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Democrats respond to GOP bills in lame-duck session

(WEAU)
Published: Nov. 30, 2018 at 12:17 PM CST
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The Latest on the Wisconsin Legislature's lame-duck session (all times local):

After losing the governor's and attorney general's offices in November's election, Republican lawmakers are proposing a number of bills in an extraordinary session next month to limit some powers for the incoming governor and attorney general which their Republican predecessors enjoyed.

Governor-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul reacted to the Republican bills in the lame-duck session through Evers' press secretary, saying Republicans are "overriding the will of the people":

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5:30 p.m.

Republican lawmakers have finally released their lame-duck session bills.

The measures make sweeping changes across state government, chief among them moving the 2020 presidential primary from April to March and limiting in-person early voting to a two-week window before an election.

The bills also would dramatically weaken Democratic Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul. The proposals would eliminate the state Department of Justice's solicitor general's office, require all DOJ settlement winnings to go into the state's general fund and allow legislators to hire their own attorneys in disputes over statutes' constitutionality and bypass the DOJ.

The measures also would give Republicans control of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation's board and eliminate the governor's ability to appoint the board's CEO.

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2:15 p.m.

A state lawmaker says Republicans will consider a bill during a lame-duck session that will limit early voting to roughly two weeks before an election.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Bernier says the restriction will be part of a bill that moves the 2020 presidential primary date from April to March. The move would create three elections in three months. Local clerks insist that would be a logistical nightmare.

Right now municipalities set their own hours and dates for in-person absentee voting. Bernier says the bill won't include any restrictions on hours or locations for voting places.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson in 2016 struck down Republican-authored restrictions limiting municipalities to one location for in-person early voting and limiting in-person early voting to weekdays. Peterson said imposing weekday limitations intentionally discriminates against Democratic-leaning blacks in Milwaukee.

State attorneys have appealed the ruling. That action is still pending.

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12:15 p.m.

Wisconsin Republicans have agreed on which bills to take up during their lame-duck session next week.

Assembly and Senate Republicans circulated paper ballots to their leadership committees on Friday. The ballots include vague descriptions of the same six bills on each house's agenda. Rumors had been circulating around the Capitol that Assembly and Senate Republicans would develop separate agendas.

Both houses expect to begin floor debates on Tuesday. The session offers the GOP one last chance to pass laws before Gov. Scott Walker leaves office.

The ballots offer vague, one-sentence descriptions of each bill.

One measure would guarantee coverage for pre-existing health conditions. Another deals with spending federal transportation dollars and individual income tax cuts. The others relate to state agencies' rule-making process, moving the 2020 presidential primary from April to March, work requirements for state benefits and the composition of state agencies.

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11:35 a.m.

Assembly Republicans plan to take up a half-dozen bills dealing with pre-existing conditions, road funding, moving the 2020 presidential primary during a lame duck session next week.

Speaker Robin Vos circulated a paper ballot to the Assembly Organization Committee on Friday asking for a vote to authorize the session. The ballot includes vague descriptions of six bills on the agenda.

One measure would guarantee coverage for pre-existing health conditions. Another deals with spending federal transportation dollars and individual income tax cuts.

The others relate to state agencies' rule-making process, moving the 2020 presidential primary from April to March, work requirements for state benefits and the composition of state agencies.

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8:45 a.m.

The wheels are starting to turn faster on a lame-duck legislative session in Madison.

Leadership committees in both the Assembly and Senate are expected to vote by paper ballot Friday to authorize the session. The votes are a formality since Republicans control both committees.

Republicans hope to convene on the floor in both the Assembly and Senate floors next week, perhaps as soon as Tuesday, to take up last-minute bills before Gov. Scott Walker leaves office.

It's still not clear exactly what they plan to do. They're considering passing measures guaranteeing health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, weakening incoming Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers' powers, enshrining voter photo ID rules as statutes and moving the 2020 presidential primary election.

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

STATEMENTS

Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse):

 

MADISON, WI – After voters resoundingly elected Democrats to every statewide office on November 6th, Republicans unveiled sweeping plans to rig elections, limit the powers of Governor-elect Tony Evers and reverse the will of Wisconsin voters.

“This November, Wisconsin residents made it clear they are tired of divide and conquer tactics and want to see positive change,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse). “Rather than protecting jobs, strengthening schools, and fixing our roads, Republicans want to undermine Governor-elect Evers before he takes the oath of office. This lame duck session has been a bait and switch to rush through more partisan bills, rig elections and consolidate more power in the hands of Republican politicians.”

Additionally, in hopes of protecting a conservative Supreme Court Justice, Republicans plan to limit in-person absentee voting and create a new spring election that will cost taxpayers $7 million. These proposals have been met with overwhelming opposition by the public and local clerks.

“It is absolutely ludicrous that Republicans are more concerned with clinging to power at a time when factories are closing, 584 Wisconsin dairy farms have shut down their operations this year and families are feeling the pinch going into the holiday season,” said Shilling. “I agree with Gov.-elect Evers that we need to focus on improving health care, strengthening schools and fixing our roads. Republicans need to listen to voters and drop this partisan temper tantrum.”

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester):

“The legislature will come back in an extraordinary session next week to finish our work.  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. In order to find common ground, everyone must be at the table.

“One of the top priorities for the special session is to pass legislation to ensure people with pre-existing conditions will always have access to affordable health insurance coverage in Wisconsin.

“Our state must stay open for business. 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.

“The legislature is the most representative branch in government and we will not stop being a strong voice for our constituents.”

 

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