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Republican lawmakers, after an all-night push made mostly behind closed doors, reconvened early Wednesday morning to pass a revised bill diminishing the powers of incoming Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul and curtailing the timeline for early voting.

A Senate amendment to the bill was made public shortly before 5 a.m. Wednesday, and senators passed it at about 6 a.m. 

The vote was 17-16, with Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, the lone GOP "no" vote and all Democrats opposed.

The Assembly signed off on the scaled back measure by a 56-27 vote roughly two hours later. 

The bill now heads to Gov. Scott Walker, whose spokeswoman has not yet said if or when he plans to sign them.

The amendment scaled back a controversial provision restricting the Attorney General -- a post soon to be filled by Democrat Josh Kaul. It would have allowed a legislative panel to name outside special counsel to effectively replace the attorney general defending the state if a law is challenged. 

Democrats oppose lame-duck bills

Sen. John Erpenbach, D-Middleton, speaking during the Senate lame-duck session Tuesday, compared the lame-duck session to someone stealing towels from a hotel.

Legislative leaders still could choose to obtain special counsel to intervene in a case on its behalf if a statute is challenged in court. But the outside attorney would not act in place of the attorney general, as in the original proposal.

The bill tweaks proposed changes for governance of Walker's jobs agency, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which Evers has sought to dissolve. Under the Legislature and governor in place for 2019 and 2020, Democrats would control eight of 12 seats on its governing board.

But the amended bill would ensure Republicans would maintain control of an 18-member board through September, at which point Democrats and Republicans would have equal influence over a 16-member board. The GOP-dominated board also would control who the agency's CEO would be until Sept. 1.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said at a news conference Wednesday morning he hopes current WEDC CEO Mark Hogan would stay on in the position for the next nine months to change Evers' mind on the agency, which he has vowed to dissolve. 

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, said this timeline raises the question of what the agency will be doing, and why Republican lawmakers want to protect it, for the next nine months. 

The Senate amendment preserves the bill's restrictions on early voting, permitting it to begin no sooner than two weeks before an election. 

That would more than halve the current date window for early voting in large cities such as Madison or Milwaukee — shortly after record early voting totals, especially in those large cities, helped Democrats win every statewide race in the November election. 

It also could land the state back in court, as a federal judge struck down a similar restriction in a 2016 ruling. 

Senators took up but failed Wednesday to pass an Assembly GOP bill dealing with health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. The vote was 16-17, with Republican Sens. David Craig and Chris Kapenga joining Democrats in opposition. Craig and Kapenga had proposed another version of the bill that also was rejected in a related Senate vote.

Vos said he was "deeply disappointed" at that outcome and said he'd keep pushing forward in the next session on the proposal, which he said was partially to blame for the delays in the vote. 

Another controversial proposal, to move the state's presidential primary from April to March, was left for dead Wednesday. So was a bill that was the original stated reason for the lame-duck session: a state subsidy package to preserve Kimberly-Clark manufacturing jobs in the Fox Cities.

Tax, welfare measures pass Senate

Vos told reporters Tuesday afternoon he expected all three lame-duck bills to head to the desk of lame-duck Gov. Scott Walker by the end of the night.

By Tuesday evening, Senate had passed two of three lame-duck bills before breaking to meet privately. The Assembly, originally set to convene at 1 p.m. Tuesday, didn't meet until late at night and had only managed to pass the Senate version of a bill changing the application process for federal waivers and codifying Medicaid work requirements, among other things.

Observers not happy with lame-duck session bills

Dozens of opponents of the lame-duck bills crowded the Senate gallery during debate Tuesday. At one point disruptive observers were asked to leave.

Meanwhile Evers, appearing on CNN late Tuesday, called the late-night lame-duck push "bad public policy, and it's telling the people of Wisconsin that their vote doesn't count."

Evers acknowledged lawmakers were likely to pass some version of the bill package and that Walker is unlikely to veto it. Asked if he'd have any recourse if the bills become law, Evers said “everything’s on the table, from litigation to other actions.” 

The two bills that passed the Senate Tuesday did so on party-line, 18-15 votes.

One of them writes into law some of the signature health and human services initiatives of Walker, including a Medicaid waiver approved in October by President Donald Trump's administration. It requires some childless adults on Medicaid to comply with work requirements and pay premiums and co-pays.

The other bill, dealing with taxes and transportation, includes a tax break for certain high-earning small business owners. It is proposed to align the state tax code with the federal tax cut measure enacted by congressional Republican and Trump in December 2017.

It would allow small business owners who currently pay state income taxes on their individual tax returns to instead choose to pay taxes as corporate filers instead. The change would apply to so-called pass-through entities such as partnerships, S-corporations and limited liability corporations.

Nonpartisan legislative staffers testified to the Joint Finance Committee Monday -- in response to questioning by Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison -- that this option likely would be beneficial only for business owners those making more than about $250,000 or more a year.

