Wisconsin Repub­li­cans OK bills cut­ting power of Dems

The Herald Sun - - Stay Connected - BY MITCH SMITH New York Times

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 Leg­is­la­ture 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 the last 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 who drew na­tional at­ten­tion with a brief run for pres­i­dent.

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 at that ex­pla­na­tion, not­ing that 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 on 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, adding at an­other point, “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 now 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 pre­vent Evers from ban­ning guns in the Wisconsin Capi­tol with­out per­mis­sion from leg­is­la­tors.

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