through with much of the voting public.

"Democrats have been exaggerating and resorting to hyperbole throughout the debate", state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos tweeted. Both Evers and Kaul urged Republicans not to do it and warned of lawsuits that would bring more gridlock to Wisconsin when the new administration, and the first divided government in 10 years, takes over. More than 300 people had signed up to speak at the hearing, which legislative leaders expected to stretch on until late in the night. It is seen as a manoeuvr to ensure that Republicans could support laws if Democratic Gov. -elect Gretchen Whitmer and Democratic Attorney General-elect Nessel are lukewarm about GOP-passed measures and drop appeals in cases the state loses.

In neighboring Michigan, Republicans who control the Legislature voted to advance a measure that strips campaign-finance oversight power from the next secretary of state, a Democrat.

"These proposals are an insult to the voters of Wisconsin and MI", he said. However, they said they are shaken by the urgency of Republicans legislating environmental policy during the lame-duck after Democrats won in MI campaigning largely on environmental issues like clean water. After these antics, the Republican legacy will be one of corruption, dishonesty, and misplaced priorities, that favor consolidating power over the issues impacting working families.

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