How GOP may limit Evers’ power

Party may give him less say in state rules

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Milwaukee Wisconsin - Pa­trick Mar­ley and Molly Beck

MADI­SON - The Repub­li­can plan to take power away from the in­com­ing Demo­cratic gover­nor could in­clude over­haul­ing state boards and re­mov­ing au­thor­ity that Repub­li­can law­mak­ers handed to GOP Gov. Scott Walker when he took of­fice in 2011.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Scott Fitzger­ald (R-Juneau) said Thurs­day that Repub­li­cans are look­ing at giv­ing in­com­ing Gov. Tony Evers less say in state rules that im­ple­ment state laws. Eight years ago, Repub­li­cans handed Walker more power over those rules when he was first sworn in.

Repub­li­cans are con­cerned Evers could re­write state rules to weaken laws Repub­li­cans have ap­proved in the last eight years, in­clud­ing one that re­quires peo­ple to show photo iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to vote.

Fitzger­ald told re­porters he and other

Repub­li­can law­mak­ers are also con­sid­er­ing re­con­sti­tut­ing a list of state boards “as long as my arm,” in­clud­ing the board that over­sees the state’s jobs agency in light of Evers’ cam­paign prom­ise to elim­i­nate the Wis­con­sin Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Corp. and re­vive the state Com­merce De­part­ment.

The top Se­nate Repub­li­can’s com­ments came af­ter Assem­bly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) told re­porters Wed­nes­day he was in­ter­ested in curb­ing the new gover­nor’s pow­ers but didn’t say how.

“Wis­con­sin chose a di­vided gov­ern­ment, which may re­sult in a slower process,” Vos said in a state­ment re­leased Thurs­day.

“Gover­nor-elect Evers made a gen­er­ous of­fer to work to­gether so he should not have a prob­lem with the leg­is­la­tion that may be con­sid­ered,” Vos added. “The re­forms are in­tended to keep both sides at the ta­ble to reach a con­sen­sus.”

In a Thurs­day tweet, Evers said he wanted to find com­mon ground with Repub­li­cans but would not tol­er­ate “des­per­ate an­tics to cling to power and vi­o­late the checks and bal­ances of Wis­con­sin gov­ern­ment.”

“Let me be clear: the Repub­li­cans and Speaker Vos should stop any and all at­tempts to play pol­i­tics and weaken the pow­ers of the gover­nor’s of­fice in Wis­con­sin be­fore I take the oath,” his tweet said.

But Fitzger­ald said that Evers and tax­pay­ers shouldn’t see the Repub­li­cans’ ef­forts as un­der­min­ing the new gover­nor.

“When I picked up the pa­per yes­ter­day I was like I’m not sure why there’s all this dis­cus­sion about we’re try­ing to some­how un­der­mine the new gover­nor,” Fitzger­ald said. “That’s not the case at all. I think there’s some stuff that’s go­ing to be rea­son­able.”

On the tim­ing of the re­view, and what mes­sage the dis­cus­sion of chang­ing the gover­nor’s power sends to Evers, Fitzger­ald said: “It’s about the new gover­nor, yeah.”

“Tony Evers is go­ing to have the most pow­er­ful veto pen in the na­tion,” he added. “The idea that he’s not go­ing to be able to keep the Leg­is­la­ture in check, I think would be naive to think that. It’s equal bal­anced gov­ern­ment and we’ll re­spect Tony Evers like we have any other gover­nor.”

The plan to ham­per a Demo­cratic chief ex­ec­u­tive be­fore he takes of­fice is taken from a play­book used in North Carolina two years ago.

There, Repub­li­cans ap­proved leg­is­la­tion to limit the num­ber of ap­point­ments Gov. Roy Cooper could make and re­quire law­mak­ers to sign off on his cab­i­net ap­point­ments, ac­cord­ing to the News & Ob­server in Raleigh. They passed the leg­is­la­tion in a lame-duck ses­sion af­ter Cooper was elected but be­fore he was seated.

More re­cently, GOP law­mak­ers there sought state con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments that would have fur­ther curbed the gover­nor’s pow­ers, but vot­ers rejected the idea Tues­day, ac­cord­ing to Gov­ern­ing mag­a­zine.

In Wis­con­sin in 2010, Demo­cratic law­mak­ers tried to rush la­bor con­tracts through the Leg­is­la­ture af­ter Walker was elected but be­fore he was sworn in. The ef­fort failed when two Demo­cratic sen­a­tors stunned their col­leagues to vote with Repub­li­cans against the la­bor deals.

To put lim­its on Evers, Repub­li­cans would need to pass leg­is­la­tion be­tween now and Jan. 7. Walker would have to ap­prove it, and he and his aides have not said whether he would go along with such a plan.

Repub­li­cans con­trol the Se­nate 18-15 and could not lose two or more votes to get any plan through the Leg­is­la­ture. Their ma­jor­ity will widen to 19-14 in Jan­uary, but by then Evers will have taken of­fice and he won’t agree to curb his own au­thor­ity.

Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Al­louez) said he would be will­ing to con­sider lim­it­ing the new gover­nor’s power over state rules but had not made up his mind on the is­sue. “I’m will­ing to lis­ten to the ar­gu­ments,” Cowles said. Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) told The As­so­ci­ated Press he was open to re­duc­ing Evers’ power, but said, “The op­tics prob­a­bly look bad.”

In 2011, law­mak­ers gave Walker more power over ad­min­is­tra­tive rules. Those rules are de­signed to im­ple­ment state laws but have more de­tails than the laws them­selves. The rules have the force of law.

Olsen ex­pressed re­gret about the Leg­is­la­ture giv­ing that power to Walker for the past eight years, ac­cord­ing to The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Fitzger­ald on Wed­nes­day told con­ser­va­tive ra­dio host Mark Belling on WISN-AM (1130) that changes to the rule-mak­ing process should be con­sid­ered be­cause “it’s a way that gov­er­nors try to work around the leg­isla­tive process.” He later told re­porters that the re­view is some­thing law­mak­ers should do at the start of each ses­sion and not about Evers.

He said law­mak­ers were con­sid­er­ing pre­vent­ing Evers from rolling back as­pects of the state’s voter ID re­quire­ment by cod­i­fy­ing rules re­lated to that re­quire­ment in state law. He said a sim­i­lar ap­proach could be made to block changes to Act 10, the 2011 law that greatly lim­ited col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing by pub­lic work­ers.

In re­cent weeks, Walker said he wanted the Leg­is­la­ture to re­con­vene shortly af­ter the elec­tion to take up an in­cen­tive pack­age aimed at keep­ing Kim­ber­lyClark Corp. from shut­ting a plant in the Fox Val­ley.

Repub­li­can sen­a­tors have been re­luc­tant to take up that leg­is­la­tion and Fitzger­ald said he didn’t know if they could muster the votes to do that but said they would take up the leg­is­la­tion at the end of the month if enough votes were se­cured.

Fitzger­ald said he be­lieved he could find com­mon ground with Evers on some is­sues, such as ad­dress­ing opi­ate abuse and law en­force­ment.

MIKE DE SISTI / MIL­WAU­KEE JOUR­NAL SEN­TINEL

Gov.-elect Tony Evers talks with Boys & Girls Club as­sis­tant teacher Lisa Sim­mons as he vis­its a Boys & Girls Club in Madi­sonthis week.

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