Legislature Works Overnight To Curb Evers Power
Limits on early voting, constraints on Evers campaign promise on health care.
Following overnight debate, lawmakers voted early Wednesday morning on that measure. The bill would also limit early voting in Wisconsin and give state lawmakers more power over the state’s economic development agency, which Evers has said he would like to eliminate.
In the wee hours of the morning, the plan passed the state Senate on a vote of 17-16, with Republican Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, joining all Democrats voting against. It passed the Assembly shortly after 8 a.m. with a mostly party-line vote of 56-27, with Rep. Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville, joining Democrats in voting against. The bill now moves to Gov. Scott Walker‘s desk for his signature.
During debate, Democrats decried the plan as an abuse of power.
“The seeds you’re planting may grow into something you will regret,” said Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison. “Be fair. Give the voters the right to choose their governor and attorney general.”
Under current law, Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul could move forward with removing Wisconsin from the ACA lawsuit with Evers’ approval. Under the newly approved bill, approval to withdraw would have to come from the Legislature’s budget committee, rather than the governor. Republicans hold a 12-4 majority on that committee.
“I heard lots and lots of people talking on the campaign about how they believe in … keeping in place protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” Kaul said. “But this action is fundamentally inconsistent with that because this is going to make it in all likelihood impossible for the state of Wisconsin to withdraw from that lawsuit if this legislation moves forward.”
Republicans have defended the bill as a way to foster the appropriate balance of power between the Democratic governor-elect and the GOP-controlled Legislature.
“We’re going to work with the governor-elect, but we’re going to do it in a way that’s balanced between the legislative and administrative level,” Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said during debate.
Another element of the bill would make it more difficult for Evers to alter some GOP-backed laws, including Wisconsin’s voter ID law.
“I know you don’t like voter ID, but voter ID was passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said during debate. “We know (Evers) could come in on the first day and make Wisconsin out of compliance with voter ID and voter ID is gone just like that.”
Regarding early voting, the bill trims the state’s early voting window to just two weeks statewide. 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.
Opponents to the measure argue it is discriminatory and aimed at discouraging turnout of populations that tend to vote for Democratic candidates, including minorities and young people. Republicans argue the plan will level the playing field for all communities across Wisconsin.
Another measure passed by the Legislature early Wednesday morning would limit Evers’ ability to change state laws that require able-bodied, childless adults to work in order to receive public benefits like food stamps and Medicaid. That plan passed on a party-line vote in the Assembly and Senate, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats against.
Democrats argued the plan puts undue constraints on Evers and his incoming administration.
State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, said the bill will make it hard for the Evers administration to solve problems like providing better prenatal care, as every state pilot program would need approval from the Legislature’s budget committee.
“This is like the middle school child asking permission to go to the bathroom,” Vinehout said.
Republicans argued the plan will help the state preserve measures that provide safeguards for taxpayers and direct people toward employment.
“We’re protecting taxpayers of this state,” said Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin. “We’re expecting the people who are able to work to go out and work. There’s nothing bad about that.”
The Legislature also approved changes to how federal transportation funding is handled in Wisconsin and how online sales tax revenues are spent.
It did not take up proposals to move the date of the 2020 presidential primary, to require health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, or authorize a $70 million tax incentives package for consumer products company Kimberly-Clark Corp. All of those bills had been considered for the extraordinary session.
‘A Stain On The Republican Majority Legacy’
Meetings and negotiations among lawmakers during the day and into the night Tuesday played a large role in the proceedings flowing into Wednesday morning. Both chambers also convened later than expected Tuesday — nine hours later in the case of the Assembly.
The lame-duck session had several contentious moments, including one in which Republicans who run the state Senate ordered the public gallery cleared, a move that provoked an audible roar from members of the public who’d gathered to watch the proceedings.
— Scott Bauer (@sbauerAP) December 4, 2018
Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton, took the unusual step after warning the crowd twice that Senate rules prohibited them from reacting to debate. Deafening chants of “shame” filled the chamber as police escorted people out. After a roughly 40-minute break, Roth reopened the gallery.
