Wisconsin Republicans discussing lame duck session

SCOTT FITZGERALD

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Republicans and Gov. Scott Walker are discussing what measures they want to take up in a lame duck legislative session before Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers takes office.

Senate Republicans were also expected to reach a decision on whether they will vote on a tax incentive bill designed to keep a Kimberly-Clark Corp. plant open near Appleton.

Both Senate and Assembly Republicans were meeting separately Tuesday to talk about their plans.

Ideas for the lame duck session include moving the 2020 presidential primary from April to March, limiting the governor’s powers over implementation of administrative rules and reducing the number of appointments the governor can make to certain boards and commissions.

Evers has called the lame duck session a last-ditch attempt by Republicans to hold onto power.

Nothing has been ruled out for consideration during the session, Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Monday.

But Fitzgerald, speaking to The Associated Press in his office, said concerns from county clerks about the cost and complications involved with moving the 2020 presidential primary date has raised alarms. That could jeopardize the idea that was one of many floated by Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and others for the lame duck session.

Anything approved by the Legislature then could be signed into law by Republican Gov. Scott Walker before Evers replaces him on Jan. 7.

The Senate also was considering returning to vote on a tax incentive bill to keep consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark Corp. from closing a plant that employs about 390 people near Appleton. Republicans don’t have the votes to pass it, and Fitzgerald said Monday he didn’t know yet whether there were enough votes to pass the bill.

Walker said earlier this month that failing by the end of this week to pass the incentives, worth tens of millions of dollars, will mean that Kimberly-Clark will close the Cold Spring plant in Fox Crossing and the jobs will be lost. The Assembly passed the measure, but it’s stalled in the Senate and there are no signs since a public hearing on the measure on Nov. 14 that it’s going to be revived.

Wisconsin’s presidential primary in 2020 is currently on the same date as a spring election where a Walker-appointed Supreme Court justice is up for election. Democratic turnout is expected to be higher than Republican turnout in the presidential primary, so moving that election to March would increase the odds for Justice Dan Kelly to win in April.

Last week, 34 county clerks issued a joint statement saying there wasn’t enough time to squeeze in a new March election, at a cost of millions of dollars, in between elections already required in February and April.

Fitzgerald said opposition from the clerks was a concern and something senators would talk about when they meet on Tuesday. But he declined to say that idea, or any other, was out of consideration.

Republicans are also talking about limiting the governor’s authority over enacting state agency rules; enshrining rules related to the state’s voter photo ID law to make it more difficult to change; and making it more difficult for the governor to block a work requirement for Medicaid recipients, which the federal government recently approved.

Evers said last week that he may try to withdraw the waiver request from the federal government that gave Wisconsin the go-ahead to proceed with the work requirement. Implementing that new requirement, which Walker and Republicans wanted, was expected to take about a year.

Other potential changes include adding more legislative appointees to the state Building Commission and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation board, the public-private hybrid agency in charge of job creation that Evers has vowed to replace. Evers wants to return to the old Department of Commerce model that was a state agency, not partly private like WEDC.

Walker has voiced support for moving the election date and making other, unspecific changes in the lame duck session.

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