One of the brightest outcomes of the midterms for Democrats has been the defeat of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who narrowly lost to Democrat Tony Evers on Tuesday night. Evers takes office in January, which appears to be just enough time for the Wisconsin GOP to take all of the power voters elected him to have away.
Even as Democrats appeared to be heading for a sweep of all of the statewide races on the ballot Tuesday, the Wisconsin GOP appeared poised to maintain a commanding majority in the state Assembly. On Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald threatened to convene a special session between now and January aimed at doing exactly that. Per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (emphasis mine):
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said Wednesday he would discuss whether to look at limiting Evers’ power with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau). FItzgerald is open to the idea, according to an aide.
“If there are areas where we could look and say, ‘Geez — have we made mistakes where we granted too much power to the executive,’ I’d be open to taking a look to say what can we do to change that to try to re-balance it,” Vos told reporters.
“Maybe we made some mistakes giving too much power to Gov. (Scott) Walker and I’d be open to looking at that to see if there are areas we should change that, but it’s far too early to do that before I talk to Scott Fitzgerald.”
For context, Vos was first elected speaker in 2012, so it’s not just convenient that he chose this particular moment to get some religion about executive power, it’s blatantly partisan.
While Vos said that he hadn’t talked to Fitzgerald about the idea yet, Fitzgerald’s chief of staff, Dan Romportl, told the Journal-Sentinel in an email that the Senate leader was “open to it, and plans to discuss the topic with Senate Republican caucus members (Thursday).”
The situation mirrors that of North Carolina in 2016, when Democrat Roy Cooper defeated Republican governor Pat McCrory. After a December special session ostensibly meant to pass emergency funding for a pair of natural disasters in the state, the legislature immediately convened another one and began passing legislation aimed at undermining Cooper’s power. McCrory signed those bills.
Notably, the Wisconsin legislature has also been the subject of a partisan gerrymandering case; the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the case in its last term before kicking that can down the road.
Evers’ camp is predictably not too happy about this development. “These are the same desperate antics of politicians hell-bent on staying in power after eight years,” Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback told the Journal-Sentinel in a statement. “The people of Wisconsin deserve better from our government, and that’s why they voted for a change yesterday.”