Wisconsin Republicans rush to vote on their anti-democratic power grab


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Wisconsin Republicans are steamrolling along with their plan to undermine the voters’ decision to elect a Democratic governor and attorney general by stripping those offices of as much power as they can manage. A vote could happen as soon as midday Tuesday, after three bills made it through committee on Monday night.

Republicans did back off of their plan to move the presidential primary, at a cost of $7 million, to help a conservative state Supreme Court appointee. But they are still planning to limit early voting and to attack the Affordable Care Act in two key ways. They want to give themselves more control of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and its tax breaks to individual businesses. The Republican legislators want to give themselves private lawyers if they face complaints about violating statutes, and they want to be able to replace the attorney general with a private lawyer of their choosing when state laws are challenged. At the same time, they want to sharply limit the governor’s ability to set policy:

Bar judges from giving deference to state agencies’ interpretations of laws when they are challenged in court. That could make it easier to win lawsuits challenging how environmental regulations and other laws are being enforced. Make it much more difficult, in numerous ways, for the Evers administration to put in place rules that implement current and future state laws. Lawmakers, meanwhile, would gain greater power to block any rules that Evers manages to put in place.

According to outgoing Gov. Scott Walker, none of this is new or special, even though he was granted all sorts of power by these same Republican legislators. 

“I actually think if you look at much of what they’re talking about is codifying practice,” Walker told reporters after a menorah lighting ceremony at the Executive Residence.

“Much of what we did over the last eight years is work with the Legislature, not at odds with the Legislature,” he said. “For all the talk about reining in power, it really doesn’t.”

In 2018 voters chose a governor and attorney general who are likely to be at odds with the legislature, and the legislature is working to strip them of power. “We will grant you power as long as you agree with us on everything, and otherwise we will take it” is not “codifying practice,” it’s an anti-democratic power grab. But that’s what Wisconsin Republicans—and Michigan ones, and North Carolina ones—are all about.

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