Dear Commons Community,
This week, during an extraordinary special legislative session, Republicans managed to craft bills that would severely limited the powers of the incoming Democratic Governor Tom Evers and incoming Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul. After hours of closed-door meetings, the Wisconsin Senate convened at 4:30 a.m. yesterday morning and passed by one vote a package of bills devised to curb the powers of the incoming Democratic leaders. The State Assembly followed suit by a much larger margin later in the morning. As reported by the New York Times:
“The legislation was aimed at undermining Democrats. There would be a new limit on early voting, which tends to benefit Democratic candidates, after an election that saw record-breaking turnout. Lawmakers, not the governor, would control the majority of appointments on an economic development board. The legislation would also prevent Mr. Evers from banning guns in the Wisconsin Capitol without permission from legislators.
The bills would also require Mr. Evers to get permission from lawmakers to seek adjustments on programs run jointly by federal and state governments, such as public benefit programs. The legislation would block Mr. Evers’s ability to withdraw the state from a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, a major campaign promise.
But the legislative package was so sprawling and rushed that many Democrats were still trying to assess the damage.
“Wisconsin has never seen anything like this,” Mr. Evers said in a statement. “Wisconsin values of decency, kindness, and finding common ground were pushed aside so a handful of people could desperately usurp and cling to power while hidden away from the very people they represent.”
Gov. Scott Walker, the one-time presidential hopeful, has signaled support for the measures, though he has yet to sign them.
The package of bills passed Wednesday take aim at the powers of not just the governor, but those of the newly elected Democratic attorney general, Josh Kaul. Under the legislation, the attorney general would need lawmakers’ approval to settle certain suits, and legislative leaders would be permitted to intervene and hire their own lawyers — in addition to the attorney general — if the constitutionality of a law was being challenged. The attorney general could no longer appoint a solicitor general to represent the state in major lawsuits, and would be restricted in how he spent settlement money, which lawmakers would now oversee.
Senators also confirmed 82 last-minute appointees of Mr. Walker’s despite the protestations of legislative Democrats, who said the candidates had not been thoroughly vetted, and of Mr. Evers, who asked that the posts remain vacant until he takes office in January. The posts ranged from the obscure, like the pharmacy examining board, to the high-profile and vital, such as the university board of regents.
… Gordon Hintz, the Democratic leader in the Assembly, said the legislation undermined the power of democratically elected officials.
“We’re here because you don’t trust Tony Evers and you don’t want to give up power,” he said. “You’re sore losers.”
These actions will surely lead to a good deal of judicial challenges on the part of the new governor.