Sunday, December 02, 2018

Republican Power Grab In Wisconsin


Wisconsin had an anti-red wave last month, but no one has told the Republican state legislature. Democrats ousted Republicans Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch and elected Tony Evers and Mandela Barnes as governor and lieutenant governor, reelected Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate by nearly 11 points (despite a nearly $9 million smear campaign orchestrated by Mitch McConnell and the Koch brothers), ousted Attorney General Brad Schimel and replaced him with Josh Kaul, reelected Secretary of State Doug La Follette, elected Sarah Godlewski state Treasurer. The Republican legislature has so egregiously gerrymandered the state’s legislative (and congressional) districts, that despite more votes for Democrats statewide, Republicans maintained massive majorities in both houses of the state legislature. I ran into Randy Bryce at Berniepalooza on Thursday. He told me he expected the Republicans in the legislature to make concerted effort the strip governor-elect Tony Evers of as many powers that they could. "They’re allowing one minute for a public hearing. After an election takes place one expects to see the results of that election put into action. This would be the opposite of that. It’s disgusting that Wisconsin Republicans continue to put their addiction to power over the will of the people." Randy was right. He sent me this horrifying graphic that demonstrates what he told me:

One minute! How disrespectful to Wisconsin voters is this?

The state’s most progressive state Senator, Chris Larson, missed Beriepalooza but he told me today that “Walker and his allies are intent on taking the ship down with them. They are demonstrating why people in the real world aren’t given two months to stay in charge after they are fired.” On Friday the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the Republicans “are seeking to limit voter turnout and want to take away key powers from the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general before GOP Gov. Scott Walker leaves office in January.”
The sweeping plan-- to be taken up Tuesday--would remove Gov.-elect Tony Evers' power to approve major actions by Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul and give that authority to Republican lawmakers.

That could mean the campaign promise made by Evers and Kaul to immediately withdraw Wisconsin from a federal lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act would likely be blocked.

A hearing that could stretch into the night is slated for 12:30 p.m. Monday before the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee. The two houses are expected to meet Tuesday to pass at least parts of their plan.

The 141-page plan goes further than what Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos suggested lawmakers would take up during the so-called lame-duck legislative session before Evers takes office.

"It’s real kind of inside baseball, kind of legislative stuff that it’s hard for me to believe people will get too excited about," Fitzgerald said three days before the plan was released. 

But among the proposals are ones to limit the governor's powers, weaken the attorney general and restrict early voting to two weeks before an election. Currently, some communities provide as many as six weeks of early voting.

The early voting plan would be all but certain to draw a legal challenge given that a federal judge in 2016 struck down a similar law limiting early voting that he found "intentionally discriminates on the basis of race."

The measures would strip many powers from Kaul and eliminate a powerful office within the Department of Justice that was created in 2015 under Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel and handles high-profile cases on appeal.

Lawmakers are also considering separating the 2020 presidential primary election from an April spring election to reduce voter turnout in an effort to boost the election chances of a conservative Supreme Court justice. In another proposal, lawmakers will consider using new revenue from online sales taxes to slightly reduce the individual income tax rate.

"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," Fitzgerald and Vos said in a statement about the slate of measures. "In order to find common ground, everyone must be at the table."

But Evers and Kaul said Republicans were ignoring the voters who elected them just three weeks ago.

"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. Enough is enough," Evers said in a statement.

’It's a tantrum because Scott Walker lost’

Democrats said Republicans were throwing a fit following the defeat of Walker and Schimel.

"It's clear they're out to try to cripple the incoming governor and attorney general as best they can," said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, a Middleton Democrat on the Legislature's finance committee. "It's a tantrum because Scott Walker lost. It's frustrating because they're not even giving Tony Evers a chance to be governor."

The legislation is wide-ranging and would limit Evers’ power in a host of ways. His agencies would have less freedom to run their programs. He would not be able to ban guns from the state Capitol without the OK of lawmakers.

The power of the incoming attorney general also would be greatly diminished.

The Legislature-- not the attorney general-- would have control of how to spend money from court settlements. The recently created office of the solicitor general, which oversees high-profile litigation, would be eliminated.

Legislators would gain the power to intervene in any litigation when a state law is challenged, and they would have the ability to appoint their own private attorneys-- at taxpayer expense--to handle the case instead of the attorney general.

“This bill is a full-employment bill for Republican law firms,” said Madison attorney Lester Pines, who often defends Democrats. “It will drive up the cost through the roof.”

Legislators would also have the ability to sign off on court settlements.

In another change that has broad implications for the lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act, the Legislature’s budget committee-- rather than the governor-- would get to decide whether to continue or drop legal actions.

Covering pre-existing conditions

Even as they are making it harder to get out of the Obamacare lawsuit, Republicans are planning to pass a bill that would protect coverage of pre-existing conditions. Democrats said that legislation was inadequate because the protections would not go as far as the ones in Obamacare.

The proposals also include provisions aimed at protecting past measures they have already approved. One would compel Evers to implement a work requirement for some in the BadgerCare Plus health care program. Others would make it tougher for Evers to change rules affecting the state’s voter ID law or alter a new program to keep premiums down for people who get insurance through Obamacare’s marketplace for individuals.

The governor also would no longer be able to choose who leads the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which oversees taxpayer-funded incentive packages provided to businesses in exchange for job creation.

Lawmakers would have more control over the jobs agency, which Evers has promised to disband and replace with a state Commerce Department. The WEDC board would choose the agency's leader instead of the governor.

“Our state must stay open for business," Fitzgerald and Vos said. "WEDC, our economic development agency, must continue to have the ability to help spur job creation and business opportunities without fear of being shut down."

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling and Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz also could appoint one member each to the board, and Evers' appointments would be unchanged at six members.

Walker has shown support for some of the plans but has not said what he thinks of others. His aides did not say whether Walker backed the limits on early voting or other measures that came to light Friday.

Evers did not comment on the plans, but incoming Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said the plan "is the path of most resistance."

"It’s the dysfunction people just said no to a few weeks ago," Barnes said on Twitter.

The Republican legislative leaders said theirs is "the most representative branch in government and we will not stop being a strong voice for our constituents.”
Not with the kind of gerrymandering they’ve engineered, it isn’t. Senator Larson added that "Walker got in on a promise of creating 250,000 jobs for Wisconsinites in 4 years. He didn't get it done in 8 years.  Even though the national recovery helped boost the state a bit, we continued to lag behind the national average. Instead, Governor Walker pursued things he never campaigned on, like an unprecedented attack on workers, limiting voter rights and illegally gerrymandering the state, giving away a record $4 billion of public money to a foreign corporation, and now, in the final weeks in public life, he is cementing his legacy as an anti-democracy crusader by agreeing to this Sore Loser Session. This final rigging of the system should cement Walker's legacy and the legacy of anyone who votes for it as the worst kind of politicians who always put party over the people of our state."

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At 5:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the people of WI allow this to happen, then they truly have cheese for brains.

At 7:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Truly deserved by WI.

A reminder that it's awfully hard to pick the absolutely worst state in the union. There's at least 30 who are very competitive, and WI is in the mix.

fuck them all.


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