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By Jane C. Timm
Hours after Republicans pushed through bills curbing the powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general, Wisconsin Democrats charged Wednesday that it was nothing but a naked partisan power grab denying the will of the voters and would lead to gridlock and lawsuits.
“Certainly, physically I’m tired, but I’m sort of demoralized by what took place,” state Rep. Gordon Hintz, the Assembly Democratic leader, told NBC News. “It was a bad day for democracy.”
The legislation weakens the governor’s authority, limits early voting and dilutes the attorney general’s power by requiring a legislative committee to sign off on withdrawing from federal lawsuits. Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul campaigned on withdrawing Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit that seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans say it’s a better balance of power, while Democrats and advocates say the laws are a power grab by a GOP hellbent on limiting the power of their political rivals.
“Power-hungry politicians rushed through sweeping changes to our laws to expand their own power and override the will of the people of Wisconsin who asked for change on Nov. 6th,” Evers said in a statement.
Hintz said he fears the bills will lead to gridlock because of court challenges and unintended consequences.
“Rushing through legislation on three days notice, in an all night session, always leads to unintended consequences and outcomes that you ultimately have to go back and fix. It’s a very bad way to do business,” Hintz said.
Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, chair of the Democratic Governors Association, said that Republican legislative efforts in Wisconsin as well as in Michigan are “a dangerous assault on our democracy.”
“Changing the rules when you don’t like the outcome is a move befitting a playground bully, not elected leaders in the world’s greatest democracy. Yet unfortunately, that’s exactly what we’re seeing lame-duck Republicans attempt in Wisconsin and Michigan,” she said.
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican who lost his re-election effort last month to Evers, was booed and heckled at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Tuesday for his support of the bills; the legislation will go into effect upon his signature.
Democrats won every statewide election including governor and attorney general and 205,000 more votes according to Washington Post election data, but Republicans maintained a 27-seat majority in the legislature.
Hintz said the legislation — and GOP control — is thanks to partisan redistricting done by Republicans, insulating them from facing blowback at the ballot box.
“This is the government you get when you get to pick your voters,” he told NBC News.