Read it: Reaction to Senate passing bills weakening incoming governor, attorney general

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Senate voted just before sunrise Wednesday following an all-night session to pass a sweeping bill in a lame-duck session designed to empower the GOP-controlled Legislature and weaken the Democrat replacing Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Below is reaction to the vote:

Governor-elect Tony Evers

"Wisconsin has never seen anything like this. 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 November 6th.

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.

Wisconsinites expect more from us and I hope at some point the Legislature will rise to the occasion and work with me to solve the pressing issues facing our state. That’s what the people of Wisconsin want, that’s what the people of Wisconsin deserve, and that’s more than what they got from government here tonight."

State Senator Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee

“This morning, fresh of an election defeat, the Republican-controlled legislature voted to subvert the will of the people. The effects of this vote will be felt for years to come.

Never before in Wisconsin’s 170 year history has an extraordinary session been used in such a cold, calculated way in order to usurp the power of duly elected constitutional officers. It is particularly disturbing that legislative Republicans would chose to poison the well of bipartisanship before duly elected officials are allowed to take office.

What the Republicans have done is terribly short-sighted and will leave a permanent stain on their and our state’s legacy. It is unfortunate, that by refusing to recognize the voice of the people, they have broken Wisconsin Government. It will be all of our neighbors who suffer for years to come.

Wisconsinites went to the polls in record midterm numbers and voted for change on November 6th. They responded to the people by essentially appointing the losing side as Attorney General. Now unelected, unaccountable private lawyers can potentially usurp any federal case from the duly elected Attorney General.

We have a rich American history of peaceful transfer of power for the good of the people. This morning, Republicans instead decided to burn the house down on their way out the door.”

State Senator Dan Feyen, R- Fond du Lac

“Since the release of the extraordinary session bills on Friday night, I have been working tirelessly with my policy staff, legislative service agencies, my Senate colleagues, and leadership to understand and pare down these bills to common-sense codification and technical fixes that don’t overstep the powers granted to the legislature. I can confidently say that the votes we took today are in good faith and do not usurp the role of Governor-Elect Evers or convolute the election and voting process.

It is my ultimate responsibility as a legislator to represent my constituents. They clearly communicated to my office their preference that the separation of powers between branches of government be retained. I do not believe the originally proposed legislation was the morally correct way to proceed; the amended legislation passed today ensures legislative intent is upheld while respecting the authority of the incoming administration.”

Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling

“Republicans are defiant and desperate in the wake of a new Democratic Governor and Attorney General. Rather than putting the election behind us and working with Gov.-elect Evers to improve health care, strengthen schools and fix our roads, Republican leaders have tightened their fists on more power. After these antics, the Republican legacy will be one of corruption, dishonesty, and misplaced priorities, that favor consolidating power over the issues impacting working families. The blatant disrespect for Wisconsin voters is an attempt to undermine the validity of elections that don’t go their way."

State Senator Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville

“If I was on the losing end of an election that saw my party lose every state wide election this past November, I’d reexamine the positions I campaigned on since a majority of the people in Wisconsin thoroughly rejected them. Astonishingly, the Republicans primary concern is to protect their own power. Instead of reevaluating the right wing ideology the voters rejected, they convened an unprecedented lame-duck session to pass bills limiting ability of the newly elected Governor and Attorney General to do their jobs and to stack state boards and commissions with handpicked cronies."

“It is unfortunate that our local Republican legislators did not stand up to their leaders and chose to put politics before the wishes of the people who want both political parties to work together and solve the problems facing our state,” concluded Ringhand.

One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross

“While Wisconsin slept last night, Republicans worked behind closed doors on schemes to reject the results of the November 2018 midterm elections, in which they lost every statewide office on the ballot.

“Instead of respecting the will of the voters and the laws and traditions of our nation, Wisconsin Republicans have once again sought to rig the rules for their own benefit and in doing so undermined the orderly transition of power from one administration to the next.

“They have even gone so far as to thumb their noses at the voters and a federal court order by re-imposing limits on early voting.

“Over 2.6 million voters of this state cast their ballots, and they spoke up clearly for a change from eight years of complete Republican control of state government.

“The Republicans’ actions are shameful and not worthy of anyone who calls themselves a public servant.”

Representative Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha

“I am deeply disappointed in legislative Republicans’ decision to override the will of the people and ignore voters’ clear desire for change.  Put simply: the Republicans are sore losers.  These proposals are exactly the kind of political games voters rejected on November 6th.  Republicans should try listening to voters to learn why they lost, instead of changing the rules for short-term political gain.”

Representative David Bowen, D-Milwaukee

“Wisconsin Republicans have gone too far and people from both sides of the aisle have made that clear by flooding their offices with calls and emails. The fact that they couldn’t get done everything they wanted is a win for those who believe in democracy and my Democratic colleagues who refused to give in to these corrupt tactics. I look forward to when these measures are found unconstitutional and our state can get past this low moment in our history. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to continue to call the governor’s office at (608) 266-1212 to make their voices heard.”

Joint statement from Milwaukee aldermen, alderwomen: 

"The lame-duck session measures approved by the Republican-controlled state Legislature are aimed at keeping the Legislature in a position of power and hurting Milwaukee. Taxpayers are ill-served by these measures and should be outraged that they are being approved just weeks after Democrats swept every state-wide race in the November 6 fall general election.

We reject the measures and expect that there will be litigation coming forward to oppose them. However, legal challenges would not be necessary if Governor Walker does not sign them – and we urge him to accept the will of Wisconsin voters and NOT sign them into law.

