Wisconsin Assembly Passes Sweeping Power Grab Bill, Sending It To Walker's Desk


Wisconsin's GOP Senate Majority Leader, Scott Fitzgerald, seemed ill-prepared for the wave of condemnation directed at his caucus, saying that he was "a little surprised" by the reaction and calling the demonstrations "over the top". It now goes to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature. That's the reason the GOP is stripping powers from the governor's office, right? Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is questioning the constitutionality of these proposed changes and says Wisconsin Republicans are risking legal action.

The Legislature met deep into the night Tuesday to pass a series of bills, first unveiled Friday, that would weaken the governor's office and transfer power away from the Democratic-elect attorney general and give it to the Legislature.

The Republican majority called a rare post-election legislative session this week to consider the proposals.

"It's really an attack on our democratic values and structures", Michigan Democratic Representative Christine Greig, the next minority leader in the state House of Representatives, said.

At the same time, in a seeming acknowledgement that the protests are working, Fitzgerald said that he doesn't yet have the votes for all of the legislation.

Divided along party lines, the GOP-run state budget committee in Wisconsin acted overnight to advance numerous controversial measures after less than 12 hours of debate and amid growing protests in and around the capitol in Madison. Nothing we're doing here is about helping the people of Wisconsin.

Republicans also want to enact a protection in state law for people with pre-existing conditions but make it more hard for the attorney general to remove Wisconsin from a federal lawsuit seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act. "It's about power and self-interest". "You know, we saw record turnout in this November midterm election in which people very clearly said they were ready for a change; they've had enough of the partisan games, they wanted people to work together to solve problems".

Wisconsin Democratic lawmakers say a Republican lame-duck session is an unprecedented attempt to take away powers of the incoming governor and attorney general.

The remaining proposals would weaken the governor's ability to put in place rules that enact laws and shield the state jobs agency from his control.

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The bills would also allow legislators to decide whether to withdraw the state from lawsuits, rather than the attorney general.

The GOP held a similar power grab two years ago in North Carolina, and it's expected that the same will happen in MI before another Democratic governor takes office there. The measures are created to weaken both incoming Democratic Gov. -elect Tony Evers and Democratic Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul.

"But he's not the governor today", said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

Among other things, the Wisconsin Republicans want to stop Evers and Kaul from having power to block GOP gerrymandering, as well as stopping Kaul from fulfilling his campaign pledge to withdraw Wisconsin from a lawsuit aimed at overturning the Affordable Care Act's provisions protecting people with preexisting conditions.

Another element of the bill would make it more hard for Evers to alter some GOP-backed laws, including Wisconsin's voter ID law. They made opposition to that lawsuit a central part of both of their campaigns.

The Republican-controlled budget committee planned to vote on the bills after a hearing Monday, setting up votes in the state Senate and Assembly as soon as Tuesday.

If numerous changes are challenged in court, opponents have said, the process could create even more gridlock in state government next year.

"This legislation is an effort to undermine the results of the elections we just had for governor and for attorney general", Kaul told reporters Tuesday.