Shortly after the session began, the Senate voted along party lines to approve roughly 80 last-minute appointments from Gov. Scott Walker.
Among the appointments confirmed were Ellen Nowak for a seat on the Public Service Commission and high-profile attorney Scott Beightol for the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents. Nowak is a former PSC commissioner who went on to become Walker’s secretary of the Department of Administration. Their terms will end in mid-2023, meaning they could outlast Evers’ tenure as governor depending on whether he successfully seeks re-election.
During debate on the Senate floor, Democrats attacked Republicans in especially blunt terms.
“Today, you cheat and you steal your way into the next session and administration,” said Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse.
“We’re going to look back on this and it’s going to be a stain on the Republican majority legacy and Scott Walker’s legacy” said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton. “The first thing Scott Walker did when he came through the door here at the Capitol was to create chaos. The last thing he’s doing on his way out the door is to create chaos.”
Republicans have defended the extraordinary session proposals as reasonable measures aimed at promoting a balance of power between the incoming Democratic governor and the GOP-controlled Legislature.
“We are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in,” said Vos during the debate.
Democrats have argued the extraordinary session proposals are an abuse of power and undermine the democratic process. Speaking with reporters before lawmakers assembled Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said liberal lawmakers will do everything in their power to push back on the GOP efforts.
“The people want a government for themselves … not Republican politicians,” Taylor said. “Everything is on the table to stop this pernicious attack on our democracy.”
Taylor said that may include lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the measures, if they become law.
While it’s not altogether unusual for a Legislature to hold a lame-duck session, the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau said this was the first time in state history that an extraordinary session had been used to reduce the power of an incoming governor and attorney general.
Many of the changes to Evers’ power involve rulemaking, giving the Legislature more power over a process that Republicans had concentrated in the hands of Walker over the past eight years.
But the constraints on Evers would stretch well beyond that, including a specific measure that would bar the governor-elect from making the state Capitol a gun-free zone.
Wisconsin Legislature Works Overnight To Approve Limiting Gov.-Elect Tony Evers’ Power was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.
More about the Lame Duck Laws
- State Supreme Court Upholds Lame-Duck Laws - Laurel White - Jun 21st, 2019
- Gov. Evers Releases Statement Relating to Wisconsin Supreme Court Decision - Gov. Tony Evers - Jun 21st, 2019
- Wisconsin Budget: Lame Duck Mistake Reopens Tax Debate - Jon Peacock - Jun 12th, 2019
- High Court Reinstates Lame Duck Laws - Shawn Johnson - Jun 12th, 2019
- The State of Politics: An Uphill Fight for ‘Lame Duck’ Challengers? - Steven Walters - May 20th, 2019
- Conservatives Argue Against Lame-Duck Lawsuit - Shawn Johnson - May 16th, 2019
- Op Ed: Constitutional Boundaries Need Enforcement - Erin Grunze - May 10th, 2019
- Supreme Court Restores Lame Duck Appointees - Shawn Johnson - May 1st, 2019
- Former Lawmakers, WILL Enter Extraordinary Session Lawsuit - Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty - Apr 23rd, 2019
- Appeals Court Sides with Evers on Appointees - Shawn Johnson - Apr 10th, 2019
