- Associated Press - Monday, December 10, 2018

The Capital Times, Dec. 4

How much more like Third World can Walker’s Wisconsin get?

Gov. Scott Walker, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald began their reign of error almost eight years ago with a “budget repair bill” that attacked public employees and the unions that represent them and paved the way for attacks on public education and public services. The impact was disastrous. While neighboring states experienced rapid growth in a period of economic recovery after the Bush-Cheney recession, Wisconsin struggled to keep up. Even now, when compared with states such as Minnesota, Wisconsin is underperforming. That’s one of the many reasons why voters swept Walker out of office on Nov. 6, in an election that saw Republicans lose every statewide race.

Walker still refuses to acknowledge that he started off on the wrong foot, and the same goes for Vos and Fitzgerald. So it should probably come as no surprise that these hyperpartisan Republican ideologues are finishing their period of absolute authority with a lame-duck attempt to undermine the ability of Gov.-elect Tony Evers and his team to clean up the mess that Walker and his henchmen made of things.

But Wisconsinites still have a right, and a responsibility, to be outraged at the move by Vos and Fitzgerald to use an extraordinary session of the Legislature to alter state tax laws, revamp rules, and generally hamstring the man that the voters of Wisconsin chose to put in charge. Walker appears to be playing along with the legislative gambit, even as he hatches schemes of his own to reshuffle state commissions and boards with the idea of packing them with cronies.



Never in the history of Wisconsin has a transition of power been so warped as this one. The damage that is done may not be as severe as the damage Walker, Vos and Fitzgerald did at the start of their shared experiment in winner-take-all governance, but what’s happening in the Capitol this week does further harm not just to the image of Wisconsin but to the fragile faith that Wisconsinites have in the prospect of functional governance.

“Our democracy is founded on having three separate but equal branches of government. The separation of powers between our legislative, executive, and judicial branches are paramount in protecting the promise of a fair and balanced state government. This concept is central to the well-being of our democracy,” explained state Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison.

Yet now that Vos and Fitzgerald will not have a co-conspirator in the governor’s office, they are suddenly seeking to limit the authority of the executive branch. They are even talking about changing election dates in order to limit the vulnerability of their partisan allies.

The bottom line is beyond debate: Walker lost, yet the governor and his cronies are still grabbing at power. Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan, a former state legislator, summed things up succinctly and appropriately when he asked: “How much more (like a) Third World country can you get?”

Pocan was one of many statehouse veterans who were shocked when Vos responded to the 2018 election results by immediately proposing to undermine Evers. Even as the governor-elect was proposing partnerships and bipartisan cooperation, Vos was threatening what Pocan termed an “outrageous power grab.”

What made it all the more shocking was the fact that Vos and Fitzgerald had gone along with every effort by Walker to extend the authority of the executive branch.

Anyone who was paying attention over the last eight years would have thought that the leaders of the Assembly and Senate were enthusiastic about having a strong governor. And nothing Vos, Fitzgerald or Walker said during the course of the 2018 campaign would have led anyone to think differently.

“Republicans never mentioned a need to rein in the powers of the governor throughout the entire campaign, yet after Scott Walker lost, it became their top priority,” noted Sargent.

Sargent delivered a statewide appeal to the people of Wisconsin last week on behalf of the Democrats in the Legislature. She was spot on in her assessment.

“The people of Wisconsin have voted for a change in leadership and in direction. Sadly, Republicans are choosing to act against the will of the people,” said the Madisonian, who in November was re-elected with overwhelming support. “Rather than accepting the results of November’s election and working to collaborate with Governor-elect Evers, Speaker Vos and Majority Leader Fitzgerald are focused on desperate attempts to consolidate power.”

Sargent spoke not just for the Democratic caucus but for the long-suffering voters of Wisconsin when she declared: “Putting politics over the people of Wisconsin is not the way forward. Wisconsin deserves better.”

Wisconsinites know they deserve better. That’s why voters chose a new governor on Nov. 6, and that’s why voters gave so much more support to Democratic Assembly candidates on the same day. Only gerrymandering saved Vos and Fitzgerald from losing their leadership positions.

Instead of recognizing the will of the people, Walker, Vos and Fitzgerald are doing everything in their waning power to thwart it. That’s antithetical to Wisconsin values, and to Wisconsin democracy.

___

Wisconsin State Journal, Dec. 4

Gov. Scott Walker should veto pile of rush-job bills

Gov. Scott Walker has repeatedly said that his biggest regret from his first year in office was that he didn’t spend more time explaining his union restrictions to the public.

