Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, speaks during a campaign rally at Weldall Manufacturing Inc., in Waukesha, Wisconsin on Nov. 5, 2018.
Outgoing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, signed into law a sweeping set of bills on Friday passed by the lame-duck GOP-controlled legislature to limit the powers of the incoming Democratic administration
Critics charged that the changes dilute the authority of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general, and will restrict early voting. Walker dismissed complaints that he was turning aside the will of voters in last month's election and said not to believe what he called the “hype and hysteria” about the measures.
"The overwhelming executive of authority I have as governor today will remain constant with the next governor," Walker said at a Friday news conference.
Walker is in his final weeks as governor after losing a bid for a third term to Gov.-elect Tony Evers, the state schools superintendent. Evers called the lame-duck bills a "hot mess" earlier this month and called on Walker to veto the legislation.
Democrats and political experts have excoriated the move by Republicans, calling it an appalling partisan power grab with worrisome implications. Protesters have descended on the state capitol to condemn the efforts.
Among other changes, the bills would prevent the governor from scrapping the state's Medicaid work requirements and hamper his ability to withdraw Wisconsin from lawsuits like the one challenging the Affordable Care Act, as well. Both Evers and Democratic Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul campaigned on withdrawing Wisconsin from a multistate lawsuit that seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
It also limits gubernatorial appointments to an economic board, and require legislative sign-off for the governor to make changes to certain programs and for the attorney general to settle certain lawsuits.
The bill would also limit early voting in the state after a previous attempt to cut early voting was found unconstitutional in federal court, so the legislature is trying again with a slightly more expansive approach.
Earlier this month, Evers said that while calling the move a "coup" might be "strong," he agreed with Democratic criticism that the effort was a direct response to Republicans losing top statewide offices. He argued that the legislature wouldn't be pushing these laws if Walker had won re-election.
Walker said on Friday that the gubernatorial appointments to the state's economic board were limited because he believes it should not be a partisan position. He also said that the early voting component was to bring uniformity to the process , rather than to restrict voters.
Republican lawmakers have also brushed aside criticism, arguing that the legislature simply wants to correct the balance of power in the state government.
A similar effort is occurring in Michigan, where Republican lawmakers are also scrambling to limit the power of state executives before Democrats are sworn in as governor and secretary of state.