RACINE — Just over a week after the state Legislature passed several bills during an extraordinary special session, outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker is evaluating what has been placed on his desk.
Democrats, including incoming governor Tony Evers, have criticized the bills passed during the lame-duck session saying it weakens the office of the governor and attorney general.
Evers narrowly defeated Walker during the November election and is scheduled to be sworn into office on Jan. 7.
On Tuesday, Walker reminded people that he first asked for an extraordinary session to pass legislation to keep the Kimberly-Clark facilities open. The legislation for Kimberly-Clark ultimately did not pass the Senate and failed.
“While I did not ask lawmakers to consider anything other than the bill to save Kimberly-Clark jobs, I am reviewing the bills passed by the state Assembly and Senate,” Walker said, adding there is a lot of “misinformation” about the bills passed during the lame-duck session.
“Let’s set the record straight, the new governor will still have some of the strongest powers of any governor in the nation if these bills become law,” Walker said. “He will have the power to veto legislation and he will have some of the broadest line-item veto authority of any governor in the nation.”
Walker went on to say Evers will be able to appoint cabinet members along with judges, sheriffs, and district attorneys.
“The new governor will be able to sign off on administrative rules. He will be able to present a biennial state budget. He will be able to pardon convicted felons,” Walker said. “None of these things will change regardless of what I do with the bills passed in the state Legislature last week.”
Up in the air
Currently it is unclear which bills or items, if any, Walker plans to veto but he said his criteria for signing the legislation is based on a series of questions: Does it improve transparency? Does it increase accountability? Does it affirm stability? Does it protect the taxpayers?
Walker, speaking to reporters in Pewaukee following an event celebrating small businesses, did not say what specifically he may veto, but he has been facing bipartisan calls to strike down everything. Walker was also on the defensive over the weekend in the face of Republicans, including former Republican Gov. Scott McCallum, GOP donor Sheldon Lubar and conservative commentator Charlie Sykes, saying Walker’s legacy will be tarnished if he signs the bills.
“The bottom line is that we are working with Govenor-elect Tony Evers to make sure that he has a good transition,” Walker said. “The leaders of our state agencies have stopped the process of starting new contracts, they notified staff not to move to at-will positions and they are providing overviews of the work done by their agencies.”
The bills would limit early voting to no more than two weeks before an election; shield the state’s job-creation agency from Evers’ control until September; limit his ability to enact administrative rules; block Evers from withdrawing Wisconsin from a multistate lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act; and weaken powers of incoming Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul.
Walker voiced support for early voting, but only if it’s the same amount of time everywhere in the state. Wisconsin’s two largest cities of Milwaukee and Madison, which are also overwhelmingly Democratic, held early voting hours up to several weeks longer than many other smaller communities with fewer people.
“The idea that in some communities it’s a couple weeks and in other communities it’s twice or three times as long, I think is a legitimate concern that people who live in communities where they’re not able to afford to do longer early voting,” Walker told reporters.
Walker, in the Facebook post, cited his support for portions of the bills including requiring a report on anyone pardoned by the governor; requiring all money obtained from lawsuit settlements to be deposited in the state’s general fund; and requiring legislative approval when the governor seeks a federal waiver related to Medicaid or other health care programs.
The bills will automatically be sent to Walker by Dec. 20 if he doesn’t request them from the Legislature sooner. Walker hasn’t responded to questions about whether and when he will call for the bills before Dec. 20. Once he has them, he has six days not counting Sunday to sign or veto them.
Democrats ask for veto
Britt Cudaback, spokesperson for Evers, said Walker should honor the voice of the voters and he “needs to decide whether he wants the final act of his legacy to be overriding the will of the people.”
“Governor-elect Evers has galled on Gov. Walker to do the right thing and veto this legislation,” Cudaback said. “It’s time for Republicans to stop putting politics before people and to start working together with the incoming Evers administration on the pressing issues facing our state.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has said in the past that the special-session legislation does not take any power away from the governor or the attorney general’s office but creates a more balanced approach to governing.
“Gov. Walker put forward a clear criteria to analyze the legislative package from the extraordinary session,” Vos said. “I’m glad he agrees nothing in these bills limits the strong powers that a Wisconsin governor has.”
State Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Somers, did not buy Walker’s statement and thinks he should veto the legislation.
“Gov. Walker is rationalizing tremendous changes in our state government at the expense of the new governor,” said Wirch, whose district includes most of the City of Racine and the southeast corner of Mount Pleasant.
Wirch said Walker “forgot his conservative credentials.”
“He failed to mention that Republican legislative leaders are asking for a blank check to hire lawyers in the legislative branch,” Wirch said. “I think that’s shocking.”
Walker issued 21 tweets on Saturday each beginning with “OUR LEGACY” where he spelled out his accomplishments in office, such as eliminating the state property tax and cutting college tuition.
“While I did not ask lawmakers to consider anything other than the bill to save Kimberly-Clark jobs, I am reviewing the bills passed by the state Assembly and Senate.” Gov. Scott Walker