Wisconsin legislature approves series of bills limiting governor’s power after all-night session
Photo Credit: Carrie Thompson

Wisconsin legislature approves series of bills limiting governor’s power after all-night session

The Wisconsin State Legislature approved a series of bills early Wednesday curtailing the power of the governor and executive branch after an all-night session.

The legislature passed a bill redefining the organization of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, an agency created in 2011 under outgoing governor Scott Walker to replace the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. Incoming Governor Tony Evers campaigned in part on his desire to dissolve this agency. Where traditionally the CEO was chosen by the governor, the corporation’s board of directors will now have the ability to select its own CEO and maintain the current Republican majority on the board until September when seats would be evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. The bill would additionally require the governor to request permission from lawmakers before creating certain administrative rules and making changes to programs managed jointly by the state and federal governments.

The incoming attorney general’s discretion will also be significantly curtailed under the same bill. The legislature will now be in charge of litigation and the allocation of court settlements. The attorney general will now need permission from the legislature to withdraw from lawsuits which will prevent the incoming attorney general from ending an ongoing suit by the state against the Affordable Care Act. The legislature did not pass an earlier provision which would have allowed lawmakers to hire private attorneys using taxpayer funds to litigate lawsuits in place of the State Attorney General, but the legislature will have the power to intervene using private attorneys in cases where state statutes are challenged.

The legislature passed another bill limiting early voting across the state to just two weeks and moving up the date of the state’s 2020 presidential primary. A federal judge struck down a similar law in 2016 which resulted in local officials being able to determine their own early voting schedules.

The new bills, modified from what JURIST previously reported, are expected to head to outgoing Governor Scott Walker Wednesday who has indicated previously that he will sign them if they reach his desk before his term expires.