Protesters chant at state Capitol as GOP aims to restrict incoming Democrats’ powers

Protesters removed from hearing
Protesters chant at state Capitol as GOP aims to restrict incoming Democrats’ powers
Several overflow rooms are accomodating people protesting and waiting to testify before the state's Joint Committee on Finance.

Monday will likely be a long night at the state Capitol, as lawmakers debate, protesters chant and Republicans aim to take power away from incoming Democrats.

“The No. 1 priority for us is to make sure that we restore the balance of powers between the two co-equal branches of government. We want to ensure that the new administration doesn’t try to work around the legislature and rule from the east wing,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told reporters Monday afternoon.

Two overflow rooms have been set up at the Capitol to watch the Joint Committee on Finance public hearing. This is one of them. #news3

— Rose Schmidt (@RoseSchmidtTV) December 3, 2018

The fourth floor of the state Capitol was filled with people waiting to testify Monday in front of the state’s budget committee, Joint Committee on Finance. The hearing room and several overflow rooms filled up quickly.

At least two protesters were removed from that public hearing by Capitol police, under the orders of committee co-chair Rep. John Nygren. Outside the room, they chanted “respect our votes” and banged on the doors.

“Any disruptions and I have the ability to clear the room,” Nygren said.

People outside Joint Committee on Finance chant “Respect our votes.” #news3

— Rose Schmidt (@RoseSchmidtTV) December 3, 2018

Lawmakers are scheduled to take up six proposals as part of a lame-duck session. The GOP bills would take away powers from Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul before they take office.

“I’m concerned. I think that Gov.-elect Evers is going to bring a liberal agenda to Wisconsin,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told reporters.

Democratic Rep. Chris Taylor told lawmakers during the hearing, “This is unprecedented, what is happening here today.”

“Ever in the history of the state of Wisconsin, has there been an extraordinary session convened to take away the powers of a newly elected governor and a newly elected attorney general?” Taylor asked.

Democratic Rep. @ChrisTaylorWI asks JFC committee if there has ever been an extraordinary session that would restrict the powers of the incoming governor and attorney general. “This is unprecedented, what is happening here today,” Taylor says. #news3

— Rose Schmidt (@RoseSchmidtTV) December 3, 2018

The last time there was a lame-duck session was in 2010 when Democrats tried to pass union contracts before Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans took control of the statehouse and Legislature.

Nygren made it clear that lawmakers on the committee could only ask questions, not give statements, and responded to Taylor’s comments.

“We’ve already addressed the fact that the session post-election is not unprecedented because it happened eight years ago,” Nygren said. Fitzgerald told reporters he is still working to find the votes in the Senate on some of the proposals the state’s budget committee planned to hear Monday, particularly one that would change the date of the 2020 presidential primary from April to March and cut early voting in Wisconsin by a week.

State election officials have said that plan would cost taxpayers at least $7 million. Changing the election date would mean holding three elections within three months in 2020, something clerks around the state have said might be “impossible.”

The Joint Committee on Finance plans to cut off public testimony on the six bills at 9:30 p.m. Monday. After that, the committee will take a vote on the bills. The state Assembly and Senate plan to take them up on Tuesday.

Members of Joint Committee on Finance say they will hear public testimony on the lame-duck session bills until 9:30 p.m. at the latest tonight. #news3

— Rose Schmidt (@RoseSchmidtTV) December 3, 2018

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