In an unprecedented move, which many are calling “unconstitutional power grab,” Wisconsin Republicans on Wednesday passed a handful of measures meant to limit the power of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.
On Tuesday night, the GOP-led state Senate narrowly passed a handful of bills limiting the power of incoming Gov. Tony Evers (D) and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul (D) and curtailing early voting. The state Assembly passed the same bills early Wednesday morning.
One measure would allow the state legislature to appoint members of the state Economic Development Corporation, who would then elect their own chairman. Current state law allows the governor to choose the board’s chairman.
Legislators also approved a measure that would allow them to hire their own lawyers to fight challenges to state laws. The incoming attorney general, Kaul, would have to win legislative approval before settling any suits.
And the legislature passed a bill to limit early voting to two weeks before Election Day. Early voting is far more popular in Democratic strongholds like Milwaukee and Madison than in other more rural, more conservative parts of the state.
Republicans cast the measures as a way to protect outgoing Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) legacy, including limits on public employee unions and work requirements for some of those who receive state services.
“Today’s extraordinary session codifies into law reforms that have been eight years in the making,” state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) said in a statement Wednesday morning. “Law written by the legislature and passed by a governor should not be erased based on the political maneuvering of an incoming administration.”
Democrats, enraged that votes took place in the dead of night, slammed Republicans for taking up measures they said went counter to the wishes voters expressed in November’s midterm elections.
In November, Evers ousted Walker by 1.2 percentage points, or 30,000 votes out of about 2.7 million cast.
Evers will be inaugurated on Jan. 7.