UPDATE: The Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 along party lines early Tuesday to approve three GOP-authored extraordinary session bills after making several tweaks to the legislation. The bills, which both houses of the Legislature plan to take to the floor this afternoon after they were introduced Friday, would make a series of changes to state law to give the Legislature more oversight of the incoming Tony Evers administration and say over the decisions of AG-elect Josh Kaul.
WEAC is partnering with our allies to push back on the Republicans’ legislative lame duck session, after over 40 provisions were introduced at the very end of the day Friday. Radio ads are starting Monday and WEAC members and public education supporters are being asked to immediately email your legislators and share digital content on social media channels. WEAC will inform you about opportunities to be part of press events, rallies and townhalls being organized in various areas of the state as well.
Please cut and paste the message below to share with your members:
Lame duck session an outrageous attempt to bypass election results
An outrageous attempt by Legislative Republicans to ram through last-ditch laws is on the fast-track, with five bills containing more than 40 changes in state law being announced at 4:30 p.m. Friday, set for a hearing Monday and up for a vote as soon as Tuesday.
Voters were clear: Strengthen schools, fix roads, protect health care access. The Republican majority instead is set to go back to their old nasty tricks of getting their way – voters be damned. If anyone still questioned their capacity to put politics over people, this should settle the question once and for all.
Governor-Elect Tony Evers should have the same ability to governor as that afforded to Governor Walker. But there’s no getting around how far his political opponents will go. This special session is a signal that this is not the end of Walker’s reign. It’s a sign of what’s to come when Governor-Elect Evers takes office, and how active we’ll need to be to counter the GOP legislators who are digging in their heels at all costs.
Here are some of the key measures being pursued by Republicans in the Lame Duck Session:
Preventing withdrawal of health care lawsuit
Republican candidates campaigned on protecting health care access, yet a key part of the package would fundamentally change the role of the state Attorney General, giving lawmakers broad new powers to constrain incoming AG Josh Kaul and prevent him from intervening in Scott Walker’s lawsuit against the federal ACA. The provision limits the ability of the Attorney General to settle or withdraw cases by requiring the approval of the Joint Committee on Finance. Current law only requires approval of the governor.
Limiting early voting
Another bill would bar early voting from starting earlier than two weeks before an election — despite a federal judge’s ruling two years ago that struck down similar restrictions as racially discriminatory. The proposed voting changes come after Democrats won every statewide office in the November election, powered by record voter turnout for a midterm and record early voting totals.
The Assembly GOP proposal could disproportionately affect early voting in Wisconsin’s biggest cities, which vote heavily Democratic.
Stripping the governor’s power on jobs agency
One bill would give GOP lawmakers more power over Walker’s job-creation agency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which Evers has sought to dissolve, and strip the governor of the power to appoint the agency’s CEO.
Moving the presidential primary
Another change would move Wisconsin’s presidential primary to March, which local election officials have said would be “impossible” to carry out. The effort to move the 2020 primary would improve the chances of conservative-backed state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, who would be up for election for the first time in the April 2020 election. Walker appointed Kelly to replace retiring Justice David Prosser in 2016.
One bill included passed the Assembly last year, but stalled in the Senate. It would help people with pre-existing conditions get health coverage if the federal Obamacare law is repealed or struck down in court. The bill doesn’t provide the same level of protections as Obamacare to people with serious health conditions.
Republicans are considering a slew of other changes to elections, taxes and transportation funding, including these items of note:
- Provisions that prohibit courts from deferring to administrative decisions.
- Provisions that would allow the Legislature to intervene in lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of a statute with their own counsel outside of the Attorney General’s office and to require that “special counsel” represent the defendant in such cases where JCLO determines the interests of the state would best be represented.
- Elimination of the solicitor general and the Attorney General’s ability to appoint to the positions.
- Provision authorizing legislators to have their own representatives outside of the Department of Justice.
- Provision related to senate confirmation of the governor’s appointments, requiring that any individual nominated by the Governor or another state officer or agency, and with the advice and consent of the Senate appointed, to any office or position may not hold the office or position, be nominated again for the office or position, or perform any duties of the office or position during the legislative session biennium if the individual’s confirmation for the office or position is rejected by the Senate. Currently, there is nothing prohibiting the governor from nominating the individual again for the office or position or appointing the individual to the office or position as a provisional appointment.
- Total appropriations for workforce development grants for career and technical education remain the same but are allocated differently, with no funding allocated for teacher development program grants. The program’s goal is to increase the number of licensed teachers in Wisconsin Schools, so given the state teacher shortage is at best a questionable move.