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GOP Lawmakers in Wisconsin Pass Bill Limiting Democrats’ Power

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker delivers his budget address to a joint session of the legislature at the capitol March 1, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin.
Photo: Scott Olson (Getty Images)

What’s happening in Wisconsin right now should be criminal.

Republican lawmakers in the state passed legislation Wednesday that limits the power of the incoming Democrats who won their elected positions in November. The New York Times reports that after Scott Walker lost his bid for re-election and Republicans lost their stronghold on state government last month, Robin Vos—Republican speaker of the Assembly—defiantly told reporters, “We are going to stand like bedrock to guarantee that Wisconsin does not go back.”

Vos was also reportedly the first to publicly suggest taking power away from the incoming Democratic governor when he said “If there are areas where we could look and say, ‘Geez — have we made mistakes where we granted too much power to the executive?’ I’d be open to taking a look to say what can we do to change that to try to rebalance it.”

And so it was that there was a special legislative session this week, and on Wednesday, the Wisconsin Senate passed the package of bills that limit the power of the incoming Democrats by one vote. The State Assembly voted that same day and passed it by a larger margin.

Among the items included in the bill:

  • Incoming Democratic governor Tony Evers will not be able to ban guns in the Wisconsin Capitol without first getting the permission from legislators.
  • Evers would also need legislative permission to make changes to programs run jointly by the state and federal government, such as public welfare
  • Evers cannot withdraw the state from a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, something he promised to do on the campaign trail
  • There would be a new limit on early voting—something that has been shown to benefit Democratic candidates

In response to the legislation, Evers said in a statement “Wisconsin has never seen anything like this. Wisconsin values of decency, kindness, and finding common ground were pushed aside so a handful of people could desperately usurp and cling to power while hidden away from the very people they represent.”

The package of bills also limits the power of incoming attorney general Josh Kaul, another Democrat. Under the new bill he would be required to get lawmakers’ approval to settle certain suits. If the constitutionality of a law gets challenged, lawmakers would be allowed to intervene and hire their own lawyers — in addition to the attorney general. Kaul would also be unable to appoint a solicitor general to represent the state in major lawsuits, and he would be restricted in how he spent settlement money, as lawmakers would now oversee that.

Then, in their final move, the state Senate confirmed 82 last-minute appointees of Scott Walker even though Evers asked for the positions to remain vacant until he takes office in January and Democrats raised concerns that the appointees had not even properly been vetted yet.

Basically, a state government is emulating the U.S. government right now, and it’s all a little too meta to entirely comprehend—but disgusting to behold nonetheless.

When all was said and done Wednesday, Vos—who is described as a strong ally to Walker—defended the legislation on the Assembly floor and told reporters “What it does is make sure we have an equal amount of power at the table.”

Translation: we lost the game, so now we are going to rig it so you can’t win either.

When Democrats spoke out against the legislation and called it out for what it is, he accused them of fanning hysteria and overstating the effects of the bill package.

“You are so grossly exaggerating the words of this bill it makes me sick,” he said.

Gordon Hintz, the Democratic leader in the Assembly, didn’t mince words when called the bill package out for undermining the power of elected officials who won fair and square through the democratic process.

“We’re here because you don’t trust Tony Evers and you don’t want to give up power,” he said. “You’re sore losers.”


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