Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Wisconsin Legislature OKs weakening governor, AG

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Ellis Copeland | 05 December, 2018, 22:23

U.S. Republicans and Democrats have a history of using lame-duck sessions to advance priorities ahead of power shifts. The Wisconsin Senate did the same less than three hours earlier after lawmakers worked through most of the night. In the meantime, Republican Gov. Scott Walker faced a chorus of boos from protesters at an event in the state Capitol.

The legislation would weaken the governor's ability to put in place rules that enact laws and shield the state jobs agency from his control until September. His successor, Democrat Tony Evers, has said he may mount a legal challenge.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman on Tuesday sounded the alarm about the Republican Party's power grab in Wisconsin - and he said it amounted to nothing less than a "coup" against incoming Democratic governor Tony Evers.

The protests, coming at the end of Walker's eight years in office, were reminiscent of tumult that came shortly after he took office in 2011 and moved to end collective bargaining powers for public sector unions.

Democrats say the measure provided inadequate coverage and would cause premiums to skyrocket. Instead of seeking adjustments to program rules directly from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services would have to go to Republicans in the state legislature first.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald downplayed concerns about what was being considered in the lame-duck session, saying "I don't think it's outrageous at all".

Republicans did concede a portion of the measure.

One Wisconsin successfully sued to strike down a previous Republican effort to limit early voting.

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Wisconsin lawmakers are set to take up plans Tuesday to diminish the powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.

The legislation would also require legislative approval to withdraw from lawsuits, taking that away from the attorney general. An amendment to do away with that provision was part of a Republican rewrite of the bill, made public around 4:30 a.m. CT after all-night negotiations. The legislature in effect is taking for itself the governor's authority to approve the attorney general's plans to cancel or settle legal actions.

Tony Evers will take the reins in Wisconsin in a little over a month, but at least Republicans are graciously relieving him of some of Scott Walker's old workload.

Make it harder for Evers to enact administrative rules that implement state laws. It would also allow the Legislature to sidestep the attorney general and hire private attorneys. He explained that lawsuits challenging the measures would bring more gridlock to Wisconsin. By early Wednesday, both chambers had also approved a transportation-related proposal, and the state Senate on Tuesday backed a series of appointments made by the outgoing governor weeks before he leaves office.

"Much of what we did over the last eight years is work with the Legislature, not at odds with the Legislature", he told reporters Monday after a Menorah lighting ceremony at the governor's mansion. The Assembly was expected to pass the bill later Wednesday, sending it on to Walker for his consideration. The Senate passed the proposal earlier in the evening.

The proposals come after North Carolina lawmakers took similar steps two years ago.

The Wisconsin Senate voted just before sunrise Wednesday following an all-night session to pass a sweeping bill in a lame-duck session created to empower the GOP-controlled Legislature and weaken the Democrat replacing Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz said as the nine-hour debate began Tuesday night. As Evers notes, both he and incoming AG Josh Kaul ran on a platform of activism, so the impulse behind this effort may well be understandable. "That's what the people of Wisconsin want, that's what the people of Wisconsin deserve, and that's more than what they got from government here tonight".

They approved three bills on party-line 12-4 votes, but did not take up one measure that would have moved the 2020 presidential primary from April to March at a cost of almost $7 million to taxpayers.

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