“If I could do this all over again, I’d spend more time in January and February making a case,” Walker said in late 2011 after signing Act 10 into law. Walker assumed that “after 10 days of debate” people would understand why he wanted to limit collective bargaining for most state workers.

Many didn’t. And Democratic senators fled the state to stall for time amid massive protests at the Capitol.

Yet 10 days seems like an eternity compared to the rush-job of confusing and elaborate proposals being sped to the governor’s desk this week in little more than two business days.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, released the details of more than 40 proposals late Friday for a lame-duck session. They held a public hearing Monday. They were planning votes Tuesday.

That’s hardly enough time to digest the details of the Republican-run Legislature’s attempt to dilute the power of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general, who were elected Nov. 6 and take office Jan. 7. Nor does it allow citizens time to explore the implications of restricting early voting, changing health insurance rules or altering the structure of the state’s job-creation agency.

Walker shouldn’t make the same mistake now of rushing controversial bills into law that he admits he made at the start of his eight years in the governor’s job. He should veto any and all of the proposals speeding to his desk because they haven’t been properly vetted.

The GOP governor’s legacy is at stake, as well as the future of the balance of power at the statehouse for decades to come. Nonpartisan legislative staffers testified this week that the cost of some of the proposals is unclear. So is the potential for unintended consequences.

For example, eight former leaders of the state’s economic development agency Tuesday - some of them Republicans - opposed the lame-duck attempt to give lawmakers the power to appoint the leader of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., rather than continuing to let the governor make that pick. They worry Wisconsin’s economy will suffer if the next governor doesn’t trust the agency’s leader.

Election clerks across the state have objected to the cost, confusion and complication of a lame-duck attempt to move the date of Wisconsin’s presidential primary election in 2020.

Some of the ideas being whizzed to the governor’s desk may have merit. But not without a deliberate process that respects voters.

The exiting governor should veto anything the lame-duck Legislature sends him.

___

The Journal Times of Racine, Dec. 10

Early voting isn’t just for Democrats

With regard to November elections, the term “October surprise” is so commonplace as to have become a bit clichéd: A revelation or accusation about a candidate in the final month before the election - whether unearthed by the candidate’s opponent or brought to light by journalists - that challenges the generally held viewpoint about that candidate. There have been October surprises that, it can be credibly argued, have swung elections.

For that reason, we think early voting should be limited to four weeks before the election. Voters should avoid casting their ballots too early, lest an October surprise cause them to regret their selection.

As of last week, this viewpoint puts us at odds with the Republican majority in the state Legislature, which before sunrise on Wednesday passed, among other pieces of legislation, a bill limiting early voting to two weeks prior.

Based on the openly partisan nature of so much of the legislation in the lame-duck session, we feel it can be safely concluded that the Republicans’ decision to limit early voting is based on the presumption that early voting benefits Democrats, based on its popularity in reliably Democrat-leaning counties such as Dane and Milwaukee. This line of thinking from Republicans suggests that curtailing early voting will benefit their candidates, because “their” voters aren’t as interested in voting early.

Here’s the thing about that line of thinking: It isn’t supported by fact.

Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette University Law School poll, posted an enlightening graphic on Twitter on Dec. 1. It displayed data from the Wisconsin Elections Commission regarding absentee and early in-person voting by county.

In the top nine?

Milwaukee County. (Also in the top nine: Racine and Kenosha counties, which are Democrat-leaning east of Interstate 94 and solidly Republican west of it.)

In the top three?

Dane County, which rivals only Milwaukee for being reliably Democrat.

But Dane wasn’t No. 1 for voting early last month.

That honor goes to Ozaukee County, followed in second place by Waukesha County. Ozaukee, Dane and Waukesha all had more than 25 percent of their ballots cast early, with Ozaukee surpassing 30 percent.

Ozaukee and Waukesha are two of the three WOW counties (Washington is the other W in the acronym). The WOW counties are Republican strongholds. A GOP candidate for statewide office knows that he or she must have strong turnout in those counties.

So, as it turns out, some of the voters that Republicans consider “ours” like voting early even more than those in Dane and Milwaukee counties that the GOP would regard as belonging to the Democrats. “Their” voters.

We’re not surprised. No one, regardless of political leaning, likes to wait in a long line. Don’t we all perk up when another cash register opens up at the grocery store?

Speaker Vos, Leader Fitzgerald?

The voters you consider yours like early voting, too.

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