After a marathon-and-a-half floor session that extended deep into the new day, Senate Republicans on a party-line vote passed a watered-down version of extraordinary session legislation aimed at protecting the Gov. Scott Walker-era reforms of the past eight years.
The Republican-controlled Assembly continued to debate remaining measures as Wisconsin began the work days but was expected to pass legislation that the GOP majority says will restore balance to the co-equal branches and Democrats breathlessly insist will “subvert the will of the people.”
All eyes — and pressure — now turn to outgoing two-term Gov. Scott Walker, who has signaled he will sign the bills, which include more legislative oversight of the executive branch but also deliver on limited-government reforms and one final round of tax relief.
Democrats and their powerful liberal allies in the media lambasted the legislation and the process as a Republican “power grab” and a slap in the face of last month’s election, which saw Democrat Tony Evers beat two-term incumbent Walker and pushed liberal legal activist Josh Kaul past Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel to head the state Department of Justice.
“Nothing that we’re going to be doing here is about helping the people of Wisconsin. It’s about helping politicians … It’s about politics and self-interest,” Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) declared in the wee hours, as the session slipped past the midnight deadline that Republican leadership set Tuesday afternoon.
Exhibit A of the dubious intelligence of voters is the fact that Hintz represents anyone anywhere.
“The people have spoken,” Democrats blasted.
Winston Churchill is said (probably an erroneous attribution) that “The best argument against Democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” And of course the people who elected Evers were overwhelmingly from Madison and Milwaukee.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) told reporters Tuesday that his constituents and conservatives from around the state have urged him and his Republican colleagues to fight for the tax and regulatory relief the Walker years brought to Wisconsin — to resist, if you will, the liberals who want to wipe out those reforms.
“What I have heard through the fall is, ‘Don’t give in.’ People have said, ‘Do whatever you have to do so the reforms don’t go away,’” Vos said..
Republicans say their bills are about securing the Legislature’s equal powers in what are constitutionally supposed to be the co-equal branches of government.
Democrats argue the legislation robs Evers and Kaul of rightful executive branch powers before they take their oaths of office.
Republicans ultimately scaled back some of the more controversial provisions after long hours of closed door meetings with reluctant caucus members. Measures that had given the Legislature more oversight and review over executive branch decisions were watered-down.
Republicans relented on provisions that would have taken away Evers ability to name the head of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., but the incoming governor will have to wait until September to make any changes.
The majority kept a bill that limits early voting to two weeks before the election but offered extended voting hours each of the 14 days. Democrats still hated it and threatened another round of lawsuits. They reminded Republicans that a federal court already had struck down earlier attempts to reign in early voting, but GOP leadership believes the additions in their bill can survive a court challenge.
A measure that would have codified insurance coverage of pre-existing conditions failed as conservatives in the Senate bolted on a messy bill that came out of the Assembly earlier this year.
Legislation that would have moved the 2020 presidential primary from the first Tuesday in April to the second Tuesday in March died on the vine. Changing the date would decouple the partisan presidential election from the nonpartisan spring election. The shift would clearly benefit Republicans’ efforts to retain conservative state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, a Walker appointee, by moving a significant voter draw from the April ballot.
Several measures would provide more legislative oversight of executive branch agencies and the attorney general. It boils down to a matter of trust, and Republicans clearly don’t trust Kaul and Evers to keep liberal activism out of the executive branch. Kaul has pledged to remove Wisconsin from a list of state plaintiff’s in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. Amendments to one provision would give the Legislature a voice in AG lawsuits.
Republicans also want to make sure that welfare reforms, including stricter work requirements and drug testing initiatives, aren’t wiped out by a Democrat who has declared how much he loathes the reforms. The updated versions of the legislation hold onto those protections.
What a horrible thing to try to pass legislation before your term is up. You know, like in 2010, as Matt Batzel posts:
In 2010, Wisconsin Democrats tried to ram a union contract through a lame duck session and they convinced a Judge to release this Guy (Jeff Wood) from jail to get the bill through the Assembly. http://archive.jsonline.com/ne…/statepolitics/111922624.html
Labor contracts have the force of law, so the 2010 Legislature was in effect passing a law, though the labor contracts ultimately did not pass.
And of course there was the Democrats’ reaction to the duly elected new governor and party in control of both houses of the Legislature … Recallarama. I heard no Wisconsin Democrats say that Walker should not have been recalled. None.
It is hardly surprising that Republicans have now discovered the virtues of the legislative branch now that they still control it but are about to lose control of the executive branch. It is also unsurprising that Democrats now think the executive branch should have unlimited control of government; that was their position when Barack Obama was in the White House.
Of course, the fact some people voted for Democrats for statewide office and voted for Republicans in legislative races is evidence to Democrats of the evils of gerrymandering. Brian Westrate takes this lame argument apart:
The truth is that as the Democrat party has turned hard to the left the state of Wisconsin has become a politically conservative state. In order to avoid facing this reality the Democrats have loudly declared it’s redistricting to blame, not them. I have had enough and have decided to share some facts with you that you can use to combat this nonsense we keep hearing out of the left.
First. The election of 2010.
Going into the Election the Democrats held the Governor’s office, both the state assembly and senate, both US Senate seats, and 5 of 8 House seats.
This election happened BEFORE redistricting. In this election, despite Barack Obama having won Wisconsin by 14 points in 2008 here’s what happened.
