Wisconsin Repub­li­cans OK bills strip­ping power from new Demo­cratic gover­nor

The Herald (Rock Hill) - - Stay Connected - BY MITCH SMITH

Af­ter a ran­corous, sleep­less night of de­bate, Repub­li­can law­mak­ers early Wed­nes­day pushed through a sweep­ing set of bills that will limit the power of Wisconsin’s newly elected Democrats, in­clud­ing the in­com­ing gover­nor and at­tor­ney gen­eral.

The leg­is­la­tion, which Democrats ve­he­mently op­posed and pro­test­ers chanted their anger over, passed through the Repub­li­can-held state Leg­isla- ture af­ter hours of closed­door meet­ings and some amend­ments. The votes fell largely along party lines; no Democrats sup­ported the mea­sures.

“That’s what this is about: power-hun­gry politi­cians us­ing their grubby hands in their last-ditch ef­fort to des­per­ately cling to power,” said state Rep. Ka­t­rina Shank­land, a Demo­crat, be­fore the vote Wed­nes­day morn­ing. “All we’ve seen demon­strated to­day and over the past few days is a con­tempt for the pub­lic.”

The fight over power in Madison came af­ter Repub­li­cans, who have con­trolled the state for eight years, lost the of­fices of gover­nor and at­tor­ney gen­eral dur­ing the midterm elec­tions. Tony Evers, a Demo­crat, de­feated Scott Walker, a two-term gover­nor.

Repub­li­cans ex­plained the moves to limit the authority of the gover­nor as part of a long-needed change in the balance of power, which they said had be­come tilted in fa­vor of the ex­ec­u­tive branch. Robin Vos, the speaker of the As­sem­bly, ac­cused Democrats of fan­ning hys­te­ria and over­stat­ing the ef­fects of the bills.

“You are so grossly ex­ag­ger­at­ing the words of this bill it makes me sick,” Vos said.

Democrats scoffed, not­ing Repub­li­cans had seemed per­fectly sat­is­fied with the balance of power when Walker held the role. Hun­dreds of pro­test­ers streamed to the Capi­tol as the de­bate went on over sev­eral days. Some car­ried signs with mes­sages like “GOP Grinch Steal­ing Democ­racy” and chanted “Shame! Shame! Shame!” dur­ing one hear­ing.

Evers, the gov­er­nor­elect, is­sued a state­ment Wed­nes­day ex­press­ing out­rage and ac­cus­ing the Repub­li­cans of grab­bing power against the wishes of the vot­ers.

“Wisconsin has never seen any­thing like this,” Evers said. “Wisconsin val­ues of de­cency, kind­ness, and find­ing com­mon ground were pushed aside so a hand­ful of peo­ple could des­per­ately usurp and cling to power while hid­den away from the very peo­ple they rep­re­sent.”

The pack­age of bills, which awaits Walker’s sig­na­ture, would limit early vot­ing and, for the com­ing months, give law­mak­ers, not the gover­nor, the ma­jor­ity of ap­point­ments on an eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment board. They also will pre­vent Evers from ban­ning guns in the Wisconsin Capi­tol with­out per­mis­sion from leg­is­la­tors.

The bills also would re­quire Evers to get per­mis­sion from law­mak­ers to seek ad­just­ments on pro­grams run jointly by fed­eral and state gov­ern­ments, such as pub­lic ben­e­fit pro­grams.

And they would bar Evers from in­stalling any po­lit­i­cal ap­pointee whose con­fir­ma­tion is re­jected by the Se­nate. (Cur­rent law al­lows a gover­nor to renom­i­nate such ap­pointees or al­low them to serve as a pro­vi­sional ap­point­ment.) The mea­sures also in­clude a pro­vi­sion re­quir­ing the corrections de­part­ment, at law­mak­ers’ re­quest, to pub­lish on­line the names of pris­on­ers par­doned by the gover­nor or re­leased be­fore fin­ish­ing their sen­tences.

“It pro­vides more op­por­tu­nity for over­sight for a co­equal branch of gov­ern­ment,” Ro­maine Quinn, a Repub­li­can state rep­re­sen­ta­tive, said of the mea­sures.

But Gor­don Hintz, the Demo­cratic leader in the As­sem­bly, said the leg­is­la­tion un­der­mined the power of demo­crat­i­cally elected of­fi­cials.

“We’re here be­cause you don’t trust Tony Evers and you don’t want to give up power,” he said. “You’re sore losers.”


Pro­test­ers at the state Capi­tol in Madison hold up signs on Tues­day as the Wisconsin State As­sem­bly de­bates a se­ries of bills that would strip the in­com­ing Demo­cratic gover­nor of power.

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