Wisconsin Lawmakers Vote To Limit Powers Of New Democratic Governor Despite protests from voters, Republican legislators in Wisconsin have voted to curb the authority of Gov.-elect Tony Evers, a Democrat who will take office in January. The list of changes is long.
NPR logo

Wisconsin Lawmakers Vote To Limit Powers Of New Democratic Governor

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/673683966/673933857" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Wisconsin Lawmakers Vote To Limit Powers Of New Democratic Governor

Wisconsin Lawmakers Vote To Limit Powers Of New Democratic Governor

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/673683966/673933857" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

After two full days of protests at the Wisconsin state Capitol, Republican lawmakers have voted for new limits on the governor's power. Voters last month elected Democrat Tony Evers to that job over the incumbent, Republican Scott Walker. Republicans say they're trying to protect the laws they've enacted in their eight years of control. But Democrats see it as a power grab. Laurel White of Wisconsin Public Radio has more.

LAUREL WHITE, BYLINE: Plans to significantly rein in the power of Democratic Governor-elect Tony Evers passed the Wisconsin state Senate in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, when hardly any members of the public were there to see it. Just a couple of hours later, they passed the state Assembly.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRIS TAYLOR: You won't even do this in the daylight. You won't even do this in the daylight. People are sleeping.

WHITE: That was Democratic state Representative Chris Taylor. Taylor and other Democrats argued the bills are an abuse of power by the legislature's Republican majority. Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz said Republicans are trying to override the will of the people after losing the governor's office in November.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GORDON HINTZ: Give me a break. The disrespect you've shown to this institution, to the fundamental framework of democracy is appalling. It's embarrassing. And we're a national disgrace right now.

WHITE: Many of the measures are aimed at keeping Governor-elect Evers from rolling back GOP-backed laws passed under Governor Scott Walker. That includes Wisconsin's voter ID law. During debate, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said that law deserves protection and that Evers shouldn't be able to undo it with the stroke of a pen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBIN VOS: Now, I know you don't like voter ID, but voter ID was passed by the legislature. It was enacted by the governor.

WHITE: Also protected under the proposals are Wisconsin's work requirements for public benefits like food stamps, as well as an economic development agency created under the Walker administration. Democratic Governor-elect Evers campaigned on abolishing that agency.

In recent days, his response to the GOP proposals has been measured. In a statement released after the vote, Evers said he hopes Republicans will be more collaborative after he takes office. But he did admonish lawmakers, saying Wisconsin values of decency, kindness and finding common ground were pushed aside by their votes. Some in Wisconsin are already preparing for conflict.

ANALIESE EICHER: There will be political and legal consequences over the actions of the Wisconsin legislative Republicans.

WHITE: Analiese Eicher is the program director for liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Institute, which successfully sued the state two years ago over voting restrictions.

EICHER: We are going to be reviewing these changes, whether or not they're signed by Governor Walker, section by section, line by line, word by word to put together the best case moving forward.

WHITE: Court challenges against power limits like these aren't unprecedented. Similar laws have been defeated in North Carolina. Evers is scheduled to take office in January. When he does, he'll face GOP majorities in the state Assembly and Senate. But he'll also wield one of the most powerful veto pens in the country. For NPR News, I'm Laurel White in Madison.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCO POLO'S "GET BUSY")

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.