1. Walker won the Governor’s office. 52-46%
2. Ron Johnson beat an entrenched incumbent US senator 52-47%
3. Republicans picked up two (out of 5) US House seats 55/45 and 53/45
4. Republicans won the State Treasurer’s office 53/47
5. The State Assembly went from 45 Republicans to 60
6. The State Senate went from 15 Republicans to 19
Especially worthy of note is that following the 2010 election BEFORE redistricting the Republicans held 60 Assembly seats, 19 Senate seats, and 5 of 8 US House seats.
We NOW hold 63 Assembly seats, 19 Senate seats, and 5 of 8 House seats.
So, using the liberal logic redistricting at BEST helped us pick up 3 Assembly seats.
Second. We are not a registration state, and 40% of people consider themselves independent.
Why this is relevant is because the claim is that Republicans “drew lines around Democrats”. But since the only indication of party affiliation is an election in the past, there is no way to actually know who is, or is not a Democrat or Republican. With approximately 30% of Wisconsinites self-identifying as Republicans and another 30% self-identifying as Democrats this means that 40% of the people don’t see themselves as either Democrats or Republicans.
Third. We move around, a lot.
– On average 14.2% of Americans move their residence each year.
– The average person will move their household 12 times in their life.
– Of that 14% 58% move within the same county
– 19% move to a different county in the same state
– 19% move to a different state, and
– 3% move out of the country.
What this means is that over the course of the last 8 years, from the election of 2010 to the election of 2018 there is little reason to believe that the people who comprised the newly drawn districts in 2010 are still the same people who comprised the districts in 2018.
So different people are continuing to elect Republicans to the state legislature.
Four: Democrats have packed themselves into tighter geographic areas.
What this means is that while each Assembly/Senate district continues to essentially represent the same number of souls, the Democrats have spent the last 10 years packing themselves into tighter enclaves of liberalism.
Consider as an example. While Dane County’s population increased by only 10% from 2010-2018 in 2010 149,699 people voted for Democrat Tom Barret, but in 2018 220,008 people voted for Democrat Tony Evers. This is a 32% increase in Democrat votes. At the same time the # of Republican votes increased 962 votes , which is less than a 3% increase in Republican votes.
Again, without party registration we can’t say with 100% certainty, but using Dane as an example the numbers strongly suggest that Democrats have moved into Dane county in large numbers while Republicans have moved out.
And while Republicans have moved out, there is no election data that suggests they have similarly built ghettos of political ideology. It would seem if they have stayed in Wisconsin, they have done so by moving to varied counties without considering political environmental factors.
What does this all mean? The executive summary is that overall, Wisconsin became a more conservative state (or as I would argue, the Democrats became a more liberal party) following 2010, and it is because liberals choose to group themselves together geographically that they are able to win state wide elections, without picking up seats in the legislature.
What’s happening in a nutshell is that they are winning the districted elections they win by ever wider margins, while continuing to lose a majority of them due to their self-imposed flocking tendency.
That is why they can win state wide elections, without winning anything like a majority of districted elections.
James Wigderson adds:
1) Democratic protesters booed Governor Scott Walker during the Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. How low and Grinch-like do you have to get when your obsession with politics causes you to boo Christmas?
2) Democratic protesters behaving badly: How does this look good for Democrats when they’re supporters are behaving like an angry mob trying to shut down the legislative process while claiming they’re doing it for “Democracy?” Hey protesters, you use that word but I don’t think you know what it means.
You know what Democracy looks like? Republican majorities passing bills just like they’re supposed to. You don’t want bills passed in December at the end of a term, win the prior election, too.
Part of the “peaceful transfer of power” which Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) claimed was threatened is that government continues right through Inauguration Day and beyond. Nobody is saying Tony Evers can’t be governor. But he isn’t governor yet.
3) Speaking of Shankland, the people threatening the “peaceful transfer of power” are Madison protesters whom think their mob tactics and temper tantrums should take precedence over the voters’ preferences. The other threat is legislators like Shankland who keep turning up the volume to 11 on political disagreements.
4) Seriously, how does the Capital Times and The Nation put up with John Nichols engaging in partisan activity like leading political rallies? Is there any pretense of journalism on that side of the political divide? And does Nichols hear the self-parody he has become?
Finally, it looks like Evers might sue in court. It’s likely he’ll get a friendly Dane County judge, only to discover that the appeals will be outside of Dane County. Evers could spare the taxpayers a lot of money by not suing, but money is only a concern for liberals when Republicans are spending it.
This shows that Republicans didn’t do nearly enough when they controlled state government. For one thing, as I’ve argued numerous times, they should have put a Taxpayer Bill of Rights up for vote to prevent future non-Republicans from spending and taxing as much as they like. In Act 10 instead of merely forcing government employees to contribute to their benefits, they should have banned government-employee unions and then cut government employment at every level by at least half. What would have happened? Recall attempts?
Republicans forgot to do one thing — pass legislation that ejects metro Madison and the city of Milwaukee from Wisconsin. Their voters elected the most incompetent administrator in the history of this state (Evers), a Barack Obama wannabe (Mandela Barnes), an ambulance chaser (Kaul), a Leslie Knope wannabe (treasurer-elect Sarah Godlewski) and someone who has stolen from the state treasury every paycheck he’s ever received (Douglas La Follette). Or start thinking about moving out of this state.