Tuesday, December 04, 2018


This is outrageous:
Amid record-breaking turnout in last month’s midterm elections, Wisconsin and Michigan voters elected Democrats to replace Republicans for top statewide offices. In response, GOP lawmakers in both states are using lame-duck sessions to push sweeping legislation that would limit the power of the incoming Democratic officials....

The lame-duck power grabs in Wisconsin and Michigan echo a similar push in North Carolina following the 2016 elections. Shortly before Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper took office, the GOP-led state legislature introduced a series of bills that attempted to limit the authority of his office, including its oversight of the state’s election oversight board.
The following is just part of the Republican wish list in Wisconsin. Most of it is likely to pass and be signed into law by outgoing governor Scott Walker:
* Limit early voting to two weeks....

* Give Republicans more control of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., including over its enterprise zone program that gives tax breaks to individual businesses. Republicans would appoint a majority of WEDC's board and the board, rather than the governor, would appoint WEDC's leader.

* Put lawmakers in charge of litigation, allowing them to keep alive a lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare....

* Allow the Legislature to substitute the attorney general with taxpayer-funded private attorneys — picked by lawmakers — when state laws are challenged in court....

* Bar judges from giving deference to state agencies’ interpretations of laws when they are challenged in court. That could make it easier to win lawsuits challenging how environmental regulations and other laws are being enforced.

* Make it much more difficult, in numerous ways, for the Evers administration to put in place rules that implement current and future state laws. Lawmakers, meanwhile, would gain greater power to block any rules that Evers manages to put in place....
Similar rule-rewriting is proposed in Michigan.

As a number of observers have pointed out, the national press has been slow to report on this -- and even though the media is waking up to the story, it's not clear that what's going on is being taken seriously. This morning NPR had two stories on the subject, but the second one ended badly: Steve Inskeep interviewed a poli sci professor named Thad Kousser, who assured us all that Both Sides Do It:
INSKEEP: And just briefly, do Democrats also try to change the rules when they find things not working out in their favor?

KOUSSER: Yes, so this is just the latest episode in the long-running series of moves in state politics where you see reform often masquerading as, uh, as -- where you see political -- bare-knuckle political fights often masquerading as reform. Republicans don't have any monopoly on it. Democrats have done this in other states at other times, and you've seen both principled arguments for changes in the structure of government, but lurking just beneath that is an attempt to rewrite the rules to fill a politcal objective.

INSKEEP: Thad Kousser, thanks so much.

KOUSSER: Thanks for having me.
Cue the music. End of story.

Inskeep (who's usually a much better interviewer) didn't ask for a single example of Democrats doing something similar. What's Kousser thinking of? Can he specify when Democrats have done something recently that's genuinely comparable?

(I know that a decade or so ago, Democrats in the Massachusetts legislature rewrote the rules on replacing a U.S. senator so that then-governor Mitt Romney couldn't pick a Republican to replace John Kerry if Kerry won the presidency in 2004. After some further tweaking, the law allowed a Democrat named Paul Kirk to be seated in the Senate in place of the newly deceased Ted Kennedy. But Kirk held the seat for only 134 days, and he was, of course, replaced by Republican Scott Brown after a special election. That's not comparable to the wholesale rewriting of the laws that's being proposed in Wisconsin and Michigan.)

Inskeep got a reassuring everybody-does-it answer out of a certified expert, and that was all the exploration of the topic he felt we needed. No follow-ups. No elaboration. They're all the same. Let's just shrug and move on.

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