Walker signs lame duck bills; Evers says it thwarts "will of the people"
On Friday, outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed three bills passed during the state legislature's lame duck session -- measures critics say limit the power of the incoming Democratic governor.
Walker signed the bills in their entirety. He offered no line-item vetoes.
Gov.-elect Tony Evers called the legislation an attempt to "roll back" the results of the November election and thwart the will of the people.
One Wisconsin Institute announced it's pursuing legal action against some of the legislation.
Walker signed the bills at the Green Bay State Office Building. He started his presentation with a Venn diagram that he says demonstrates how Evers will continue to have the same powers when it comes to "stability, transparency and accountability."
The bills change early voting in Wisconsin by limiting it to two weeks before an election. They take away the Evers administration's power to withdraw the state from a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act. They also give the legislature control over the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Also, Evers will have to give notice if he decides to pardon a felon.
Walker denounced what he called "hype and hysteria" from critics who called the actions a last-minute power grab from Republicans who lost the governor's race and attorney general's race in November.
"I was looking at this legislation to assess where it stands when it comes to transparency, accountability, protecting the taxpayers, and making sure there is a sense of stability in government," Walker said.
SB 884--Regarding legislative powers and duties, state agency and authority and administrative rule-making process. It eliminates the power of the Attorney General to appoint attorneys regarding state lawsuit and legal challenges. It eliminates the Office of the Solicitor General.
SB 886--Regarding federal government waivers and other requests for federal approval.; public assistance programs; waivers from work search and registration requirements for certain unemployment insurance benefit claimants; granting rule-making authority; and making an appropriation. In other words, it gives the legislature power over requests for federal programs and waivers. That power was previously in the governor's hands.
The bills were passed along party lines during a lame-duck session ahead of the transition from Walker to Evers.
One Wisconsin Institute says it has the backing of the National Redistricting Foundation to challenge the laws in court. It says Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos "was specifically warned" that restricting early voting to two weeks might violate a 2016 court order that struck down earlier Republican attempts to restrict early voting.
Rep. Vos said the governor's actions recognize the legislature as a "co-equal branch of government."
“As Democrats and the media continue to inflate these laws into something they’re not, Assembly Republicans are focusing on the new legislative session and will work to find common ground in divided government," Vos said.
Evers will take office January 7.
Statement from Governor Scott Walker
"Despite all the hype and hysteria out there, these bills do nothing to fundamentally diminish executive authority," Governor Walker said. "The bottom line is the new governor will continue to be one of the most powerful chief executives in the country. This includes veto and line-item veto powers; appointing members of the cabinet and other government posts including judges, district attorneys, and sheriffs; broad executive order authority; administrative rule authority; issuing a state budget proposal; and more.
"My criteria when evaluating these bills were simple: Do they improve transparency? Do they increase accountability? Do they affirm stability? And do they protect the taxpayers? The answer is yes."
Statement from Governor-elect Tony Evers
"Today, Governor Walker chose to ignore and override the will of the poeple of Wisconsin. This will no doubt be his legacy. The people demanded a change on November 6th, and they asked us to solve problems, not pick petty, political fights. The people of Wisconsin expect more from our government than what has happened in our state over the past few weeks.
"I've said all along that I will put the people of Wisconsin first and work to find common ground. That's what the peole of Wisconsin deserve. We are going to turn our focus to the pressing issues facing our state like fully funding public education, fixing our crumbling roads and bridges, and ensuring health care is affordable and protects people who have pre-existing conditions."
Statement from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester)
"I would like to thank Governor Walker for signing the extraordinary session proposals into law. Through his actions, he’s acknowledging the importance of the legislature as a co-equal branch of government.
"As Democrats and the media continue to inflate these laws into something they’re not, Assembly Republicans are focusing on the new legislative session and will work to find common ground in divided government."
Statement from Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee)
"Never before in our rich 170 year history, has a Governor signed lame duck bills into law that are specifically designed to curtail the power of his successor. These bills are an affront to everyone who voted on November 6th. Now, we will have an incoming Governor whose ability to manage both WEDC and DHS is severely hindered, a Governor who won’t be able to pull us out of the lawsuit that will put people with pre-existing conditions in danger, and a Governor who will be legislatively stopped from fulfilling the central campaign promises Wisconsinites voted for.
"Now, in his last act in public office, he eschewed any shred of moral courage and instead went along 100% with the bills as given to him despite the fact that there were bipartisan calls for him to veto the entire package or portions of these regressive bills."