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Capitol Notes: WI GOP Considering “Monumental” Changes In How State Government Operates

It’ll be a busy day in Madison Monday, as lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Finance hear testimony regarding Republican plans to limit the powers of Democratic Governor-Elect Tony Evers.";

Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature released plans late Friday for bills they’ll take up the first week of December. Lawmakers are going into session to consider limiting the power of Democratic Governor-elect Tony Evers and Democratic Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul.

JR Ross of Wispolitics.com weighs in on the measures for this week’s Capitol Notes. He says if the proposals are approved, the changes would be a very big deal.

“The central theme to all of this is the Legislature – these Republicans – are trying to make that body kind of like a central clearing house for a lot of things that come to state government,” Ross says.

Ross gives this example of one way Republican state lawmakers want to transfer power from the executive branch to the Legislature:

“Right now, if there’s a state law is challenged as unconstitutional, the attorney general is served that notice and then the attorney general goes to court and fights that or defends the state. Now they want the Assembly and the Senate notified of this law is being challenged and have them be able to be heard in court, and things like that that would really change the balance of power between the Legislature, the executive branch, and impact the attorney general’s relationship with the Legislature.”

He says some of the measures might not seem to be “high-profile” in nature. Yet he says if approved, the changes “would be monumental in how state government operates.”

Ross adds that it’s not a surprise that GOP lawmakers are trying to remove some of the powers of Evers and Kaul. But he says what is a surprise is the “depth of things they’re doing.”

Ross says last week, Republican legislative leaders attempted to downplay the magnitude of what they were proposing.

“Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told reporters that this was all 'insider baseball-type' stuff. Well this is more than inside baseball. Granted, this is about how government operates and I’m not sure the average voter really pays that much attention to it or cares that much, but it is well beyond just like kind of tinkering with things to changing the relationship between these branches of government,” Ross says.

Ann-Elise is WUWM's news director.