Key Takeaways From The Wisconsin Legislature's Extraordinary Session

Cheryl Sanders
December 5, 2018

Critics said the bills were part of a concerted effort by Republicans in several states, where they control the legislature but have lost executive offices, to deny power to incoming Democrats. The Wisconsin Senate did the same less than three hours earlier after lawmakers worked through most of the night. In the meantime, Republican Gov. Scott Walker faced a chorus of boos from protesters at an event in the state Capitol.

The Assembly and Senate are considering a number of bills created to effectively prevent Evers and incoming Attorney General Josh Kaul from delivering on their campaign promises.

Bills up for public hearing and committee vote on Monday, setting the stage for legislative action on Tuesday, would move the 2020 presidential primary in order to help a conservative state supreme court justice; restrict early voting in way a federal court has disallowed; and allow the legislature to sidestep Kaul in legal fights.

Democrats say the measure provided inadequate coverage and would cause premiums to skyrocket.

Republicans maintained majority control of the state Legislature in the November election, and thanks to the rare lame-duck session, Walker has a chance to leave one final mark on the state after losing his bid for a third term last month. The testimony goes on to state the commission is concerned about costs and complains that the legislation provides no additional funding.

Evers, incoming Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul and other opponents urged Republicans to reject the measures. The measure had always been stalled in the Senate due to lack of GOP support.

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature has approved a sweeping package of bills weakening the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.

But Republicans forged ahead regardless, passing it 17-16 with all Republicans except one in support. Former Democratic attorney general and Gov. Jim Doyle said the moves were unconstitutional.

One provision allowing lawmakers to replace the attorney general with their own attorneys was stricken following all-night negotiations among Republicans.

Republican lawmakers will hold a so-called "extraordinary session" beginning Monday on a sweeping plan to pass a number of new laws before the Democratic governor takes office in January.

Democratic Gov. -elect Tony Evers is ripping Republican Gov. Scott Walker for "jamming" through scores of last-minute appointees in a lame-duck legislative session.

Make it harder for Evers to enact administrative rules that implement state laws.

The Wisconsin GOP package would also weaken the attorney general's office by allowing Republican legislative leaders to intervene in cases and hire their own attorneys.

Despite the victories by Evers, Kaul and other Democrats, the party gained no ground in the Legislature and blamed partisan gerrymandering by Republicans for stacking the electoral map against them.

The power to withdraw Wisconsin from a lawsuit challenging the federal health care law would rest with a legislative committee, rather than the attorney general.

The Legislature passed another measure to enact Medicaid work requirement rules Walker recently won a federal waiver to establish. The bill would also give the Legislature oversight over the governor seeking future waivers for health care, a change Democrats said would handcuff the new administration. Republican committee co-chairs said after the meeting that it didn't have votes in the Senate to pass.

It came as Republican lawmakers prepared to vote on lame-duck session measures to weaken powers of the incoming Democratic governor. Debate on the rest of the proposals was expected to stretch into early Wednesday in both houses.

Republicans were poised Tuesday to complete their work much more quickly, even as Democratic Minority Leader Gordon Hintz refused to agree on time limits for debate.

The executive director of One Wisconsin Now, which filed the lawsuit challenging the previous attempt to limit early voting, said the Republican's latest effort shows they "refuse to accept the results of the 2018 elections" and are anxious about large voter turnout. However, they dropped plans to move the 2020 presidential primary.

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