Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019

Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan Trying to Limit Power of Newly Elected Democrats

After crushing losses in national elections last month, Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan reacted by trying to limit the power of Democrats who won the posts, as advocacy groups blocked their efforts in court.

Legislation in Wisconsin took a major step on Wednesday when Republican lawmakers passed bills to neutralize the new Democratic governor and attorney general of the state with measures limiting or eliminating their ability to act on gun control, a lawsuit under the Affordable Care Act. various other issues of state.

Michigan Republican lawmakers are similarly attempting to replace the authority of newly elected Democrats to the posts of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. This is the first time that the party will occupy the three positions for nearly three decades.

Republican Democrats are squarely trying to maintain power, say the Democrats.

"It's a take-over – clear and simple," said Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) During a phone interview. "It literally goes against the will of the public who voted for those responsible just 30 days ago."

Republicans said their willingness to undermine the authority of these bureaus – weeks after voters elected Democrats to replace them – was needed to better balance power between the executive and the legislature.

"The legislature is the most representative branch of government and the closest to the people of Wisconsin. Our proposals ensure that the legislature always has a seat at the table, "said Robin Vos, president of the Republican Assembly at the General Assembly, in a statement. "With a divided government, these bills allow for more discussion and opportunities to find common ground."

Caroline Fredrickson, president of the left-wing American Constitution Society, said that a lawsuit would likely be filed against many provisions in Wisconsin.

"The fundamental question is" Who was hurt? "By the efforts of Republicans to limit the authority of the governor," she said. "And you could say that voters in Wisconsin are the ones who have been injured."

At a Tuesday ACS demonstration, former Democratic governor Jim Doyle, who also served as the Attorney General, described these efforts as "a very clear violation of the separation of powers." codified in the Constitution.

Efforts come two years after a similar scene in North Carolina, where GOP lawmakers reacted to the election of Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, in an attempt to reduce their power. This sparked a series of legal battles, an expected result in Wisconsin if Governor Scott Walker (R) signs the legislation as he should.

Measures in Wisconsin and Michigan a setback for Democrats afterthe important victories won by the party during the last races for the seats in the legislature, the offices of the Attorney General and the governors. The successes in Wisconsin and Michigan are among the most remarkable.

In Wisconsin, where Tony Evers (D) defeated Walker, elected for the first time in 2010, Republican leaders defended their efforts to prevent power from taking power in Evers. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the legislation is needed because Republicans "do not trust Tony Evers for the moment".

Walker's office did not respond to messages asking for comments on Wednesday.

The legislature remained in session Tuesday night in Wednesday to pass bills against the backdrop of protesters. The law would prevent Evers from taking control of Walker's new economic development agency for months – a unit Uvers pledged to dismantle – and would require the legislator's approval to block guns from the capitol building. The legislation would also limit early voting and require the online publication of the names of those pardoned by the governor. Josh Kaul, the future Attorney General, also could not honor his campaign commitment to remove the state's lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act.

"Wisconsin has never seen anything like it," said Wednesday in a statement Evers, the superintendent of public schools. "Power-hungry politicians have rushed to radically change our laws in order to expand their own power and thwart the will of the people. . . . The Wisconsin values ​​of decency, kindness and the search for common ground have been set aside to allow a handful of people to desperately usurp and cling to power while staying away from the people they represent.

In a statement, the Speaker of the Assembly, Vos, accused Democrats of having "exaggerated and used hyperbole" about the legislation. His office did not respond to an interview request.

The situation in Wisconsin is a consequence of the increased polarization of politics, during which "the trust between the parties has completely collapsed," said William Galston, a researcher at the Brookings Institution.

"One of the great promises of constitutional democracy is that citizens abide by the rules and understand that under these rules there will be a competition for political power and an orderly rotation from a majority to the other, "said Galston, who said: was a senior assistant to President Bill Clinton's domestic policy. Parties seeking only to maintain power and change the rules are likely to undermine the way voters view their government, he said.

"I can not imagine that maneuvers like this will increase the historically low level of trust in government institutions," he said. "It is almost inevitable that politics will show more cynicism than a pure struggle for power, nor a concern for the welfare of the public."

In Michigan, measures introduced last week by Republican lawmakers would dilute the authority of newly elected Democratic leaders – elected governor Gretchen Whitmer, elected Attorney General Dana Nessel and elected state secretary Jocelyn Benson – in controlling campaign funding and other legal issues. while strengthening power in the legislature led by the GOP. One proposal suggested that campaign finance control be controlled from the Office of the Secretary of State to a bipartite commission of six members. Another would allow the legislator to intervene on a law that the Attorney General could choose not to defend.

A spokeswoman for Benson – a nationally known election finance and campaign expert who had intended to inform the public about such spending – said the proposed oversight change was " an affront to all Michigan taxpayers who clearly want and deserve a transparent and accountable government. "

Republican lawyers and legislators say they are good stewards of the government and protect against a party that has too much power. The campaign funding change, which was approved by a Senate committee, is presented next to the full Senate and, if approved, to the Michigan House.

Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, has associated efforts in Wisconsin and Michigan with the erosion of political norms observed under the umbrella of New York. Trump administration and beyond.

"Extreme wings of the GOP have pushed the limits and escaped with things that were previously out of reach," said Weiser. "The usual way to respond to an election is to consolidate and recover voter support, but Republicans now treat every election as an existential threat and the security guards have been removed. It is a profound threat to our democracy. "

These actions are also taking place quickly. In Wisconsin, less than a week has passed between the outlines of the state's legislation publication and the sending of the bill by the legislature to the governor's office, said Barry C. Burden, professor of political science and director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Washington. Wisconsin to Madison.

"It did not look like a deliberation process where the legislature was interested in bringing together experts on these different ideas and trying to define a good policy, necessarily," Burden said.

While Vos said legislators needed to take over executive power, that same power was conferred on the governor during Walker's tenure, Burden said. The legislator allowed Walker to oversee all the administrative rules that state agencies can establish, giving him the power to reject rules created by state agencies. The change was a way for Walker to control the control of state agencies, Burden said, and the new legislation would reverse this principle for Evers.

In 2010, Walker campaigned for the creation of an economic development agency to create jobs in the state. This was controversial and Evers campaigned to dismantle and replace it. In the bill approved on Wednesday, the legislature strengthened the agency by weakening Evers' ability to dissolve it. Legislators have also expanded the board of directors of the agency and have given themselves the opportunity to appoint more people.

"There are a lot of those kinds of things where the legislature was quite willing to let the governor have that kind of contact when it was Scott Walker, and they do not want to do it now that the governor is Tony Evers, says Burden.

Katie Zezima and Isaac Stanley-Becker contributed to this report.