Imagine if a governor lost in November but then got his cronies in the legislature to pursue a bill he could sign in his final days in office stripping away his successor’s powers and essentially keeping him in charge.
That’s basically what’s happening in Wisconsin.
The current Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature introduced a slew of legislation on Friday in a rare lame-duck session aimed at curbing the powers of incoming Democratic governor Tony Evers as well as the newly elected attorney general, Josh Kaul. Many of these proposals would shift decision-making from gubernatorial control to Wisconsin’s legislature, now firmly in Republican hands.
For example, currently the governor appoints six of the eleven members of the Group Insurance Board, which oversees state health benefits. One of the proposed power-grabbing laws would add four members to the board, all selected by the legislature, and require all six of the governor’s appointees to be subject to Senate confirmation.
Another board, Walker’s Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), is the focus of an even more egregious theft of the new governor’s powers. Currently, the governor appoints half of the board and the legislature appoints the other half. But under the proposed scheme, the legislature will appoint ten members and the governor eight, giving the legislature effective control of this scandal-wracked body, which Evers has pledged to dissolve. In addition, instead of the governor appointing the head of WEDC, under the new configuration, this task would fall to a the legislature-controlled board.
And the attorney general? Now that the office is about to be led by a Democrat, the Republicans don’t want him to do much, either. The legislature seeks to prevent Kaul him from following through on an issue he campaigned on and pull out of a lawsuit led by Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans want new authority to hire lawyers and decide what legal causes to join, at taxpayer expense.
And the attorney general? The Republicans don’t want him to do much, either.
Oh, and if Kaul should win a case and gets a monetary reward, the legislature wants to block him from doling it out to the victims or aggrieved parties in question, and instead give the money to the state legislature to do as they please. If this goes through, Kaul has warned, money that could be used to benefit victims of the opioid crisis might instead be used to remove protections for Wisconsin residents with pre-existing conditions.
The Republicans’ plan is fairly obvious—to keep Wisconsin’s government in an unchanging zombie state until 2022, when the Republicans hope to regain control of the governor’s mansion and attorney general’s office.
And to help make sure this happens, they’re also aiming to change the rules of early voting. In 2018, there was record turnout for a midterm election. And, as we know, more people voting is to Republicans as Dorothy’s pail of water was to the Wicked Witch.
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Wisconsin, under Republican control, has already made voting requirements more restrictive, for example, requiring a photo ID. Now, a proposed law would limit early voting to two weeks and prevent Sunday voting. If this sounds familiar—it is—a similar law was passed, thrown out by the courts, and is now on appeal.
The Republicans are also proposing moving the date of Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential primary, when a lot of folks are anticipated to show up to vote, so it won’t be on the same date as an April election in which Walker-appointed Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly is on the ballot. That little move, anticipated to cost about $7 million, would mean three elections in the space of three months—a logistically improbable feat opposed by elections officials in sixty of Wisconsin’s seventy-two counties.
Speaking of voting, that’s the funny thing about all this. When Scott Walker and Republican counterparts in the legislature won full control of state government in 2010, one of the first things they did was come up with a gerrymandering scheme that would have made Rube Goldberg dizzy. And it’s worked.
In the last election, Democrats won all four statewide elected offices with 54 percent of the votes cast for Assembly seat elections—but only picked up 36 percent of the seats.
Many are suspecting that the Republicans will also attempt to put redistricting responsibilities following the the 2020 census solely in the hands of—you guessed it—the current gerrymandered legislature!
Perhaps John Weaver, a former top aide to both Republicans John Kasich and John McCain said it best in a tweet, on hearing of these plans: “What a fucking outrage. When you can’t win, cheat. When you lose, cheat for the next election. Then whine and whine. Jesus.”
What a fucking outrage. When you can't win, cheat. When you lose, cheat for the next election. Then whine and whine. Jesus. https://t.co/6orFzmpKa7
— John Weaver (@jwgop) December 1, 2018
The Republicans have called a hearing on their proposals for midday Monday followed by an immediate committee vote. The bills could then be voted on by both houses of the legislature as early as tomorrow. Activists plan to pack the hearing room at the capitol in Madison Monday at 12:30. An opposition rally in the same place is planned for 5:30 Monday to help stop Zombie Walker from rising from the dead.