Wisconsin legislature to consider last-minute reforms amid protests
Photo Credit: Carrie Thompson

Wisconsin legislature to consider last-minute reforms amid protests

The Wisconsin state legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance (JCF) proposed a package of controversial legislation early Tuesday morning in an extraordinary session.

The legislature approved the extraordinary session—an extension of their normal season—on Friday. In a joint statement, Robin Vos, the speaker of the State Assembly, and Scott Fitzgerald, the Republican Majority Leader in the Senate, defended the decision to hold the extraordinary session on the grounds that it will allow the legislature to prevent “potential political maneuvering by the executive branch.”

The legislation proposed by the JCF covers a range of topics. One bill would limit early voting to no more than two weeks before an election. The same bill also contained a controversial provision to move the date of the 2020 presidential primary. This provision did not pass committee and will likely not move forward. Another bill adds restrictions to the state attorney general’s ability to act without the approval of the legislature and another bill limits the governor’s authority to oversee state agencies. Other measures include a bill aimed at protecting insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Critics of these measures assert that the legislature is attempting to curtail the powers of the incoming Democratic administration. Governor-elect Tony Evers called the proposed legislation an “unprecedented abuse of power.”

In response to the proposed legislation, protesters have reportedly gathered outside and within the Wisconsin State Capital in Madison.

The Republican-controlled Senate and Assembly review the bills today and are expected to vote shortly. Outgoing Governor Scott Walker has indicated he will sign the legislation if it reaches his desk before his term ends at the end of the year.