Another provision of the bill aims to direct federal transportation funds to certain projects to exempt those not receiving federal money from federal requirements on worker wages and environmental protections.

The measure will exempt more state road and bridge projects from federal prevailing wage requirements and, Democrats contend, “Buy American” requirements.

They also have questioned if it will harm the state’s ability to land federal transportation funds. Nonpartisan legislative staffers testified Monday night that it wasn’t clear if the measure would do so.

Kaul, Doyle pan proposals

Several Democrats, including Attorney General-elect Kaul and former Gov. Jim Doyle, knocked the lame-duck proposals earlier in the day.

Doyle, who was attorney general from 1991 and 2003 and governor from 2003 to 2011, described the Legislature's lame-duck package as an unprecedented departure from how Wisconsin state government has operated since its inception. 

Assembly Republicans push for plan

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, holds a press conference in the Assembly parlor before the chamber begins debate on dozens of proposals to limit the power of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.

One of the bills set to come up Tuesday would curtail the powers of the governor and more radically, the attorney general. Evers defeated Walker in November, and Kaul defeated Republican incumbent Attorney General Brad Schimel.

Doyle reprimanded lawmakers for an attempt to strip powers that will almost certainly end up in the courts where the measures are almost certain to be struck down. 

"The legislation is so obviously an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers that it's going to fall," Doyle said. 

If lawmakers pass the package, Doyle suggested an "unseemly" legal battle between the executive and legislative branches is likely to last for years. 

Vos at his news conference said he's confident the provisions under consideration will be deemed constitutional and downplayed any costs involved in litigation.  

Some legal minds contend the Legislature does in fact have the authority to limit the attorney general's powers. 

Rick Esenburg, the director of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, argued because the attorney general's powers under the constitution are prescribed by by law, and therefore subject to change by the Legislature. 

Pre-existing conditions

Kaul said Tuesday he believes part of the GOP impetus to curtail his powers was to thwart his and Evers' bid to withdraw Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit seeking to overturn the federal Obamacare law.

"This was a central issue in the governor's race," Kaul said. "The Legislature is deciding if it passes this, it knows better than the people of Wisconsin. And that is not how our system is supposed to work."

Evers pledged during the campaign that withdrawing the state from the Obamacare lawsuit would be one of his first official acts as governor.

The Assembly GOP bill that faltered Wednesday passed the Assembly last year. It would bar insurers from denying coverage to people with, or charging them more on the basis of, a pre-existing health condition -- though with exceptions if the person had a gap in coverage.

The bill also lacks Obamacare’s broader suite of protections for people with serious health issues, such as as the assurances that certain basic benefits are covered or that coverage will not be capped.

It also would not apply to those who get their insurance through a self-funded employer plan, because federal law only permits the federal government to regulate those plans.

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(24) comments


When Walker was elected in 2010, he wrote a two-page letter to outgoing Governor Jim Doyle asking him to refrain from making any permanent appointments, issuing any new or updated administrative rules, or taking any actions to implement the federal Affordable Care Act. Doyle complied. He also announced he would not take any actions to implement the federal high speed rail grant he had won, since Walker opposed this.

As Doyle explained to The Cap Times, he was operating in the spirit of past governors. He noted that former Republican Gov. Scott McCallum was gracious and “classy” after he lost to Doyle in 2002. “He understood it’s our democracy that matters more than whether one party or another happens to hold onto power,” Doyle said."


This legislation is really wrong, folks. It really is. One party gets more power in the governor's office and the AG's office than the other party gets. Really? Where does it say that in the Wisconsin Constitution? And if you're wondering if Walker will sign this bill, you don't have to wonder. Of course he will. He's out of office, what does he care about what people think of his actions?


These moves and the gerrymandering from the party that wanted to "reduce voter fraud" at the polls when there wasn't any, so they cut back on this, reduced that, and did whatever they could think of to make it harder for some people to vote. I've learned that if you want to know what's wrong with the GOP, just listen to what they're saying about those darn liberals. Everything they accuse the Dems of is what THEY are actually doing.


Just when you think Republicans can't go any lower, they prove you wrong. Republicans only care about maintenance of political power. They do not care about democracy. What a disgrace!

The Mouse of Death

[censored]It would behoove lazy welfare-bum Democrats, who pay zero percent taxes because only Republicans have jobs and go to work, to bow down before the Republican Party Aristocrats because the GOP won both houses of the state legislature with the majority of the popular vote which is 45%, way bigger than the 50% required for a majority. We are indeed bemezzled by New Math which according to Euler's Uncertainty Principle and E = emcee two, means that 45% is bigger than 50% if you include spacetime physics and Godel's Theorem so as to send 45% into a time warp where 50% is smaller than 45% when the Dirac Equation ate Schrodinger's cat.

