Lame-Duck Lawmaking is Government at its Worst

Today, the state legislature will begin taking up a series of lame-duck session bills that represent everything wrong with government, an affront to democracy and a repudiation of the will of voters in November.

I am disgusted by it, and you should be too, no matter your party affiliation and no matter who you voted for last month.

Elections have consequences, and voters spoke that they wanted divided government and what that means – compromise and true checks and balances. But rather than listen, here we stand, with lawmakers willing to cast those results aside in favor of changing the rules at the 11th hour of an executive leadership change, simply because they can.

This power grab should offend everyone.

From a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel summary of the bills …

Among the proposals are ones to limit the governor’s powers, weaken the attorney general and restrict early voting to two weeks before an election. Currently, some communities provide as many as six weeks of early voting …

The measures would strip many powers from Kaul and eliminate a powerful office within the Department of Justice that was created in 2015 under Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel and handles high-profile cases on appeal. 

Lawmakers are also considering separating the 2020 presidential primary election from an April spring election to reduce voter turnout in an effort to boost the election chances of a conservative Supreme Court justice. In another proposal, lawmakers will consider using new revenue from online sales taxes to slightly reduce the individual income tax rate. 

The election date change is particularly galling, a brazen attempt to use the legislative process to influence the outcome of an election.

Don’t take my word for it; ask the leader of the Senate.

Raw party politics aside, this change would have real, costly consequences in communities across the state, including South Milwaukee, and we have rightfully joined hundreds of others in speaking out against it.

Clerks across the state are sending letters similar to this to lawmakers, working through the League of Wisconsin Municipalities …  

Even if the state were to cover the substantial costs municipalities would incur by moving the election, there are significant logistical difficulties with conducting a stand-alone presidential primary in March, which will prove hard to overcome. Each election involves many weeks of intense preparation followed by weeks of post-election wrap up work. I and my staff are charged with hiring and training election inspectors, administering absentee balloting, including the increasingly popular in-person absentee voting, registering voters, securing polling locations, holding a public test, publishing notices, entering election reporting along with participation data for each elector voting and performing all of the other tasks necessary to conduct a well-run election. We barely have sufficient time to accomplish the myriad election tasks necessary between the February primary and the spring election in April. Adding another election in March risks stretching the ability of local governments to administer a smooth, secure, and error free election process.

But this is just the start. Other items in this lame duck session are worse, because they seek to roll back or limit powers previously granted to the governor and attorney general simply because they are being replaced by Democrats. This one may be illegal. 

Still, that hasn’t stopped Republicans, who are trying to desperately rewrite the playbook before the clock strikes zero, before they lose their grip on full power and before — gasp! – they actually have to start working in a bipartisan way to get things done.

Incoming Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes put it best in a tweet when word of this abomination first leaked. “Just making up the rules as they go,” he wrote. “I remember a time when it was just the goal posts, but now they want to move the whole field.”

We should not let them, both parties. Yes, both parties. Democrats pull these stunts, too, including pushing lame duck legislation of their own in 2009. And it’s happened (and is happening) in other states.

That doesn’t make it right. 

We need to end lame-duck sessions and move up the start date of newly elected officials to make sure nothing like this happens again. Until we do, do not accept the “Democrats would do the same thing, so that makes it OK!” argument, an all-too-popular one these days. I don’t buy it when my kids use it — “Well, she did it too!” — and we should not buy it now as lawmakers prepare to take the kind of action they are proposing.

Instead, let’s stand together for good government, and against the opposite.

We are better than this.

To our legislators, and outgoing governor: We are watching. Do the right thing.

Make sure your voice is heard! Email Rep. Rodriguez at Rep.Rodriguez@legis.wisconsin.gov and Sen. Larson at Sen.Larson@legis.wisconsin.gov. Get contact information for all lawmakers here. 

20 Comments

Filed under South Milwaukee

20 responses to “Lame-Duck Lawmaking is Government at its Worst

  1. Rick

    The Democrats are just as bad. We have a great thing going in Wisconsin and we are poised for tax increases by Evers. He already has stated that he will need additional money to fund his dreams.

  2. John Tangen

    Mr. Mayor, what are your thoughts about when a group of lawmakers ran off to Illinois in their effort to put their own agenda ahead of the voters?

    Not saying either is right just so tired of you and the media bashing on one political party while holding the other as blameless and perfect.

  3. Bob Oliphant

    Just remember, elections have consequences. The disturbances in Madison during the Act 10 legislation and recall elections were Democrats; deal with it.

  4. Bob_Oliphant

    I hope you’re disgusted with the lack of class by the protesters who try to drown out the performance by a high school choir inside the capitol building.

  5. David Maass

    This isn’t Illinios.
    This is a one way trip to a distant planet.
    This, is different. Much different.
    Today we see the continued work of the pople who gerrymandered the Assembly so that 45% of the vote controls 64 of 99 seats, un-democratic.

    Yes, the trip to Illinois was a dramatic procedural delay to draw attention to dramatic actions either denied or not discussed during the election season. It was a delay.

