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Political Science Professor Talks on Legislation, Divided Government Issues


The Wisconsin legislature approved a host of lame-duck session bills this week – in a bit of an expedited process. The originally legislation was announced late on Friday, and amended bills were passed early Wednesday morning. UW-Oshkosh Political Science Professor Jim Simmons says it’s currently unclear exactly how powerful the legislation will be. 

He says “the legislation, depending upon how far it goes, would give lawmakers - rather than the governor or the attorney general – a lot of control over various federal agencies, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and so on. And it looks like there was a modified version of what was originally proposed, so it doesn’t look like it goes as far as what was originally planned by the leadership of both houses.”

KFIZ News asked Simmons about what kind of impact the legislation will have on operations in the state government - but he could not provide a solid prediction. He tells us that's because right now, there’s only a limited amount of information available to read.

Simmons explains that “well frankly, the legislation was never made public. Even the opposition in the legislature didn’t get to see the bills until after, in late night session behind closed doors – that legislation and what was modified. And legislators were voting on bills that they were seeing for the first time.”

It was also difficult to miss the partisan politics on both side as the process unraveled this week. But Simmons says that is just a precursor of what is to come as the state works with a Democratic governor and a Republican legislature. 

When it comes to divided governments across the country and right here in Wisconsin, Simmons says “increasingly this process is not working. And that’s largely because the parties have become increasingly polarized. And when you have divided government like this, you frequently have gridlock. One branch of government with a majority of the opposition party simply unwilling to allow the executive any of the prerogatives that he or she would usually have.”

The legislature did reject a bill that would have guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing conditions through the state. That measure failed after all fifteen Democrats in the Senate, along with two Republicans, voted against it. It had been stalled in the Senate due to a lack of GOP support. The federal Affordable Care Act already guarantees coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. 

For more details on the legislation that was passed and statements from Governor-elect Tony Evers and State Senator Dan Feyen, click here.

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