The post-election session legislation includes reducing early voting from six weeks to two weeks, giving lawmakers additional control of the state agency overseeing job creation; reducing the governor's ability to write state rules and adjust public benefits programs; and allowing lawmakers to replace the attorney general with private attorneys at taxpayer expense.

The early voting limit (similar to one struck down by a federal judge in 2016) would be especially harmful for Milwaukee residents. Milwaukeeans have embraced early voting and the opportunity it provides for making their voices heard and being engaged in local, regional and state-wide concerns.

In the November election there were 36,659 total early votes cast in Milwaukee, meaning the number of early votes cast in the City of Milwaukee for the 2018 midterm election was more than double the total number of 15,300 early votes cast in the 2014 midterm (a whopping 140% increase over 2014).

We believe that is called success and catering to the desires and will of the people. We also believe the provisions just passed are meant to marginalize Milwaukee and keep entrenched legislators in Madison insulated and protected from the effects of the election.

That is called unfair and undemocratic."

Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty

"The extraordinary session began in both the Assembly and Senate yesterday and was still going on while most Wisconsinites were eating breakfast this morning. A lot of changes were made, and in the end a grand total of three bills were passed. Yesterday, WILL released an analysis of some of the good and some of the bad things in the original bills. Here’s where those matters stand today:

First, much of the administrative rulemaking reforms were approved, including all the key parts of the proposals that we wrote about yesterday: limits to agency deference, shining light upon guidance documents, and ending sue and settle. That’s great news, and those provisions will help ensure that government remains both transparent and accountable.

Second, the legislature kept in provisions to make sure all settlement money obtained by DOJ are deposited into the general fund, and maintained provisions that would put certain waivers into statute to ensure their effectiveness going forward. Although they did limit some legislative oversight requirements that were put in place, what ultimately passed still includes some significant checks on executive power.

Third, voter I.D. regulations were put in statute, ensuring that those provisions will continue to be enforced during future elections.

Fourth, the legislature maintained key provisions that corrected the legal authority issues for implementing the online sales tax regulations. As we wrote yesterday, the original regulations were on shaky legal ground – and the legislature decisively fixed those legal issues yesterday. Kudos to those legislators for heeding our advice and including that fix as one of the very few tax reform provisions in the extraordinary session.

With regard to some of the “bad” provisions that we pointed out – the legislature took note and fixed some of those issues as well. The provisions exempting the Department of Public Instruction from certain rulemaking oversight and transparency requirements were removed, which is great news and helps ensure that all agencies in state government play by the same rules. Also, the provisions allowing a single scope statement for emergency and permanent rules were removed.

All-in-all, the vast majority of the “good” provisions we wrote on made it through and most of the “bad” provisions were taken care of. This is welcome news and these reforms will prove beneficial as we continue our work to hold government accountable in the years to come."

Congresswoman Gwen Moore, D-Wisconsin

“Voters sent Tony Evers and Josh Kaul to Madison with a clear mandate. Their election should have triggered a peaceful transition of power; instead, Wisconsin Republicans have disgraced the state in a midnight legislative session more befitting of a strong man dictatorship than the United States of America.

The legislators who engineered this coup retained the majority of the legislature, despite getting fewer overall votes than the Democrats, due to highly gerrymandered district lines. Their actions amount to a smash and grab hijacking of the voters' will.

This power grab is a direct threat to our state’s democracy. As Wisconsinites, we must stand strong in the face of greed and intolerance to overcome this period of darkness and begin our return to Wisconsin’s progressive roots.”

Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee

“Over nine hours after the scheduled start of session on December 4, 2018 for the State Assembly’s lame-duck extraordinary session, the body was finally called to order at 10:00 p.m. Hours later, the Assembly stood in recess from 1:00 a.m. - 4:30 a.m. At 4:30 a.m. this morning, session was called to order again.

As a deliberative body elected to represent our constituents – the public – we must work together and be transparent. The process in which these pieces of legislation were drafted, introduced, and provided to the public for input was neither transparent nor right.

November 6th was a great election for Wisconsin, but it was overshadowed by an attempted power grab. Yesterday’s legislation was put forward in an incredibly rushed fashion. Republican leaders held closed-door meetings to draft proposals to take away the power of Governor-Elect Evers and Attorney General-Elect Kaul, among other law changes. This morning, I voted against each of these proposals.

I sincerely thank all of my constituents and fellow citizens of Wisconsin for your calls and emails to my colleagues and I. We work on your behalf. I thank you for your incredible engagement at this important time in our State’s history.”

Stephanie Bloomingdale, president of Wisconsin AFL-CIO

“The people went to the polls in November and voted for change. Instead, Wisconsinites continue to witness unprecedented power grabs and ruthless partisan politics from politicians in Madison during a lame duck special session. After only making bills public at 4:23 p.m. on a Friday evening, Republicans rammed through multiple lame duck measures that erode the Wisconsin tradition of fairness, transparency and decency in government in the dead of the night Tuesday. This sore loser, sour grapes recipe to cling to power and limit the authority of our newly elected Governor Tony Evers is a betrayal of democracy.”

Rep. David Bowen, D-Milwaukee

“The people went to the polls in November and voted for change. Instead, Wisconsinites continue to witness unprecedented power grabs and ruthless partisan politics from politicians in Madison during a lame duck special session. After only making bills public at 4:23 p.m. on a Friday evening, Republicans rammed through multiple lame duck measures that erode the Wisconsin tradition of fairness, transparency and decency in government in the dead of the night Tuesday. This sore loser, sour grapes recipe to cling to power and limit the authority of our newly elected Governor Tony Evers is a betrayal of democracy.”