Wisconsin Republicans debate new laws to curb incoming Democrats’ power

Politics

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – A marathon legislative session at the Wisconsin state capitol dragged on overnight into early Wednesday as Republican state lawmakers sought to approve a set of bills that weaken both the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.

FILE PHOTO: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers greets supporters at an election eve rally in Madison, Wisconsin, U.S. November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

Wisconsin’s lame-duck Republican-majority legislature called a rare post-election session this week to consider the proposals before Governor-elect Tony Evers takes office in January and can exercise his veto power.

Democrats say the moves undercut the results of Nov. 6 elections, when their party broke years of complete Republican control of state government in Wisconsin.

The proposals, which were still being considered at 3:30 a.m. local time, would give the Republican-controlled state legislature the power to intervene in litigation involving the state, a role normally reserved for the attorney general, and curtail the governor’s ability to issue rules that codify state laws.

The bills would also allow legislators, rather than the attorney general, to decide whether to withdraw the state from lawsuits. That measure is aimed at preventing Evers and the incoming attorney general, Josh Kaul, from following through on campaign promises to end Wisconsin’s challenge to the federal Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

Despite the long, behind closed-door meetings, the Republicans were expected to pass the legislation early Wednesday.

Once the senate and assembly vote to approve the bills, they will go to Governor Scott Walker who has indicated he will sign them into law.

A similar effort is underway in Michigan, where the Republican-controlled legislature is weighing new laws that would hamstring incoming Democrats.

Michigan Republicans want to end the secretary of state’s oversight of campaign finance laws and sidestep the attorney general in litigation.

The Democratic leader in the Wisconsin Senate, Jennifer Shilling, accused Republicans of trying to steal power from Evers, who has threatened legal action.

Republicans say the moves are aimed at keeping a proper balance between the legislative and executive branches.

The efforts are reminiscent of lame-duck maneuvers that North Carolina Republicans took in 2016 to strip the incoming Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, of the power to appoint a majority of members to a state election-oversight board.

A court later blocked the move as unconstitutional.

This year, Republicans in North Carolina are rushing to pass a new voter identification law before they lose their veto-proof majority in January.

Reporting by Joseph Ax and Brendan O’Brien; additional reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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