Wisconsin Senate rejects insurance bill

Pauline Gross
December 5, 2018

But Republicans didn't plan on the furious wave of protests that would descend on the state capitol in Madison on Monday afternoon. The bills are scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, with the plan of getting them on outgoing GOP Gov. Scott Walker's desk so he can sign them before losing his job in a few weeks.

The governor, wearing a Santa tie, appeared unfazed as he flipped the switch while one protester shouted "Hey Walker!"

"This is a lame-duck session, and here the 'legislature is abusing power", Democratic state Rep. Katrina Shankland said during the hearing, calling the move "a slap in the face of every voter who voted in record turnout in the midterms". Walker has signaled his support for the legislation.

The Wisconsin bill would require Evers to run a drug testing program for a subset of people enrolled in FoodShare, as the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is known in the state. As Vos and others have said, they granted Walker an unprecedented degree of authority during his eight years in office. The marathon session, marked by long delays as both sides huddled to plot the way forward, unfolded against the backdrop of protests at the state capitol, which found an echo within the legislative chambers.

Republicans worked on the proposals in secret for weeks, discussing portions of their agenda only once they were leaked. But the GOP also moved to nullify the effects of votes already cast - by stripping away authority from newly elected Democratic Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul.

Some hinted at filibusters or legal challenges and called the lame-duck session "illegitimate".

Republicans in both states have defended the moves as necessary to prevent Democrats from unraveling what they view as their legislative successes.

Walker's office has been working with Republican leaders on the proposals. The measure had always been stalled in the Senate due to lack of GOP support.

The bill would create three elections in three months: a February state primary, a March presidential primary and an April state general election. "We won fair and square", the Democrat said.

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The Wisconsin Legislature is preparing to vote on limiting the powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general. "You rig the system when you win, and you rig the system when you lose". Nygren said it was a positive step that would "bring us together to solve the problems of the state".

Walker, addressing reporters this week, said he expected the legislation to be altered in the course of debate and promised that his approval "depends on what they send me". Senate Democrats fled to IL, and Assembly Democrats filibustered for 60 straight hours in an unsuccessful attempt to stop Walker's changes.

During Tuesday night's debate, Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz commented, "Nothing we're doing here is about helping the people of Wisconsin".

The bill is one of several Republicans plan to take up during a lame-duck session starting Monday. The last lame-duck session in Wisconsin was in 2010 when Democrats tried unsuccessfully to enact labor agreements.

The Wisconsin maneuvering is similar to what Republicans did in North Carolina two years ago and to what is being discussed in MI before a Democratic governor takes over there.

Tony Evers will take the reins in Wisconsin in a little over a month, but at least Republicans are graciously relieving him of some of Scott Walker's old workload.

The bill limits the governor's ability to put in place administrative rules that enact laws and give the Legislature the power to control appointees to the board that runs the state economic development agency until September 1. The Legislature would be allowed to substitute the attorney general with private attorneys, funded by tax-payers, whenever state laws are challenged in court.

The new rules block the governor and attorney general from fulfilling one of their signature campaign promises: to withdraw Wisconsin from the multistate lawsuit to torpedo the Affordable Care Act and eliminate protections for people with preexisting conditions. They made opposition to that lawsuit a central part of both of their campaigns.

Opponents have said numerous changes would likely be challenged in court, a process that could create even more gridlock in state government next year.

Other reports by GizPress

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