Wisconsin Senate Limits Governor’s Powers By Passing New Bill

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

During a lame-duck session, the Wisconsin Senate worked through the night to pass a bill early this morning that would sharply limit the powers of Democratic incoming Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, according to Madison. Despite a thicket of protesters outside, internal disagreement, Democratic opposition to the measures, and the threat of impending lawsuits should the legislation pass, the Senate passed the proposed bill by a 17-16 vote, with all Democrats and one Republican senator opposed.

The bill weakens the governor’s ability to put rules in place to enact laws and removes his control of the state jobs agency. The bill weakens the attorney general by requiring a legislative committee to sign off on withdrawing from federal lawsuits rather than the attorney general, which would prevent Evers and Kaul from withdrawing from a multi-state lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The two Democrats made protection of the ACA a central part of their campaigns. The bill would also limit early voting to two weeks prior to elections.

In a second move, the Senate also passed a bill that establishes by law the Medicare work requirement rule that current governor Scott Walker helped establish and allows for legislative oversight over the governor for any future health care waivers.

Republicans were forced to make one concession on the bill, which was a provision that would allow the legislature to appoint their own attorney over the attorney general when state laws are challenged in court.

In the 2018 midterm election, every Democrat running for a statewide office in Wisconsin won their race, though Republicans were able to maintain control of the legislature. Faced with a Democratic governor for the first time in eight years, Republicans in the legislature are trying to pass a number of lame-duck bills to protect their interests, as has happened in North Carolina two years ago.

“Why are we here today?” Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz said, “What are we doing? Nothing we’re doing here is about helping the people of Wisconsin. It’s about helping politicians. It’s about power and self-interest.”

“We have allowed far too much authority to flow to the executive,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said. “To you this is all about politics. To me, it’s about the institution.”

Outgoing Republican Governor Scott Walker, in his last five weeks of office, has signaled support for the measures and is likely to sign off on them, according to WCCO-4 in Minnesota.

“The first thing Scott Walker did when he walked through the door of the Capitol was to create chaos,” Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach said during Senate debate, according to US News. “The last thing he is doing is creating chaos.”