Commentary: Strange things going on in Madison after election
By Gene Kemmeter
What is going on in Wisconsin politics? For years the state had been known for its clean government, without the corruptions and scandals of some neighboring states where public funds were squandered or lost, or some dirty deeds occurred.
Wisconsin voters elected Tony Evers governor Tuesday, Nov. 6, ending the eight years of governing by Scott Walker as the state recorded the largest turnout ever in a non-presidential election. The victory was by a margin greater than allowed for a recount in legislation passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature and Walker a few years ago.
After the victory, Republican leaders in the Legislature called for a special legislative session before Evers becomes governor in January so they can revise legislation passed during the Walker-era that would diminish the governor’s powers before he takes office.
Legislative leaders said they might formalize some rules related to Wisconsin’s voter ID law, limit moves to change the makeup of some state boards, reconsider the governor’s authority over the process of enacting rules designed to carry out laws the Legislature passes and changing the rules that people on welfare don’t have to work.
Before candidates in a local election can take out nomination papers for an office, by law governments must set the salary schedule for a position for the next term of office, guaranteeing all candidates would receive the same benefits. One would think that law would apply to all functions of that office so the government wouldn’t be able to change the duties of the office after a person is elected.
However, changes have been made in the state of North Carolina where Republicans changed a law limiting the number of appointments that the Democratic governor-elect could make once he took office.
Wisconsin legislators may also look at a state law regarding the election of a state Supreme Court justice in the 2020 election. The justices are elected to 10-year terms, and an election to fill the position now held by Justice Daniel Kelly is scheduled to be held in April 2020.
Republicans are concerned because the Supreme Court race will be held in conjunction with the Wisconsin presidential primary when Democratic turnout is expected to be greater than Republican turnout because voters will probably be nominating a candidate to challenge President Donald Trump.
The election schedule in 2020 calls for a primary for state and local elections in February, a Presidential primary and election for state and local elections in April, and the general election for state and national offices in November. Republicans are mulling the addition of a fourth election, possibly in March for the non-partisan justice position, which would cost state and local officials millions of dollars.
A justice election has coincided with the presidential primary election every four years in the past. Have Wisconsin politicians become so polarized with the voters that they can’t trust them to select a qualified individual on their own? Or do they specifically want an election to be held at an offbeat time so fewer voters will turn out?