Local legislators split upon party lines regarding reaction’s to outgoing Gov. Scott Walker signing the controversial extraordinary-session bills in Green Bay on Friday, less than a month before he leaves office.
The bills were passed in an extraordinary session in which Democrats argued that the legislation reduces powers of the governor and attorney general. In November, Democrat Tony Evers defeated Republican Walker, and Democrat Josh Kaul defeated incumbent Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel.
Republicans have argued that the legislation does not reduce the power of the governor but rather makes the State Legislature a more equal branch of government.
“Despite all the hype and hysteria out there, these bills do nothing to fundamentally diminish executive authority,” Walker said. “The bottom line is the new governor will continue to be one of the most powerful chief executives in the country. This includes veto and line-item veto powers; appointing members of the cabinet and other government posts including judges, district attorneys, and sheriffs; broad executive order authority; administrative rule authority; issuing a state budget proposal; and more.”
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The bills limit early voting to no more than two weeks before an election; shield the state’s job-creation agency, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., from Evers’ control until September; limit his ability to enact administrative rules; and block Evers from withdrawing Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act.
Evers said Walker chose to “ignore and override the will of the people of Wisconsin.”
“This will no doubt be his legacy,” Evers said. “The people demanded a change on Nov. 6, and they asked us to solve problems, not pick petty, political fights. The people of Wisconsin expect more from our government than what has happened in our state over the past few weeks.”
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Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, thanked Walker for signing the bills.
“Through his actions, (Walker is) acknowledging the importance of the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government,” Vos said. “As Democrats and the media continue to inflate these laws into something they’re not, Assembly Republicans are focusing on the new legislative session and will work to find common ground in divided government.”
Kaul said Walker signed “stunningly bad legislation that makes changes to the way our government functions in order to diminish the impact of this year’s elections.”
“To state the obvious, it’s wrong to retroactively take power from the record number of Wisconsinites who turned out to vote this year,” Kaul said.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, thanked Walker, along with Vos and his colleagues in the Legislature, for putting together the bills.
“These bills protect taxpayers, expand transparency over the pardoning of convicted felons, provide a sense of stability moving forward in economic development, and more,” Fitzgerald said. “The incoming governor-elect will remain one of the most powerful executives in the country.”
State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said Walker was “smart” to sign the legislation.
“It levels the playing field,” Wanggaard said. “I think it’s going to get everyone to the table as long as the intense rhetoric drops and we look at the positive stuff. I think it’s going to bring Tony (Evers) to the table and I think it’s going to bring the Legislature to the table, too.”
According to Wanggaard, these changes have been in the works “for months” and there was initially not a rush to make them, but after Evers got elected things changed.
“That was why I think there was a little bit of pressure to get these things codified,” Wanggaard said. “If we were going to look at diminishing what the governor can do, we would’ve done something with his veto pen or his ability to do all of the other things. And I don’t think that should happen, I think that the governor should have the ability to make those decisions.”
Local Democrats respond
State Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Somers, who represents much of the City of Racine and part of Mount Pleasant, said upon hearing that Walker signed the legislation he was “disappointed, but not surprised.”
“The people of Wisconsin are clearly opposed to this lame-duck legislation,” Wirch said. “Walker should have listened to them instead of the far right wing of his party.”
State Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, said Wisconsin voters “deserve better than desperate attempts to cling to single-party control. Wisconsin was watching today, and we won’t forget.”
“By signing the lame-duck bills, Walker endorsed hyper-partisan and winner-takes-all politicking over bipartisanship and respect for Wisconsin voters,” she said. “The people of Wisconsin chose a new direction in November, but Scott Walker would rather undermine our democracy than allow a fair election to deviate from his plans.”
State Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, whose district includes the southeast corner of Racine County, said “it is unprecedented and totally unimaginable that Gov. Walker would sign any of this legislation.”
“It is particularly galling that he chose not to veto in part or in full the provisions that were identical or nearly identical to those he chose to veto earlier this session,” Barca said. “It is void of decency and totally hypocritical of Gov. Walker to defy principles he outlined as important to Wisconsin in past veto messages while he was governor and take the opposite view when it applies to the next administration.”
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“By signing the lame-duck bills, Walker endorsed hyper-partisan and winner-takes-all politicking over bipartisanship and respect for Wisconsin voters.” State Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine
“As Democrats and the media continue to inflate these laws into something they’re not, Assembly Republicans are focusing on the new legislative session and will work to find common ground in divided government.” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester
“As Democrats and the media continue to inflate these laws into something they’re not, Assembly Republicans are focusing on the new legislative session and will work to find common ground in divided government.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester
"By signing the lame-duck bills, Walker endorsed hyper-partisan and winner-takes-all politicking over bipartisanship and respect for Wisconsin voters."
State Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine