Molly Prince, DCNF
Wisconsin lawmakers passed a wide-ranging series of lame-duck legislation early Wednesday morning weakening the power of the state’s executive branch as it turns blue.
On a party-line vote, Republicans passed bills that will reshape the state’s government as Republican Gov. Scott Walker leaves office. Beginning in the new session, Republican legislative leaders will be able to retain their own attorneys to challenge state laws, effectively sidelining the attorney general.
The legislation also removes the governor’s ability to approve the attorney general’s withdrawal from lawsuits and shifts the power into the hands of the legislature’s finance committee. This move has caused controversy as Democratic state Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul campaigned on promptly withdrawing Wisconsin from a multi-state federal lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA), The Associated Press reported.
In-person early voting in elections will now no longer exceed two weeks, abolishing the current system where each municipality enforces its own in-person early voting schedule. Detractors claim the measure is designed to constrain early voting since early voters tend to vote Democrat. Democrats contend that high voter turnout was a major factor in the party flipping the state’s highest positions blue.
“[The legislation] goes to the heart of what democracy is all about,” Wisconsin Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers said Sunday. “I think it’s the wrong message, I think it is an embarrassment for the state and I think we can stop it.”
The legislation is now headed to Walker’s desk for signature. It is likely to be signed into law since Walker has expressed support for some of the measures in the past, according to AP.
“Wisconsin law, written by the legislature and signed into law by a governor, should not be erased by the potential political maneuvering of the executive branch,” state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, both Republicans, said in a statement on Nov. 30. “In order to find common ground, everyone must be at the table.”
This post was updated to state the legislation would weaken the power of the state’s executive branch.
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