News & Politics

Here's the outrageous way Wisconsin Republicans are trying to ram through their lame-duck power grab ahead of Democrats taking office

The Wisconsin GOP plans to rig state law in their favor. They plan to only hold one minute of public debate on it.

Image (credit WisPolitics.com)

On Monday, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Assembly will begin shepherding through a series of lame-duck bills to nullify the power of Democrats, who won every single statewide race in the Badger State in November.

And in a clear indicator that Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald aren't even pretending this is anything other than a naked power grab, the Joint Finance Committee plans to hold their public hearing on the entirety of these bills for a grand total of ... one minute.

The lack of debate will not stop public outcry, however, with a protest rally already planned in Madison as these bills are advanced. And Democratic Governor-elect Tony Evers has vowed to do everything in his power to stop the power grab.

"I view this as a repudiation of the last election," said Evers in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Saturday. "I will take any steps possible to assure the people of Wisconsin that I will not invalidate those votes. And frankly, I'm encouraging citizens across the state of Wisconsin to help me in that effort."

The proposals under consideration would restrict Evers' ability to decide how public funds are allocated, and block him from changing the state's restrictive voting requirements or prohibiting firearms from the state Capitol.

Another proposal effectively guts the power of Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul, transferring the power to authorize his office to withdraw from a lawsuit from the governor to the legislature — a clear move to block him from fulfilling his campaign promise to take Wisconsin out of defeated GOP AG Brad Schimel's lawsuit to strike down the Affordable Care Act. The proposal also gives the legislature power to decide how to allocate money from court settlements Kaul brokers, and dictates that legislature-appointed lawyers, not the attorney general, will defend the state in cases where state laws are challenged — which would mean Kaul has no power to oppose the legislature's partisan gerrymandering (arguably the only reason the GOP kept control of the legislature in the first place.)

But the Republicans' power grab doesn't end there. The GOP is afraid they might lose Wisconsin's 2020 state Supreme Court election, which would take the court from a 4-3 GOP majority to a 4-3 Democratic one — so they also have a bill to move the date of the election to ensure turnout is lower, which county clerks are howling will cause logistical chaos. For good measure, they also want to cut early voting by two weeks, which was ruled illegal by a federal judge the last time they tried to do that.

Republicans hope to get these bills through before activists can mobilize power against them, get them onto the desk of lame duck Gov. Scott Walker before he leaves office, and effectively overturn the results of an election which soundly rejected them. It will take public notice and pressure to make sure this radical legislative coup does not go forward.

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Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.