Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is a loser and, as such, will no longer be governor next year. But on his way out of office, Walker and the Republicans have decided to burn the state down in an effort to make sure incoming Democratic officials have limited power left when they take office, throwing away any notion of fairness or democracy in a blatant power grab that should be illegal but somehow, disgustingly, is not.
Here’s how it’s working: Republicans control both houses of the state legislature in Wisconsin, which means that for the next few weeks, before the state even more formally kicks Walker to the curb, they have nearly-unchecked power to do whatever they want. In the 2018 midterms, voters rejected Walker in favor of Democrat Tony Evers, and elected another Democrat, Josh Kaul, as attorney general, so Walker and the state legislature have decided to do everything they can to shift the balance of power away from the top state offices Democrats won in November.
On Wednesday morning, after an all-night session of deliberations, the Republican-controlled state Senate passed a lame-duck bill to strongly limit the powers of Evers and Kaul. The state assembly followed shortly after, passing the first bill and sending it on to Walker’s desk.
The first bill, which AP reported passed around 6 a.m. local time, does several terrible things. First, it restricts early voting to just two weeks before the election, a blatant voter suppression ploy that will cost the state millions of dollars and is similar to a previous attempt by Republicans to depress turnout that was ruled unconstitutional because it too clearly targeted minority voters, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The bill also strikes directly at Evers’ and Kaul’s powers once they’re in office. Per the AP:
The bill would limit the governor’s ability to put in place administrative rules that enact laws and give the Legislature the power to control appointees to the board that runs the state economic development agency until Sept. 1.
The legislation would also require legislative approval to withdraw from lawsuits, taking that away from the attorney general.
One provision allowing lawmakers to replace the attorney general with their own attorneys was stricken following all-night negotiations among Republicans.
Shortly before 9 a.m. ET, the state Senate voted down a Republican proposal to guarantee healthcare coverage for preexisting conditions. This sounds like a good thing, but Senate Democrats contended it provided inadequate coverage. Walker also supported the bill, making it at least one that didn’t go his way, but for the most part, he will be able to sign away his successor’s power as the bills move through.
The Democrats, to their credit, are calling it like they see it, but they just don’t have the votes to shut down the bills. As the AP reported:
“Why are we here today?” Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz said as the debate of more than nine hours began late Tuesday night. “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.”
Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of Wisconsin’s Assembly, has been completely honest about why he’s trying to pass the bills.
At the state Capitol in Madison, protestors are doing everything they can to let Walker and Vos know how unpopular these measures are among a state electorate that just voted the Democrats into power. On Tuesday, protesters disrupted Walker’s tree-lighting ceremony and heckled anything that moved, but the power grab still seems to be working. Evers has vowed to fight the bills by any means necessary (which will come in the form of lawsuits, most likely), but it means a long and hard battle during his first months in office.
After the election, the AFL-CIO had only this to say about the outgoing governor: “Scott Walker was a national disgrace.” It appears we can apply that label to every Republican in the Wisconsin legislature who’s supporting these attacks on democracy as well.