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.