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  • The Wisconsin State house where Republican lawmakers are frantically trying to limit Democrats power after their election loss.

    The Wisconsin State house where Republican lawmakers are frantically trying to limit Democrats power after their election loss.

Published 6 December 2018

State legislators in two formerly Republican-dominated lame-duck sessions ram through bills to weaken the power of Democratic winners. 

Republican politicians in Michigan and Wisconsin are doing whatever they can, both legally and by de facto, to use the last days of their lame duck session to restrict power from incoming Democrats who won November elections in conservative, Republican-controlled states.

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After an all-night marathon session, Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled state Senate voted early Wednesday morning to pass a wide-ranging bill to weaken the incoming Democratic Governor Tony Evers and his incoming attorney general, Josh Kaul.

Prior to the bills’ passage, Republicans had already eliminated the state’s recently created solicitor generals’ office and made it possible for lawmakers to hire their own lawyers, bypassing the attorney general’s office, in state matters. The move gives Republican state legislators leverage in their continued fight to dismantle the federal Affordable Care Act enacted in 2010.

Wisconsin Republicans are also pushing to limit early voting and vetoed a measure to ban guns from the state capitol before Democrats are sworn in Jan. 1, 2019.

In Michigan, where Democrats won the offices of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state races for the first time in 28 years, Republican legislators have introduced a bill that would allow legislatures to intervene in any legal proceedings he or she "deems … necessary in order to protect any right or interest of this state."

Michigans Republicans are also trying to make campaign financing less transparent and limit referendum measures, such legalizing recreational marijuana and simplifying voter registration.

Wisconsin Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, said at the 5:00 a.m. voting of the Republican-proposed measures on Wednesday: “This is embarrassing we’re even here,” adding: “The will of the people has officially been ignored by the legislature.”

Howard Schweber, a professor of law and political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said these moves seem “unprecedented,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The scholar added "First and foremost it's a strategy to replace checks and balances, and the separation of powers, with parties," eroding the rule of law.   

"It's a step away from canceling elections or refusing to leave office," added Professor Schweber.

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