The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature has approved a sweeping package of bills that weaken the powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.
The state Assembly approved the measures Wednesday morning. The state Senate did the same, less than three hours earlier, after lawmakers worked through most of the night. Now, the bills go to outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has signaled his support.
The measures would make a number of changes, including limiting the governor's ability to promulgate administrative rules, which enact laws. In addition, the legislative package gives lawmakers the power to control appointees to the Wisconsin Economic Development Commission's board.
One proposal would require the attorney general to get legislative approval to withdraw 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 (also known as Obamacare).
Yet another measure would restrict the number of days communities could offer early voting.
Republican legislative leaders have downplayed the magnitude of what they’re proposing. They defended the measures as a way to balance powers among branches of government, alleging the executive branch is too strong.
“We did have an election. Whether everyone likes it or not, I respect that Tony Evers is the governor and he’s going to be starting on Jan. 7. But he’s not the governor today. And that’s why we’re going to make sure the powers of each branch are as equal as they can be,” Wisconsin GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in a news conference Tuesday.
Evers, Kaul, Democratic legislative leaders and other critics promise to do all they can to fight the legislation.
"Wisconsin has never seen anything like this. Power-hungry politicians rushed through sweeping changes to our laws to expand their own power and override the will of the people of Wisconsin who asked for change on Nov. 6," Evers' said in a statement released Wednesday morning.
He goes on to say, "Wisconsinites expect more from us, and I hope at some point the Legislature will rise to the occasion and work with me to solve the pressing issues facing our state. That’s what the people of Wisconsin want, that’s what the people of Wisconsin deserve, and that’s more than what they got from government here tonight."
Editor's note: This piece has been updated to include a statement from Tony Evers.