Republican Wisconsin Senate President Roger Roth ordered the public to be removed from Senate galleries, minutes after the start of a lame-duck session to weaken incoming Democratic office holders.
The public erupted into shouts of “Shame!” and “Whose house? Our house!” after the order for police to clear the galleries. Roth says he was ordering the public removed for not heeding repeated warnings to remain quiet during debate.
The state Senate is meeting Tuesday in an unusual lame-duck session to consider sweeping proposals that would weaken incoming Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul.
The disruption brought Senate debate to a halt as people slowly left and shouted down at the senators.
Democrats in the Wisconsin Assembly are branding a Republican lame-duck session as “illegitimate” and are eschewing debate limits, setting up a potential filibuster.
Republicans are expected to vote Tuesday on bills that would weaken Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Democratic Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul.
The Republican-controlled budget committee approved sweeping proposals around midnight Monday. They did not advance a bill to change the date of the 2020 presidential primary, a move that the state’s elections commission called “extraordinarily difficult” and would cost nearly $7 million. That likely means the measure is dead, but it could be taken up in a procedural move in either the Assembly or Senate.
The other bills could affect the powers of both the governor and attorney general.
Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers is ripping Republican Gov. Scott Walker for “jamming” through scores of last-minute appointees in a lame-duck legislative session.
The Senate is also slated to confirm about 75 Walker appointees, including two new members of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents.
Evers sent Walker a letter on Tuesday complaining that the appointees haven’t been fully vetted and that some haven’t filed statements of economic interest. He asked Walker to withdraw the names to allow ample time for review.
Walker spokeswoman Amy Hasenberg didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment.
One measure would eliminate the Department of Justice’s office of the solicitor general, which has represented the state in high-profile cases. The same proposal would also give the Legislature approval power over settlements resolved by the DOJ and allow legislators to hire their own attorneys to handle any lawsuits over state statutes.
Kaul told reporters Tuesday that the legislation was “virtually certain” to generate lawsuits in multiple courts.
Other measures would bind Gov.-elect Tony Evers to decisions of Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature, including a Medicaid waiver that requires people to work to receive benefits. A bill would also strip the governor of the power to appoint the CEO of the state’s job creation agency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz told reporters before lawmakers took the floor that the legislation is a power-grab that ignores the will of voters who elected Evers and Kaul.
Democrats and Republicans traditionally agree on time limits for debates, but Hintz said no agreement was reached for this debate. He says the session is “illegitimate” and there will be no rules. He declined to elaborate.
Assembly Democrats filibustered for 60 straight hours in 2011 in a vain attempt to stop Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining restrictions.
Walker did not directly indicate to reporters Monday what he intended to sign of the legislative package, but made some comments that were generally supportive of the bills.
Protesters filled capitol hearing rooms Monday and held a rally outside the building calling on lawmakers to “respect my vote.”