The Latest: GOP speaker defends Wisconsin lame-duck bills

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Latest on Wisconsin Republican lawmakers moving to limit the powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general (all times local):

3:35 p.m.

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and his Republican colleagues are defending lame-duck legislation that would weaken incoming Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Democratic Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul.

They say the bills ensure the Legislature will be equal to the governor. Republican lawmakers were set to vote Tuesday on the legislation.

Vos said during a news conference before the Assembly took the floor that the GOP wants to make sure Evers doesn’t erase achievements Republicans have made over the last eight years with Gov. Scott Walker in office.

Vos added that his constituents want him to protect Republican ideas. He says the Legislature must be considered a co-equal branch of state government.

He said that he, Senate Majority Scott Fitzgerald and Walker had discussed limiting the governor’s power this spring. He made the same assertion during a news conference Monday.

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3:25 p.m.

Members of the public are being allowed to return to the Wisconsin Senate gallery after being removed for ignoring warnings to remain quiet.

Republican Senate President Roger Roth ordered the galleries cleared shortly after debate began Tuesday. That led to an outburst of anger and shouts of “Shame!” from those forced to leave.

After about a 40-minute break, Roth said leaders from both parties agreed to let the public back in with the understanding that those being disruptive would be removed and everyone could be kicked out if there are repeated problems.

The Senate is debating lame-duck measures taking power away from the Democratic-elect governor and attorney general.

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2:45 p.m.

Republican Wisconsin Senate President Roger Roth ordered the public to be removed from Senate galleries, minutes after the start of a lame-duck session to weaken incoming Democratic office holders.

The public erupted into shouts of “Shame!” and “Whose house? Our house!” after the order for police to clear the galleries. Roth says he was ordering the public removed for not heeding repeated warnings to remain quiet during debate.

The state Senate is meeting Tuesday in an unusual lame-duck session to consider sweeping proposals that would weaken incoming Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul.

The disruption brought Senate debate to a halt as people slowly left and shouted down at the senators.

2:30 p.m.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is criticizing protesters who jeered him during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

The protesters took aim at Walker as Republican legislators prepare to vote on several proposals aimed at weakening Walker’s incoming Democratic successor. Walker supports the measures.

Some of their shouts and songs drowned out a high school choir that was performing during the ceremony.

Walker tweeted that he “can handle the shouts, but leave the kids alone.”

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2:10 p.m.

Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers is ripping Republican Gov. Scott Walker for “jamming” through scores of last-minute appointees in a lame-duck legislative session.

Republicans planned to vote Tuesday on legislation that would limit Evers’ powers as well as restrict incoming Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul. The Senate is also slated to confirm about 75 Walker appointees, including two new members of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents.

Evers sent Walker a letter on Tuesday complaining that the appointees haven’t been fully vetted and that some haven’t filed statements of economic interest. He asked Walker to withdraw the names to allow ample time for review.

Walker spokeswoman Amy Hasenberg didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

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12:55 p.m.

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker elicited boos and howls of protest as he threw the switch lighting the state Christmas tree.

Walker presided over the ceremony in the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda on Tuesday. It came as Republican lawmakers prepared to vote on lame-duck session measures to weaken powers of the incoming Democratic governor.

Protesters held signs that read “Stop the GOP Madness” and “All I Want for Christmas is Democracy” as Walker attended the ceremony. A high school choir singing Christmas carols was largely drowned out by protesters outside the Senate chamber singing their own anti-Walker tunes.

As the ceremony ended, protesters chanted and yelled, “Hey Walker, go home!”

Walker left without taking questions.

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12:45 p.m.

Former Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle says the state’s Legislature “is sinking to new depths” as Republicans attempt to weaken the powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.

Doyle spoke Tuesday as Republicans prepared to take action on a number of bills to strip key powers of Gov.-elect Tony Evers and new Attorney General Josh Kaul.

Doyle was governor from 2003 to 2011.

He compared the transitions he had with Republican opponents he defeated to become attorney general and then governor and says what’s happening in Wisconsin “is completely different.”

He says former Republican Gov. Scott McCallum was “nothing but gracious and open and accepting” when Doyle defeated him in 2002.

He slammed the GOP proposals now as “unconstitutional violations of separations of powers.”

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12:05 p.m.

Democrats in the Wisconsin Assembly are branding a Republican lame-duck session as “illegitimate” and are eschewing debate limits, setting up a potential filibuster.

Republicans are expected to vote Tuesday on bills that would weaken Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Democratic Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul.

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz told reporters before lawmakers took the floor that the legislation is a power-grab that ignores the will of voters who elected Evers and Kaul.

Democrats and Republicans traditionally agree on time limits for debates, but Hintz said no agreement was reached for this debate. He says the session is “illegitimate” and there will be no rules. He declined to elaborate.

Assembly Democrats filibustered for 60 straight hours in 2011 in a vain attempt to stop Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining restrictions.

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11:40 a.m.

Eight former leaders of Wisconsin’s economic development agency who served under both Republicans and Democrats are speaking out against changes proposed in a lame-duck legislative session.

The former directors issued a statement Tuesday as the Republican-controlled Legislature prepared to pass a proposal weakening the governor’s control over the state economic development agency.

The proposal would give the majority party in the Legislature more appointments than the governor to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Two of the eight people who signed the statement were appointed by outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker. A third served under former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson.

The other five served under former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.

Incoming Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers has said he wants to reorganize the job-creation agency.

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11:05 a.m.

Wisconsin’s incoming Democratic attorney general is predicting multiple lawsuits challenging Republican lame-duck legislation limiting the powers of both his office and Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers.

Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul told reporters Tuesday that the legislation undermines the will of voters who elected him and Evers.

He says the legislation is “virtually certain” to generate lawsuits across multiple courts. He says the state will be mired in litigation next year.

The legislation would allow legislators to replace the attorney general with outside attorneys in cases, require lawmakers to sign off on settlements, send settlement dollars to the state general fund and prohibit the governor from authorizing the attorney general to withdraw from lawsuits.

Kaul says that’s designed to prevent Evers from ordering him to withdraw from a multi-state lawsuit challenging federal health care laws.

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1:29 a.m.

Wisconsin Republicans are planning dramatic lame-duck votes in the state Legislature on a sweeping attempt to limit the powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.

Opponents decried the moves as a last-gasp power grab and an attempt to invalidate the election where Republican Gov. Scott Walker was defeated.

Once approved by the Legislature on Tuesday, the measures would head to Walker for his signature just five weeks before he is replaced by Democrat Tony Evers.

A Republican-controlled committee voted to approve the bills around midnight Monday, following a nine-hour public hearing where all but one person spoke against the measures.

A proposal to move the 2020 presidential primary election from April to March appears to be dead after the committee did not vote to advance it.

Associated Press

Associated Press

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