Wisconsin Makes Move to Weaken Incoming Governor, AG

Legislature is controlled by Republicans; incoming governor and AG are Democrats
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 5, 2018 10:45 AM CST
Wisconsin Legislature Votes to Weaken Incoming Governor, AG
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker arrives for the lighting of the state Christmas tree in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday in Madison, Wis.   (Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature has approved a sweeping package of bills weakening the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general, the AP reports. The state Assembly approved the lame-duck legislation Wednesday morning. The Wisconsin Senate did the same less than three hours earlier after lawmakers worked through most of the night. The bills now go to outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has signaled his support. The bill would limit the governor's ability to put in place administrative rules that enact laws—and much more. The AP highlights the rest:

  • Limit early voting to no more than two weeks before an election.
  • Give the Legislature's budget committee, rather than the attorney general, the power to withdraw the state from lawsuits. That move is designed to block Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers from allowing the incoming attorney general, Democrat Josh Kaul, to withdraw Wisconsin from a multistate lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act.

  • Give Republicans in the Legislature the majority of appointments to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the state's quasi-private job-creation agency that Evers wants to reorganize. Evers would also be barred from replacing the leader of the agency until Sept. 1, at which point the number of appointments Evers and Democratic lawmakers can make would be equal to legislative Republicans.
  • Require state health officials to implement a federal waiver allowing Wisconsin to require childless adults under age 50 to work in order to receive health insurance through the BadgerCare Plus program. The legislation prevents Evers from seeking to withdraw the waiver request.
  • Eliminate the attorney general's solicitor general office. The office currently handles some of the highest-profile and most political lawsuits.
  • Require all settlement money the attorney general wins to go to the state's general fund rather than the state Justice Department.

  • Prohibit judges from giving greater weight to state agencies' interpretations of laws in court challenges. That change could make it easier to win lawsuits challenging environmental regulations.
  • Require the governor to get permission from the Legislature before asking for changes in programs run jointly by the state and federal governments, limiting the governor's authority to run public benefits programs.
  • Reduce income tax rates next year to offset about $60 million in online sales taxes from out-of-state retailers.
  • Require the governor to get permission from the Legislature before he could ban guns in the state Capitol.
  • Require state agencies to file quarterly spending reports.
(Lawmakers didn't pass three proposals that were originally part of the package; more on those here.)

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