- GOP Asks Court to Restore Walker Appointees - Laurel White - Apr 2nd, 2019
- Evers, GOP Fight Over Walker Appointees - Laurel White - Mar 30th, 2019
- Appeals Court Restores Some Lame Duck Laws - Laurel White - Mar 28th, 2019
- Joint Statement: Appellate Court Decision on the Extraordinary Session - Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald - Mar 27th, 2019
- Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald Sends Letter to Appointees Impacted By Governor Evers’ Actions - Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald - Mar 27th, 2019
- Second Judge Rules Against Lame Duck Laws - Laurel White - Mar 27th, 2019
- Arguments Begin on 2nd Lame Duck Suit - Laurel White - Mar 25th, 2019
- Dane County Court’s New Level of Judicial Activism Throws Wisconsin Into Chaos - MacIver Institute - Mar 25th, 2019
- Representative LaKeshia Myers Issues a Statement Regarding the Lame Duck Court Ruling - State Rep. LaKeshia Myers - Mar 21st, 2019
- Judge Blocks Lame Duck Laws - Shawn Johnson - Mar 21st, 2019
- Gov. Evers Releases Statement on Dane County Court’s Ruling on Lame-Duck Session - Gov. Tony Evers - Mar 21st, 2019
- Evers Joins Unions on Lame Duck Suit - Shawn Johnson - Feb 25th, 2019
- Fourth Lawsuit Against Lame Duck Laws - Shawn Johnson - Feb 22nd, 2019
- DPW Files Federal Lawsuit Over Republicans’ Lame-Duck Power Grab - Democratic Party of Wisconsin - Feb 21st, 2019
- Rep. Spreitzer, Sen. Ringhand Propose Lame Duck Limits - State Rep. Mark Spreitzer - Feb 11th, 2019
- Judge Blocks Lame Duck Voting Restrictions - Laurel White - Jan 18th, 2019
- Rep. Jimmy Anderson Seeks to Void the Wisconsin Power Grab - State Rep. Jimmy Anderson - Jan 10th, 2019
- Op Ed: Lame Duck Mischief Defamed the State - Spencer Black - Jan 2nd, 2019
- Campaign Cash: Lame Duck Law Helped Ashley Furniture - Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Dec 20th, 2018
- Op Ed: Liberals All Wrong on Early Voting Law - Rick Esenberg - Dec 20th, 2018
- Op Ed: We the Irrelevant People - Sheila Plotkin - Dec 19th, 2018
- History Repeats With Latest Post-Election Republican Attack on Early Voting - One Wisconsin Now - Dec 19th, 2018
- Kaul Calls Lame Duck Laws ‘Terrible’ - Mary Kate McCoy - Dec 19th, 2018
- Court Challenge to Voting Restrictions Filed - Laurel White - Dec 18th, 2018
- Murphy’s Law: State Facing Endless Lawsuits? - Bruce Murphy - Dec 18th, 2018
- One Wisconsin Institute Files Request for Court to Enforce Rulings Striking Down Republican Lame Duck Restrictions on Voting - One Wisconsin Institute - Dec 17th, 2018
- Motion to Block Early Voting Restrictions to be Filed Today - Citizen Action of Wisconsin - Dec 17th, 2018
- Carpenter: Require ‘Lame Duck” Bills to Supermajority Votes - State Sen. Tim Carpenter - Dec 17th, 2018
- Op Ed: Lame Duck Bills Too Rushed, Secretive - Erin Grunze - Dec 16th, 2018
- Walker Signs Lame Duck Bills - Laurel White - Dec 14th, 2018
- Rep. Zamarripa Statement on Lame Duck Bills - State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa - Dec 14th, 2018
- One Wisconsin Institute Announces Coming Legal Action Against GOP ‘Lame Duck’ Voting Rights Attacks - One Wisconsin Institute - Dec 14th, 2018
- Governor Walker just sealed his legacy as the worst Governor in state history - State Sen. Chris Larson - Dec 14th, 2018
- Governor Walker Signs Extraordinary Session Legislation into Law in Green Bay - Gov. Scott Walker - Dec 14th, 2018
- Governor-elect Tony Evers Statement on Kimberly-Clark Announcement - Gov. Tony Evers - Dec 13th, 2018
- Walker Defends Lame Duck Bills - Laurel White - Dec 12th, 2018
- Murphy’s Law: Republicans’ Plan for Permanent Power - Bruce Murphy - Dec 11th, 2018
- Lame Duck Law Adds Work For State Agencies - Rich Kremer - Dec 11th, 2018
