Republicans in Wisconsin, Michigan move to limit the power of incoming Democrats

  • The Republican-controlled state legislature in Wisconsin passed a sweeping set of bills on Wednesday to limit the power of the newly elected Democratic governor Tony Evers.
  • Evers denounced the lawmakers as "power-hungry politicians" in a statement.
  • In Michigan, Republicans are working to pass similar legislation to limit the incoming governor's power.
Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), (L), and Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) confer during a contentious legislative session on December 4, 2018 in Madison, Wisconsin. 
Andy Manis | Getty Images
Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), (L), and Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) confer during a contentious legislative session on December 4, 2018 in Madison, Wisconsin. 

Wisconsin's Republican-controlled state legislature passed a sweeping set of bills on Wednesday to limit the power of the newly elected Democratic governor and attorney general, part of a growing trend in state governments also seen in Michigan and North Carolina.

Last month, Tony Evers defeated Republican incumbent Scott Walker in the Wisconsin governor's race, and Josh Kaul similarly ousted the Republican incumbent to become attorney general. The state legislature will remain under Republican control.

One of the bills passed on Wednesday in the lame duck session would require the governor to get approval from the legislature before changing programs managed by both federal and state governments, such as welfare, the New York Times reported. Another limits the governor's control of the state's main economic development agency, which Evers pledged to disband during the campaign in favor of giving authority to local communities, the paper said.

Additionally, the incoming attorney general would not be able to withdraw the state from a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, which was one of Kaul's campaign promises. Wisconsin's early voting period would also be restricted to just two weeks going forward.

Evers denounced the lawmakers as "power-hungry politicians" in a statement.

"Wisconsin values of decency, kindness, and finding common ground were pushed aside so a handful of people could desperately usurp and cling to power while hidden away from the very people they represent," he said.

In Michigan, Republicans are working to pass similar legislation to limit the incoming government's power. The state elected Democrats to serve as governor, attorney general and secretary of state for the first time in nearly three decades.

As part of the proposed bills, the state House of Representatives hopes to delay a planned minimum wage increase and reduce the requirements on companies to provide paid sick leave.

Both the Wisconsin and Michigan state legislatures are replicating what occurred in North Carolina after Democrat Roy Cooper was elected governor in 2016.

Then, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a number of bills that reduced the number of Cooper's political appointees and made his cabinet members subject to Senate approval, among other changes. Cooper has been entangled in lawsuits to roll back these changes ever since.

Republicans' actions in Wisconsin and Michigan have drawn scores of protesters to the state's capitol buildings and garnered the attention of lawmakers nationwide.

"It is disgraceful that Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan, having lost on Nov. 6, are trying to decrease the power of incoming Democratic governors Tony Evers and Gretchen Whitmer and limit future voting," Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., tweeted Monday. "This power-grab is pathetic and must be stopped."

The bills in both states, although passed in the legislatures, still need to be signed by the current Republican governors in order to become law.