Wisconsin Republicans are using a rare lame-duck session to limit the powers of a new Democratic governor

Wisconsin Gov.-elect Tony Evers
(Image credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Before Republican legislators in Wisconsin unveiled a 141-page packet of legislation Friday afternoon for an unusual lame-duck session, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) said the proposals would be "inside baseball, kind of legislative stuff that it's hard for me to believe people will get too excited about." Democrats, at least, got excited, calling the legislation a power grab by the GOP-controlled legislature and outgoing Gov. Scott Walker (R) against Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and incoming Attorney General Josh Kaul (D).

The new proposals, to be voted on Tuesday, would reduce the authority of the governor and attorney general in several ways, including limiting Kaul's ability to oversee legal challenges to previously approved laws, ensuring Evers can't control the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and limiting his ability to shape legislation via state agencies.

The proposals would also limit in-person early voting to two weeks — a federal judge ruled a similar law unconstitutional in 2016 — and move a statewide election from the same day as the March 2020 presidential primary to a new election in April, a switch apparently designed to boost the re-election prospects of a conservative Supreme Court justice Walker appointed. Sixty of Wisconsin's 72 county election clerks oppose creating an April election, saying holding three elections in three months would be a logistical nightmare and cost an extra $7 million.

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Evers criticized the proposals on Sunday, saying that trying to undermine the will of the voters sends "the wrong message, I think it is an embarrassment for the state, and I think we can stop it." Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) argued that "Wisconsin law, written by the Legislature and signed into law by a governor, should not be erased by the potential political maneuvering of the executive branch."

Michigan Republicans are considering similar limits for the state executive branch, after Democrats won the governorship, attorney general's office, and secretary of state job for the first time since 1990.

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