- Lawmakers Change How WEDC Tracks Jobs - Laurel White - Dec 10th, 2018
- Op Ed: Republican Power Grab Unprecedented - State Sen. Chris Larson - Dec 10th, 2018
- The State of Politics: 5 Reasons for Republican Power Play - Steven Walters - Dec 10th, 2018
- Campaign Cash: WMC Behind New Anti-Regulation Bill - Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Dec 7th, 2018
- Wisconsin Budget: One More Tax Cut For The Wealthy - Tamarine Cornelius - Dec 7th, 2018
- City Beat: Episode 002 - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 6th, 2018
- Lame-Duck Bill Changes Highway Funding - Rich Kremer - Dec 6th, 2018
- Murphy’s Law: What Will Scott Walker’s Legacy Be? - Bruce Murphy - Dec 6th, 2018
- Governor Walker: What Will Your Message To Gov.-Elect Evers Be? - State Sen. Tim Carpenter - Dec 6th, 2018
- WI & MI GOP Attempt to Undermine the Voice of Voters, Put Democracy and Safety at Risk - Democratic Attorneys General Association - Dec 6th, 2018
- Your Right to Know: Lame Duck Laws All About Secrecy - Dee J. Hall - Dec 5th, 2018
- Data Wonk: The Republican War Against Democracy - Bruce Thompson - Dec 5th, 2018
- Extraordinary Session Update: Legislature Approves Critical Reforms - Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty - Dec 5th, 2018
- Rep. Gwen Moore Statement on Republican Power Grab - U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore - Dec 5th, 2018
- Statement on Lame Duck Session - State Rep. Evan Goyke - Dec 5th, 2018
- Legislature Works Overnight To Curb Evers Power - Shawn Johnson and Laurel White - Dec 5th, 2018
- Governor-elect Tony Evers Statement on Extraordinary Session - Gov. Tony Evers - Dec 5th, 2018
- Republican’s Holiday Gift to Wisconsin: An Assault on Democracy - State Sen. Janis Ringhand - Dec 5th, 2018
- Unprecedented Power Grab Will Break Wisconsin for Years to Come - State Sen. Chris Larson - Dec 5th, 2018
- Senator Taylor Believes GOP Are Taking Career Ending Votes - State Sen. Lena Taylor - Dec 4th, 2018
- Bill Curbing Evers’ Power Moves to Legislature - Shawn Johnson and Laurel White - Dec 4th, 2018
- Extraordinary Session Policy Items Flying Under the Radar - Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty - Dec 4th, 2018
- Will Republican Legislature Risk Contempt With Scheme to Enact New Limits on Early Voting? - One Wisconsin Now - Dec 4th, 2018
- Representative Lisa Subeck Statement on the Extraordinary Session - State Rep. Lisa Subeck - Dec 4th, 2018
- Power Tends to Corrupt, Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely - State Rep. Jimmy Anderson - Dec 4th, 2018
- Governor-elect Tony Evers’ Testimony to the Joint Committee on Finance Opposing Extraordinary Session Legislation - Gov. Tony Evers - Dec 3rd, 2018
- Eight Days After November Election Republican Assembly Leader Robin Vos Requested New Restrictions on Early Voting - One Wisconsin Now - Dec 3rd, 2018
- Op Ed: GOP Bills Change 400 Sections of State Law - State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout - Dec 3rd, 2018
- Rep. Brostoff Statement on Republican Effort to Override Will of Wisconsin Voters - State Rep. Jonathan Brostoff - Dec 3rd, 2018
- Conservation Voters issue statement on lame duck bills - Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters - Dec 3rd, 2018
- Evers Will Fight Plan to Limit His Power - Corri Hess - Dec 3rd, 2018
- GOP Lame Duck Session Targets Evers - Laurel White - Dec 3rd, 2018
- ACLU of Wisconsin’s Board of Directors condemns lame duck session - American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin - Dec 3rd, 2018
- Stop the Wisconsin GOP power grab - Indivisible Madison - Dec 3rd, 2018
- Election defeat leads to GOP temper tantrum - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Nov 30th, 2018
- Vos Republicans: ‘Too Many People Voted’ - One Wisconsin Now - Nov 30th, 2018