    What is now being done is a one way, no-return space mission. This not Illinois.
    This is no procedural delay.
    It is governance with a dead hand.
    A procedural delay is not a usurpation of the democratic process.
    What we are seeing can only be called a usurpation of democracy.

    The stink of this moral rot will go to the grave with those who sign their names to it.
    To suggest that everyone does it, or would do it, is a rhetorical device often used to justify bad behavior.

    But nothing can justify subverting the democratic process in this way.
    This is different.
    This is wrong.

    • JOHN TANGEN

      So what you are saying is that this is only done by the Republicans to screw over the incoming governor? And that such actions were never tried by diamond jim and the democRATS?

      And as if this election was not fubar’ed from the beginning. There needs to be independent monitoring of the election process in Milwaukee and Dane counties that are always “finding” votes, lest we turn into Florida or god(of your choice) forbid Kalifornia(vote harvesting).

      If anything this is another good example of why we need more than two viable political parties. As much as we may laugh at and mock other countries with countless parties, at least they need to make alliances and work together in order to accomplish anything. (Excepting Putin and Russia)

  6. SM Guy

    Looks like somebody forgot about the previous administration trying to stick incoming Gov. Walker and incoming Republican legislature with the choo-choo, stuck the state with a bunch of long-term gambling compacts with his specific buddies in the tribes (i.e., not ALL tribes), and tried to hurry through agreements with the unions. Looks like somebody forgot about the fact the Republicans did not lose the state legislature. Looks like somebody forgot that Evers won by the slimmest of margins…primarily in Madison…primarily by a sneaky non-binding referendum that just so happened to pop up all across the state meant to encourage a certain special interest group known to support a certain side (i.e., pot heads). Looks like somebody forgot about the immediate organized efforts to recall a duly elected governor (and state legislators), not for any malfeasance, but for doing exactly what they promised to do during the election. Looks like somebody forgot about all the whining and drum beating and the need for our state lawmakers to sneak in an out of their offices for their own personal safety. Looks like somebody forgot that every bill that gets passed gets a lawsuit from the democrats. Looks like somebody forgot that one of those suits resulted in the Governor issuing an executive order to fix that which courts didn’t like so as to result in more secure elections immediately. Looks like somebody doesn’t realize that without legislation, the new governor could rescind that executive order and suddenly election security becomes illegal….or maybe that’s the idea.

    • David Maass

      SMguy,
      Are you conflating a procedural delay technic with ruling with a dead hand, and a long list of other policy differences?
      My readings on this suggest that the closest that the Dems came to this was to try to pass, it failed, labor contracts negotiated well prior to the lame duck session.
      Procedural vs lame duck is the distinction I was hoping to make.
      Sorry if I didn’t make that more clear.

  7. Don

    There are safe guards in place in case a moron is elected to office, both national and local. We have plenty of those currently. You whine if you lose and initiate recounts and lawsuits and you whine if you win. Grow up and get over yourself, please.

    • Rick

      Right on Don!!! You do not see the Republicans making an issue about Tony Evers winning as Governor, BUT NOT RESIGNING his position as head of the DPI, which he should have, BUT wants to appoint one of his “Croonies” to the position once he is sworn in. Ever’s is already putting his budget together, adding $1.5 BILLION to Public Schools, plus money for his “Dream” items. Just increasing the $1.5 BILLION for Public Schools, IF PASSED, will require the State to increase property taxes. Tony Evers now needs to pay back WEAC and all the unions that gave him campaign money. He has pledged to re-implement the “Prevailing Wage” law which IF PASSED, would increase the cost for State and Local Municipalities as it would again require using Union Labor and Companies that are signatory to the union trades, which will increase costs and increase taxes. Wisconsin needs to keep moving forward….NOT BACKWARDS as Evers will take this State.

      • More than half of the state’s voters disagree with you, and probably well over half disagree with the actions of the legislature this week. Do the results of the election matter?

  8. Rocandroo

    Let’s be honest, the only reason Tony Evers “Won” is because all of the pot heads got off their buts and voted.

  9. Joe Felcht

    I don’t think the election results indicates the “will of the voters” per se. Approximately 30,000 more voters out of 2.6 million voted for Evers, a spread of about 1.1%. That is not a landslide or a mandate. The problem with the current winner-take-all approach is that nearly half of all the people that voted are ignored by the thin margin of the winner. When elections are this close, there should be some method where compromise and common sense legislature moves the state forward with concern for both sides of all issues. We’d all be better off for it.

    Scott Walker R 1,293,799 48%

    Tony Evers D 1,324,648 50%

    See: https://projects.jsonline.com/topics/election/2018/11/6/november-2018-wisconsin-general-election-results.html

    That being said, voters did approve legal marijuana by a large margin (as mentioned above). So if the will of the people is sacred in the voting booth,even by a small margin, then it is now government’s responsibility to create the regulations and licensing to support the voters’ will, not to ignore the voting results.

    But many of the same people who are adamant about the voter’s will regarding Evers (or Walker during his tenure) will find a way to discredit the voters’ will regarding legalizing marijuana.

    The point being, that both sides of the political aisle cherry pick their indignation at what the other side does, and then turn right around and do the same thing when it suites them.

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