Wisconsin Assembly Passes Sweeping Power Grab Bill, Sending It To Walker's Desk

Geneva Stokes
December 6, 2018

Republicans forged ahead despite threats of lawsuits, claims by Democratic Gov. -elect Tony Evers and others that they were trying to invalidate results of the November election and howls of protest from hundreds of people who showed up for a public hearing. "That's why our reforms to protect the WEDC are critical - we will continue to help Wisconsin businesses grow and prosper without the looming threat of the agency being shut down". The move is sparking protests.

The proposal up for a vote would weaken the governor's power to put in place administrative rules enacting state laws.

Democrats and other opponents argue that the measure provided inadequate coverage and would cause premiums to skyrocket, making coverage unaffordable.

The measures would also require the attorney general to get legislative approval to withdraw from lawsuits. That would stop Evers and Kaul from fulfilling their campaign promises to withdraw Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit seeking repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the health care legislation also known as Obamacare.

"Wisconsin has never seen anything like this", Evers said in a statement Wednesday. But Fitzgerald said Walker and his chief of staff had been deeply involved in crafting the measures. "If the GOP thinks they can disenfranchise voters by cutting early voting without a fight, they are wrong", he said.

The state Elections Commission unanimously adopted a motion Monday declaring that the shift would be "extraordinarily difficult" and costly without additional funding. All Democrats voted against it. A number of communities, including the Democratic stronghold of Madison, have offered several weeks for early voting in recent years, following a federal judge's 2016 ruling that struck down previous limits.

The Legislature passed one measure, on a party-line vote, to enact Medicaid work requirement rules Walker recently won a federal waiver to establish.

Almost a day after the legislature's "extraordinary session" began, the state Senate and Assembly concluded their work, passing a raft of legislation created to curtail authorities enjoyed by Walker and outgoing Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel.

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Reporters at the scene described chaotic all-night negotiations with lawmakers wandering the Capitol building in Madison unsure of the current state of bill they were rushing to move forward.

Democrats in Wisconsin are carefully considering legal options after an extraordinary lame-duck session produced a flurry of GOP-led legislation Tuesday night aimed at diminishing the power of the state's incoming Democratic governor. "It invalidates what the people of Wisconsin expected". They were just made public late Friday. Efforts to tie his hands when it came to former president Barack Obama's signature health law were equally odious, he said, because of how central support for Obamacare, as the health reform is called, were to Democratic campaigns in Wisconsin. But he didn't even try to hide the motivation behind the bills, saying that the bills were necessary because "we don't trust Tony Evers right now". Roughly 565,000 people voted during the midterms, and Brown said Republican leadership should stop and listen.

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.

The time between the election and the end of a lawmaker's term is often referred to as the "lame duck" period.

"It's really an attack on our democratic values and structures", Michigan Democratic Representative Christine Greig, the next minority leader in the state House of Representatives, said. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said the bill is needed because "we've been shut out" in recent cases.

Despite advantages in both the Assembly and Senate, the Republican effort to pass some of the controversial changes hasn't been easy.

The final bill will weaken Evers' ability to institute rules to enact laws and grant the legislature control of the state economic development board through September of next year, the AP reported.

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