Published: Thu, December 06, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Wisconsin Republicans work overnight on lame-duck bills

Wisconsin Republicans work overnight on lame-duck bills

The Scott Walker era in Wisconsin is ending much as it began: With a controversial effort to weaken his political opponents that attracted protests and a national spotlight to Madison.

In the early morning hours of a lame-duck session Wednesday, state lawmakers approved legislation that would prevent Governor-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul from carrying out their campaign promises to protect and expand food, medical and unemployment assistance for low-income Wisconsinites.

Interestingly, in every one of these four states, Republicans managed to control a majority of seats while winning a minority of votes.

Republican lawmakers, who hold a majority in the state legislature, approved a package of bills to curtail the incoming governor's ability to set certain rules and policies after he is sworn into office in January.

"If he wanted to put a stop to this, he could", said Russ Hahn, a 53-year-old attorney holding a sign that said "GOP Grinch Steals Democracy". "This is part and parcel of a new philosophy of governing".

The legislation passed in a session marked by stops and starts as GOP leaders tried to muster enough votes in the Senate.

Walker included limiting Evers' control over the state's jobs agency (which past year gave the Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn $3 billion in tax incentives to build a new factory in Wisconsin) as well as his ability to change the state's work requirements for food stamps and health care.

Other people concerned about the measures including Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling.

Sanders, who has repeatedly traveled to Wisconsin to campaign against Walker, called the efforts "disgraceful" and "pathetic" and said they "must be stopped".

Democrats in the statehouse were apoplectic over the session's agenda, saying it contradicted the will of the voters.

In November, Democrats in Wisconsin won the governor's mansion and the race for attorney general after closely fought elections. "These people are sore losers".

Walker has not explicitly endorsed the bills, but indicated to reporters he'd support it. The legislation, he said, ensures that Evers will have to negotiate with lawmakers and can not unilaterally erase Republican ideas.

The American Civil Liberties Union excoriated North Carolina Republicans at the time, calling their actions then "a shameful partisan trick".

Protestors in Wisconsin have flooded the state Capitol this week, chanting slogans during Senate proceedings. They didn't make the bills public until late Friday afternoon, after they scheduled Monday's hearing before the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.

"The manufactured outrage by the Democrats right now is hilarious", Fitzgerald said.

"Today's extraordinary sessions codifies into law reforms that have been eight years in the making", he said.

After being defeated at the ballot box last month, Republicans in Wisconsin and MI are seeking to deny Democrats full control of state government, prompting a public outcry against the attempted power grab by national figures who include potential 2020 candidates Tom Steyer and Sen.

He says former Republican Gov. Scott McCallum was "nothing but gracious and open and accepting" when Doyle defeated him in 2002.

But state Republicans say the bills only seek to balance power.

"The people want a government for themselves. not Republican politicians", Taylor said. "The Republican base may like that but it's not the thing that gets them going".

The bill goes even further by limiting the governor's authority to request any modifications to the Medicaid program from the federal government without approval by the state legislature.

The measure, which would require regulators to only accept studies used by the Environmental Protection Agency, which under the Trump administration is rejecting previously accepted studies that cite proprietary data, is believed by activists to be fast-tracked so it can make it to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's desk before Democratic Gov. -elect Gretchen Whitmer takes office.

The Republican-led legislature in OH introduced a bill last week which set out to prevent changes being made to the state constitution via statewide referendum.

"You guys are just going insane here", said state Representative Katrina Shankland. Michigan Republicans are also discussing taking action before a Democratic governor takes over there.

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