Dec 5, 2018

Wisconsin Republicans vote to curb incoming Democratic governor's power

Wisconsin Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Wisconsin's Republican-controlled legislature took a highly unusual step in the lame-duck session Wednesday morning and approved a raft of measures that will strip powers from incoming Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul.

Why it matters: Limiting Evers' authority will make it increasingly difficult for him to implement campaign promises, and it will extend years of fierce ideological skirmishes in the battleground state Republicans have fully controlled for years.

Timing: The last-ditch effort, which outraged Democrats call a blatant "power grab," comes less than a month after Evers and Kaul defeated the state's Republican incumbents.

The backdrop: The move mirrors a similar one made by North Carolina Republicans two years ago, during which they successfully stripped powers of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

  • Michigan's Republican-controlled legislature is also currently considering measures to weaken the powers of incoming Democratic of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

What they're saying: Wisconsin Republicans are defending their efforts as necessary to balance the power of the legislature and the executive branch. Gov. Scott Walker, who now gets a final chance to reshape state government before leaving office in January, signaled to reporters this week that he supports the proposals.

  • Meanwhile, Evers and other Democrats have threatened to take legal action, arguing that Republicans are trying to invalidate election results: "We're not going back in time to re-vote this election. I won and I'm more than willing to work with the legislature going forward," Evers said this week.

Some of the key measures Wisconsin Republicans approved will:

  • Make it difficult for Evers and Kaul to withdraw the state from a Republican lawsuit challenging Obamacare and to exercise oversight or have the power to roll back conservative policies.
  • Allow lawmakers to hire private attorneys to replace Kaul on certain lawsuits, enabling Republicans to better defend conservative laws if challenged in court.
  • Slash early voting to a two-week window before elections, a move that will deprive counties that currently decide when to start. Democratic strongholds like Madison and Milwaukee began early voting six weeks before last month’s midterm contests.
    • This proposal is almost certain to trigger a court challenge because a federal judge struck down a similar proposal as unconstitutional in 2016.
  • Require Evers to get permission from lawmakers to ban guns in the state capital.

One of the most controversial proposals — a plan to move the date of the 2020 presidential primary from April to March — is dead after a committee vote Monday.

  • Why it matters: Local reports said it's an attempt by Republicans to safeguard conservative state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, who will be on the April ballot, out of fear that a Democratic wave could cost Kelly his job.

Go deeper

America's rundown roads add to farmers' struggles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American farmers are struggling to safely use the roads that cut through their fields; decades of neglect and lack of funding have made the routes dangerous.

The big picture: President Trump has long promised to invest billions in rural infrastructure, and his latest proposal would allocate $1 trillion for such projects. Rural America, where many of Trump's supporters live, would see a large chunk of that money.

South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday, while Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 as of Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."