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Lame-duck session plans monumental changes for how Wisconsin state government will function

“As a former Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Finance, I know that fast-tracking these bills is not only wrong to do, but also shows how wrong the Republicans know these actions are. By rushing these bills, Republicans know they are attempting to deceive the people. Jamming the last days of the legislative session with voter suppression legislation and attempts at undermining the agenda of a newly elected Governor and Attorney General is a blatant attempt to override the vote by the people of our state.” – Mark Pocan, U.S. Congressman

Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature released plans late on Friday, November 30 for bills they will take up this week. Lawmakers are going into session to consider limiting the power of Democratic Governor-Elect Tony Evers and Democratic Attorney General-Elect Josh Kaul. JR Ross of Wispolitics.com weighed in on the measures for this week’s Capitol Notes. He says if the proposals are approved, the changes would be a very big deal.

“The central theme to all of this is the Legislature – these Republicans – are trying to make that body kind of like a central clearing house for a lot of things that come to state government,” said Ross.

Ross gives this example of one way Republican state lawmakers want to transfer power from the executive branch to the Legislature:

“Right now, if there’s a state law is challenged as unconstitutional, the attorney general is served that notice and then the attorney general goes to court and fights that or defends the state. Now they want the Assembly and the Senate notified of this law is being challenged and have them be able to be heard in court, and things like that that would really change the balance of power between the Legislature, the executive branch, and impact the attorney general’s relationship with the Legislature.”

Ross said some of the measures might not seem to be “high-profile” in nature. Yet he said if approved, the changes “would be monumental in how state government operates.”

Ross added that it is not a surprise that GOP lawmakers are trying to remove some of the powers of Democratic Governor-Elect Tony Evers and Democratic Attorney General-Elect Josh Kaul. But he said what is a surprise is the “depth of things they’re doing.”

Ross said last week, Republican legislative leaders attempted to downplay the magnitude of what they were proposing.

Other proposals include:

  • Increasing the Republican-controlled Legislatures’ power over the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., an agency Evers has said he would like to eliminate.
  • Moving the date of the 2020 presidential primary from April to March.
  • Protecting the state’s voter ID law from any future changes by Evers.
  • Limiting Evers’ power to change state work requirements for food stamps and eliminating his ability to authorize Wisconsin to leave a federal lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act.

“Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told reporters that this was all ‘insider baseball-type’ stuff. Well this is more than inside baseball. Granted, this is about how government operates and I’m not sure the average voter really pays that much attention to it or cares that much, but it is well beyond just like kind of tinkering with things to changing the relationship between these branches of government,” added Ross.

Ann-Elise Henzl

Montana Leggett and Joe Brusky

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