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Legislature Approves Sweeping Package of Bills in Lame-Duck Session


The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature approved a sweeping package of bills to curtail the powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general. 

The extraordinary session saw debates, caucuses, and voting go late into the night and even into Wednesday morning. The state Assembly approved the lame-duck legislation early Wednesday morning, with the Senate doing the same less than three hours earlier. The bills now go to outgoing Republican Governor Scott Walker, who has said he plans to sign them before leaving office. 

The measures would limit the governor’s ability to enact administrative rules, which enact laws and give lawmakers power to control appointees to the economic development agency board. They also require the attorney general to gain legislative approval before withdrawing from lawsuits – which is designed to prevent incoming Democrat Josh Kaul from pulling out of the multi-state lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act. 

The measures also restrict early in-person voting to just two weeks before an election. 

Governor-Elect Tony Evers released a statement Wednesday morning saying “Wisconsin has never seen anything like this. Power-hungry politicians rushed through sweeping changes to our laws to expand their own power and override the will of the people of Wisconsin who asked for change on November 6th… Wisconsinites expect more from us and I hope at some point the Legislature will rise to the occasion and work with me to solve the pressing issues facing our state. That’s what the people of Wisconsin want, that’s what the people of Wisconsin deserve, and that’s more than what they got from government here tonight." 

State Senator Dan Feyen of Fond du Lac also released a statement, saying . “I can confidently say that the votes we took today are in good faith and do not usurp the role of Governor-Elect Evers or convolute the election and voting process. It is my ultimate responsibility as a legislator to represent my constituents. They clearly communicated to my office their preference that the separation of powers between branches of government be retained. I do not believe the originally proposed legislation was the morally correct way to proceed; the amended legislation passed today ensures legislative intent is upheld while respecting the authority of the incoming administration.” 

Feyen goes on to write that he voted to “codify existing administrative rules, to provide technical fixes to existing government programs, to codify several judicial rulings, and to codify federal waivers. These provisions simply ensure current practices continue and that Wisconsin’s statutes are in line with all federal laws and court rulings."

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