As Wisconsin Republicans and outgoing Gov. Scott Walker bend over backwards to downplay the scope of their plan to strip crucial authority from Democratic governor-elect Tony Evers, the details of the GOP's batch of bills—which the state legislature is expected to vote on as early as Tuesday night—show that Wisconsinites are entirely justified in calling the plan an outrageous attack on democracy... and even a full-blown "coup."
"People are outraged. I'm not sure where that's coming from right now," said Wisconsin's Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who apparently expects the public to believe that he has no idea why thousands of his angry constituents braved the freezing weather Monday night to protest the GOP plan.
Walker—who has vowed to sign the legislation if it reaches his desk—feigned similar confusion, telling reporters, "For all the talk about reining in power, it really doesn't."
Demonstrations against the Republican plan continued on Tuesday, as outraged Wisconsinites heckled Walker with boos and chants of "Respect our vote!" as he spoke at a tree-lighting ceremony inside the capitol building.
Below, courtesy of the local Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, is a bullet-point summary of the "extreme" attack on democracy that Wisconsin Republicans want you to believe is no big deal. If passed, the legislation would:
- Limit early voting to two weeks. A similar limit was found unconstitutional in 2016 and Democrats have threatened to take legal action again.
- Give Republicans more control of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., including over its enterprise zone program that gives tax breaks to individual businesses. Republicans would appoint a majority of WEDC's board and the board, rather than the governor, would appoint WEDC's leader.
- Put lawmakers in charge of litigation, allowing them to keep alive a lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare.
- Give lawmakers — instead of the attorney general — control over how court settlements are spent.
- Allow the Legislature to substitute the attorney general with taxpayer-funded private attorneys — picked by lawmakers — when state laws are challenged in court.
- Make it easier for lawmakers to hire private attorneys at taxpayer expense when they are accused of violating the open records law or other statutes.
- Eliminate the solicitor general's office, which oversees high-profile litigation.
- Modestly lower the state’s income tax rates next year to offset about $60 million in online sales taxes from out-of-state retailers that Wisconsin recently began collecting.
- Require Evers to get permission from lawmakers to ban guns in the state Capitol.
- Bar judges from giving deference to state agencies’ interpretations of laws when they are challenged in court. That could make it easier to win lawsuits challenging how environmental regulations and other laws are being enforced.
- Make it much more difficult, in numerous ways, for the Evers administration to put in place rules that implement current and future state laws. Lawmakers, meanwhile, would gain greater power to block any rules that Evers manages to put in place.
- Require state agencies to file quarterly reports on their spending.
- Require the Evers administration to report if the governor pardons anyone or his aides release anyone from prison early.
- Force Evers to get permission from the Legislature before asking the federal government to make any changes to programs that are run jointly by the state and federal governments. That would limit the governor's flexibility in how he runs public benefits programs. If the Legislature’s budget committee determined the administration was not implementing recent changes to those programs, it could reduce funding and staffing for state agencies.
- Require Evers to go along with a plan aimed at reducing premiums for insurance plans offered through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces for individuals.
- Increase the number of members on the Group Insurance Board, which oversees state health benefits, from 11 to 15. The proposal would allow leaders of the Legislature to appoint the additional members.
- Channel federal money into a smaller number of state road projects, so that other projects could avoid having to comply with federal environmental and wage laws.