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Key Takeaways From The Wisconsin Legislature's Extraordinary Session

Eric Kilby

The Wisconsin legislature’s lame-duck session has been making national headlines. This past Friday, Wisconsin Republicans made public a number of bills that would limit the power of the newly elected Democratic governor and attorney general.

The bills were released at the end of the work day on Friday, with a public hearing Monday and a vote scheduled for Tuesday. Since then, local and national attention has prompted a lot of discussion — both at the state house and around the water cooler.

READ: Wisconsin GOP Lawmakers Limit Incoming Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' Powers

Patrick Marley covers the state capitol for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and he explains what's in these bills. 

"They've got this pretty sweeping measure that would restrict the powers of the incoming Democratic governor, the incoming Democratic attorney general. It would restrict early voting and do a number of things that have got opponents up in arms," says Marley. 

A public hearing on these bills lasted late into the night, with hours of public testimony lambasting the bills. No one from the public spoke in support of any of the pending legislation.

Some key changes the Wisconsin Legislature is considering with these bills:

1. Require the governor to ask the Legislature for permission before asking the federal government to change programs that are run by both the state and the federal government. 

2. Give the Republican-controlled Legislature more control of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and increase the number of members on the Group Insurance Board. The new members would be assigned by the Legislature. 

3. Lawmakers, instead of the attorney general, would be in charge of litigation and how court settlements are spent. The Legislature would be allowed to substitute the attorney general with private attorneys, funded by tax-payers, whenever state laws are challenged in court. Eliminate the solicitor general's office entirely and make it easier for any lawmaker to hire tax-payer funded private attorneys. 

4. Limit early voting to two weeks before Election Day.

5. The governor's ability to put in place rules that implement state laws while giving lawmakers greater leeway in blocking rules the governor's administration puts in place. This includes any changes to Wisconsin's Medical Assistance program, which would need to be passed by the Legislature. 

The Wisconsin Legislature is still considering a bill that would move the presidential primary in 2020, a move that state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald said was meant to help re-elect a conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice.  

Gov.-elect Tony Evers has said he is considering all options in fighting this pending legislation. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is questioning the constitutionality of these proposed changes and says Wisconsin Republicans are risking legal action. 

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.