Wisconsin Legislature criticized for lame duck session to limit governor's power, restrict early voting

Democrat Tony Evers takes office in January, but the GOP still controls the Legislature.
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Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin

With a month to go until Wisconsin gets a Democratic governor and attorney general, the Republican-led Legislature is attracting attention for its attempt to limit their power.

It was revealed last week that the GOP-led Legislature intends to hold a "lame duck" session ahead of Democrat Tony Evers taking up office, replacing outgoing Republican governor Scott Walker.

Among the measures being considered by Wisconsin GOPers includes one that would shift the power over Wisconsin's involvement in federal lawsuits from the governor's office to the Legislature's budget committee, which the Associated Press reports would prevent Evers from withdrawing Wisconsin's challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

Another proposal would allow Republican leaders in the Legislature to hire their own attorneys when state laws are challenged in court, a responsibility currently belonging to the Attorney General (an office that will also become Democrat in January).

Other policies being considered would be one to limit early voting to a two-week window before elections, which the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Democratic attorneys have already vowed to fight in the courts, saying it would be unconstitutional.

Another measure being considered by Wisconsin is one that would shift the presidential primary from April to March.

Moving the primary would cost the state $6.8 million, WMTJ reports, but it's being considered so that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly, a conservative judge who is up for re-election, doesn't appear on the same ballot as the presidential primary.

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With Democratic turnout expected to be higher for the primary, the GOP think Kelly's chances of being re-elected would be better if the primary is held separately from the state general elections.

The lame duck session is starting on Monday with potential votes being taken on Tuesday. The idea is to get bills passed for Governor Scott Walker to sign before he leaves office.

Before the plan was released, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told the Journal Sentinel that the proposals were "inside baseball" and "it’s hard for me to believe people will get too excited about."

But since its release, it's been described as a "lame duck power grab" by Democrats and has attracted attention in the national media, with Madison365 reporting a protest is due to be held on Monday evening on the steps of the Capitol in Madison.

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