The Mouse of Death

[censored]It would behoove us to thank the Republicans for saving the bribery-crony-capitalism WEDC so that the State of Wisconsin can pay giant kickbacks to big Republican business donors. We are indeed bemezzled by the laudable efforts of the Wisconsin GOP to save corruption as they bypass the Will of the People.


Guess when gerrymandering doesn't work... you go nuclear on democracy.

Uncle Harry

Seems fair. I mean just because republicans won 45% of the vote - they still won 65% of the seats. That's seems fair right? I mean who in their right mind would look at that and argue that republicans don't have an overwhelming mandate to change procedures to keep and consolidate power. I mean we're talking the party of limited government, limited voting rolls, and limited freedom. I can't imagine why anyone would think they aren't deserving, sorry entitled to this...

Mo' Money Scott Walker

What a bunch of whiny cry babies!

What happen to Republicans?


If he's such an advocate for "co-equal branches of government" why was this not a priority during the Walker administration? Face it, republicans lost by a stunning majority, yet due to their gerrymandering have managed to cling to power despite the will of the people. They don't wan't co-equal power, they want to undermine democracy.


Cassie, get in the way back machine to 2010 where the Democrats did the exact same thing when Scott Walker was first elected. It isn't right now just like is wasn't right then but you are blind to this.

logical thinker

The democrats did do this, and the republicans had a conniption. Now they play the same games and their loyal supporters follow them like puppies. It is sickening how predictable we have all become. Meanwhile, the people lose and the politicians line their pockets. What a mess.


wrong wrong wrong logical thinker. Time to change your name now, illogical thinker or skewed thinker or lying thinker.

Mo' Money Scott Walker

martian2 - what is she lying about?

Mo' Money Scott Walker

How is logical thinker lying? Wait, are those crickets I hear?

" I don't go after anyone personally slider, you should know that by now. I am just waiting for this redwall character to honestly answer some of my questions, but all I hear is crickets getting louder. So far he/she is batting a zero for not answering questions brought before them. " - Martian2 (Dec 3)


well mo money scott, you ask whqt is she lying about, Come one, like I just said in my 11:12 post, the democrats did not do anything close to this when Walker was elected. When someone lies, I call them out on it. It is not personal, just telling the truth. Those crickets you hear what right wingers call, "elections have consequences", except of course in wisconsin where the consequences are whatever the GOP says they are. People want to make statements here, be prepared to show your proof when you lie. I asked for proof and got no response. Wait is that crickets I now hear, or the whines of the GOP faithful who keep coming up with alternative facts (lies). How is that Mo' Money, you got any proof?

Uncle Harry

Martian2 - I think you need to reread logical thinker's poster. Second sentence, "they", is referring to Republicans. Knowing that, and after rereading, I can only assume you will agree with her, given your political stripe.

And she is correct when she writes that Democrats did this, but I would argue (as would you) that pushing through teacher contracts and stripping power from elected officals, is not exactly the same thing. Although I dislike the word triggered and it's use in todays online forums, I think we are both guilty of it.


well I reread it uncle Harry, and you are partially right on the "they" part. But again she is wrong to say democrats did the same thing. They simply did not. It was after Walker was in office and before Act 10 was enacted that public worker contracts were pushed through. Now that didn't happen because all employers and employees were democrats. They did it for various reasons, one of the main ones was they didn't like Act 10 and so they negotiated contracts that went a few years into the future. This all happened when Walker was in office, not before. That is why what republicans are doing now is unprecedented. Never before in the history of this state has this been done. And hey if I am wrong,(and I'm not) go ahead and show me where I am wrong.


wrong slider, the exact same thing did not happen when democrats had a lame duck session during the last months of the Doyle governorship. That is a lie and you should know it. Back then the republicans were in control of the legislature, and they certainly did not curtail the power of the AG either. Your nose just got longer. If you got proof, (which doesn't exist) go ahead and show us.


well my bad mo'money. As I am reading it your comment does not follow the slider's comments. Tribune could do a better job of putting these comments in order and grouped together.

Mo' Money Scott Walker

"They did it first, they did it first!" says the cry baby.

They tried to approve teacher contracts before Walker became govenor, but they didn't try to neuter the office of the governor or AG. Face it MAGA, your party is a bunch of babies still clutching their bottle.


again that is wrong wrong wrong Mo' Money. You are on a roll. They approve teacher and lots of other public union contracts after Walker was governor but before his Act 10 law took effect. So many public unions and their employers took advantage of that time to pass contracts for the next few years without the constraints of act 10. There you go Mo' Money, and now you know better I hope for the truth has just been revealed to you.

Mo' Money Scott Walker

My comment was to Slider's 6:57 comment, not you. I'm not sure what you're using to see these comments, but if you follow the indentation, you'll see that's the case.

Frankie says, "RELAX"


Right, because signing a few already negotiated contracts is exactly the same as limiting the power of state offices that you lost in a legitimate election. Republicans have no shame.

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