By Casey Buhr
On November 20th there was a feature on DCDN where Joel Kitchens had indicated the thrust of the extraordinary session would be to maintain the progress they have felt has been made over the last eight years. He noted he would not do anything to deliberately take power away from the governor. It appears he was lying on multiple fronts.
In the Joint Committee on Finance hearing on Monday John Nygren spoke about how small communities were suffering from discrimination as they didn’t have the resources to offer the same amount of early voting hours as do larger municipalities, e.g. Madison and Milwaukee. He said he had heard from constituents that they felt they were not on equal footing because of this. Instead of working on a solution that could offer opportunities to the smaller communities to enable them to expand their available hours the Republican chose instead is to reduce it for everyone. I believe the sensible thing is to try to offer as much opportunity for as many people to vote as possible. The Republicans believe that a red herring argument is sufficient enough to try to limit the opportunity of those within the perceived “liberal bastions” from being afforded a more reasonable length of time to vote. They aren’t concerned about the fairness of it at all, they are concerned with positioning the system in a manner that benefits them in elections.
I don’t see how voting to support reduced early ballots supports Joel’s claims about the intent of the session or what how he intended to act in the session.
A prominent campaign promise from Tony Evers and Josh Kaul was to remove the state from being a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans in the legislature determined it should not be in the hands of the Attorney General, directed by the Governor but instead it should go through the Joint Committee on Finance which houses a 12-4 Republican majority. Essentially the GOP has determined that the voice of the people is meaningless, that our choice, the choice of the majority of voters in this state is irrelevant. The arrogance is galling.
Again I don’t see how a vote supporting this type of legislation fits within the parameters of how Joel said he’d react.
These couple of issues addressed here just scratch at the surface too, there are many others… wresting control of the WEDC, the State senate confirming 81 appointments, et all. There was so much more done, in a such a short time in darkness. An incoming Governor Walker in 2010 made a request to the Doyle administration about lame duck interference yet doesn’t seem to be bothered by it now.
I imagine when confronted on his actions, Joel will likely fall back on “we’re protecting the separation of powers” and he might condescend as he and others in his caucus have taken to do lately, by explaining the checks and balances in our country. Perhaps he’ll use the classic “sure there are a lot of things wrong with the bills but the good outweighed the bad.” Joel has portrayed himself as an independent thinker, one who evaluates the merit of the argument through the weight of the evidence however the actions he’s taken in supporting the legislation in the recent extraordinary session suggests that partisanship and power are higher priorities than the will of the people or transparency in the democratic process. They have subverted our will for their own benefits.
If securing the legacy of the outgoing governor and protecting the checks and balances of our government were such a priority for Joel and the rest of the elected state Republicans then why wasn’t it attended to in the last 8 years?
If the bills that were going to be presented were such powerful tools for good then why all the secrecy surrounding them? Why would they be released at the latest possible hour on a Friday giving limited opportunity to delve into them. Why were they given only one hearing for the public on the following Monday where the main drivers of the legislation, Speaker Vos and Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald where not present to defend the bills? Why were they then brought forth on Tuesday into a session that was delayed into the middle of the night, with negotiations behind closed doors amongst Republicans only to have a revised version come out and vote essentially immediately?
Now the Republicans are scrambling trying to blame the media for their coverage, for hyperbole. Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos lamented that the Republicans didn’t get a fair opportunity to tell the public about the bill and referred to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as an arm of the Democratic party.
Speaker Vos after Assembly vote says they didn’t get a fair opportunity to tell the public about what the bill does outside of the press. Calls the ?@journalsentinel? an arm of the Democratic Party pic.twitter.com/XFBQzZSWmX— Katelyn Ferral (@katelynferral) December 5, 2018
The public didn’t rush this bill. I’m certain if adequate time were given for them to digest what the Republicans were attempting to do there would have been a louder outcry against it but that is precisely why they moved so quickly on it. The same reason they’ve moved so quickly on so much heinous legislation (as noted in the opinion piece from DCDN on Dec 5th, 2018). Even with the outcry I certain that the Republicans were going to do it anyway, regardless of what their constituents or a what a majority of voters in this state wanted.
Democrats received 54% of the votes for Assembly amounting to only 36 seats compared to the Republican 46%, 63 seats. Democrats won every statewide contest.
The will of the people is to change the manner in which this state has been run, to change direction and set the state back on a course that aligns better with its progressive heritage. The Republicans have gerrymandered their majority and used it to curb the powers of their opponents. This isn’t about balancing it’s about grabbing and holding power.