December 5, 2018
The GOP leadership in Wisconsin will have a lot to answer for.
Gov. Scott Walker, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and Speaker Robin Vos are not only power-mongers. They are not only scoundrels. They are slashers of democracy.
Their assaults on the basic norms of democratic behavior began right away, when Walker, in his own words, decided to “drop a bomb” on the people of Wisconsin by going after the unions in 2011.
Then they closed the state capitol down, though it was supposed to be open to the public.
Then they arrested people for holding signs in the galleries or for singing songs in the Rotunda.
Then they gaveled down any Democratic state senator who wanted to raise a point of order about how they were violating established procedures.
Then they passed a Voter ID law, and were “giddy” that it was going to disenfranchise young people and minorities, according to the chief of staff of one Republican state senator.
Then they gerrymandered the political maps in one of the most grotesque riggings in recent American history, so much so that a panel of federal judges said that it violated the U.S. Constitution.
Then they dismantled the Government Accountability Board, and established an Ethics Commission and an Elections commission to succeed the GAB. But not satisfied with their tampering, they then fired the acting directors of the commissions without ever giving them the courtesy of a hearing, something that had never happened before.
Along the way, they rewrote the campaign finance law to let the super rich and corporations spend much more money in our elections – with much less transparency.
They did this all in a bullying manner.
And now, having lost the race for governor and attorney general, they are slashing away even more recklessly, desperate to subvert the will of the people and hoard every last ounce of power they have.
All the while, over these past eight years, they’ve been inflicting grave harm on democracy in Wisconsin.
In their new book “How Democracies Die,” Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt write: “Democracies work best – and survive longer –where constitutions are reinforced by unwritten democratic norms. Two basic norms have preserved America’s checks and balances in ways we have come to take for granted: mutual toleration, or the understanding that competing parties accept one another as legitimate rivals, and forbearance, or the idea that politicians should exercise restraint in deploying their institutional prerogatives.” They call these “the soft guardrails of American democracy.”
Walker, Fitzgerald, and Vos have brazenly destroyed these guardrails. They have shown no toleration for the opposing party, and they certainly have shown no restraint whatsoever in deploying their institutional prerogatives.
This is more than just three small men acting in small ways.
This is about the highest elected officials in the State of Wisconsin stabbing at the very heart of our democracy
Wisconsin’s GOP burglars make off with the goods
— Wisconsin Republicans worked through the night to vote early Wednesday morning on a lame-duck bill that would diminish the powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.
— Lawmakers in the state Senate voted 17-16 to approve a sweeping set of measures that would curb the authorities of the incoming Democratic administration and narrow the state’s window for early voting. Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, joined Democrats in opposing the wide-reaching bill, which cleared the chamber around 6 a.m. The Assembly passed the bill on a 56-27 vote just before 8:30 a.m.
— The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has signaled that he is likely to sign it. Once signed, the measures are “virtually certain to end up in litigation,” Democratic Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul told reporters.
… DETAILS FROM HUFFPO
>>> One part of the package would prohibit municipalities from allowing more than two weeks of early voting. That would cut voter turnout, which generally helps Republicans.
>>> Other provisions would give the Legislature full control of a state economic development agency, block the governor’s ability to write regulations and allow the Legislature to hire its own lawyers to file lawsuits on behalf of the state.
The package of bills, which now awaits Mr. Walker’s signature, would limit early voting and, for the coming months, give lawmakers, not the governor, the majority of appointments on an economic development board. They also prevent Mr. Evers from banning guns in the Wisconsin Capitol without permission from legislators.
The bills would also require Mr. Evers to get permission from lawmakers to seek adjustments on programs run jointly by federal and state governments, such as public benefit programs.
And they would bar Mr. Evers from installing any political appointee whose confirmation is rejected by the Senate. (Current law allows a governor to renominate such appointees or allow them to serve as a provisional appointment.) The measures also include a provision requiring the corrections department, at lawmakers’ request, to publish online the names of prisoners pardoned by the governor or released before finishing their sentences.
On state legal matters, the package of bills shifts more authority to lawmakers that would ordinarily be held by the state attorney general. A Democrat, Josh Kaul, was elected attorney general in November to replace the outgoing Republican.
Under the newly passed measures, the attorney general would need lawmakers’ approval to settle certain suits. Also, the measures would allow legislative leaders to intervene and hire their own lawyers — in addition to the attorney general — if the constitutionality of a law were being challenged. Under the new bills, the attorney general could no longer appoint a solicitor general to represent the state in major lawsuits, and would be restricted in how he spent settlement money, which lawmakers would now oversee.
As the debate went on in recent days, some measures were softened or removed by amendments, such as a proposal that lawmakers be able to completely remove the attorney general from some lawsuits.
On Tuesday, senators confirmed dozens of Mr. Walker’s political appointees despite protests by Mr. Evers, who called the last-minute installations an “example of putting politics before people.
Speaker Vos: protecting Foxconn deal
part of reason for lame-duck session
After the results of the November election, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he reached out to officials at Foxconn “to make sure they knew regardless of who occupies the east wing of the state Capitol, Foxconn is going to have allies in the Assembly and hopefully in both chambers and both houses.”