As Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker ends his eight-year run, the GOP-controlled Legislature quickly passed controversial bills this week that are partly aimed at weakening the powers of his successor, Democrat Tony Evers, and incoming Attorney General Josh Kaul, also a Democrat.
The three bills, which await action by Walker, would also limit early voting, give a Republican-controlled legislative committee the power to withdraw the state from lawsuits, and cut state income tax rates. Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos — who spearheaded efforts to pass the legislation during a lame-duck session — downplayed the effect on Evers in an interview with a conservative Milwaukee radio show.
Republicans will retain control of the Legislature when Evers takes office in January.
A look at Vos’ claim:
THE CLAIM: “We’re not stopping him (Evers) from doing things.” — Vos, during a Thursday radio interview.
THE FACTS: Vos is wrong. The GOP-backed legislation will prevent Evers from enacting several policy changes.
Vos made the claim while telling radio listeners that the bills will do no more than balance power between the governor, the Legislature and the courts.
While the vast majority of the incoming Wisconsin governor’s job will remain the same, some of Evers’ decision-making will be limited compared to what Walker now enjoys.
“It does not massively alter the governor’s political or budgetary powers,” said Joe Heim, a longtime political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. “This is nibbling away at his powers.”
If signed by Walker, the legislation would restrain Evers’s ability to alter three policies that Republicans fear he plans to change once he takes office. Those are: work requirements for some adults receiving health care through the government, allowing guns in Wisconsin’s Capitol, and appointing a new chief for the state’s economic development arm.
First, with health care, one of the bills would block the state Department of Health Services — an executive agency — from submitting any waiver requests to a federal agency without approval from the Legislature. That’s a problem for Evers, who said in November he might withdraw Wisconsin from a federal waiver that allowed a state-run health insurance program to create work requirements for childless adults. That federal waiver — a long-held goal of Walker’s — was submitted by the Department of Health Services in June 2017 and approved in October .
Second, the legislation would require Evers to get approval from a legislative committee before making any changes to security at the Capitol, including prohibiting guns in the building. It was Walker who cleared the way for guns to be brought into state buildings soon after he took office in 2011.
Last, the lame-duck bills will temporarily prevent Evers from controlling the leadership of the Wisconsin Economic Development corporation, a public agency staffed with private workers that hammers out state development deals. Evers would not be able to appoint a new head of the agency until September. It would also give Republicans control over a majority of the agency’s board appointments until then.
Walker created the agency during his first year in office. Evers was highly critical of the agency during the campaign, saying he wants to dissolve it and replace it with a publicly run department.
Associated Press writers Scott Bauer and Todd Richmond in Madison contributed to this report.
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