Legislature has a full plate for the holidays
This week the Wisconsin Legislature will begin an extraordinary session as its final act before a new Legislature takes its place next year. The political backdrop of this session is that while the Republicans will retain firm control of both houses of the Legislature next year, the voters elected Democrats to every statewide office. An era of divided government is about to begin.
In anticipation of this new era, Republican leaders in the Legislature have introduced a slew of proposals designed to secure the successes of the past few years and put some protections in place to safeguard the state from overreaches from the Executive Branch. The proposals run the gamut from simply codifying rules that are already in place, absorbing recent court rulings into statute, pulling power back into the legislative branch and changing how elections work. A few of the proposals are more interesting than the rest.
Earlier this year, a United States Supreme Court ruling allowed states to collect sales taxes on internet purchases. Under law, the state is required to collect the tax, but to offset the tax increase by reducing the state income tax by an equal amount. This would keep the aggregate tax burden on Wisconsinites constant. One of the proposals would clean up the process for making this happen and accelerate the potential income tax decrease into 2019 instead of 2020. This makes it take effect in line with both years of the state’s biennial budget. The Legislature should absolutely pass this proposal.
In another proposal, the state would create a standalone presidential primary and move it earlier in the year. The reasons are twofold. First, by moving the presidential primary earlier in the election cycle, it makes Wisconsin more relevant in that process. Second, by creating a standalone election for the presidential primary, it prevents non-partisan state and local elections on the April ballot from being overwhelmed by the partisan presidential primary. The Legislature should pass this change.
The actual reason for the extraordinary session is to pass an aid package to encourage Kimberly-Clark to keep their factories, and the jobs that go with them, open in Wisconsin. For all of the reasons I outlined in a column in this space in July, the Legislature should not pass this proposal.
One proposal would require that the Legislature be included in defending the laws it writes if those laws are challenged as unconstitutional. In recent years, liberals have adopted the tactic of suing the state over every law Republicans passed by claiming that the law is somehow unconstitutional, and then shopping for a friendly radical liberal judge to issue an injunction. It is the job of the state attorney general to defend the state in such actions, but the incoming attorney general, Josh Kaul, is an acolyte of Eric Holder and has made no secret about the fact that he will use his office as a weapon to advance the radical liberal agenda. This proposal would ensure that the state’s laws are adequately defended against legal challenges and should certainly be passed.
Yet another proposal would prohibit a person from serving in an appointed position if the state Senate had rejected their appointment during the confirmation process. It would seem common sense that this is already the case, but it is not. Under law, the governor can appoint a person, the senate can reject that appointment and the governor can keep the person in the job indefinitely in a provisional capacity. This proposal would make it clear that once an appointee is rejected, they may no longer stay in the job. This should be passed.
Several other proposals codify which IDs are acceptable for voting, ensures that people will be required to remain sober in order to obtain welfare, writes into law rules that prevent illegal aliens from getting a Wisconsin driver’s license, provides legislative oversight when the state seeks federal approvals or waivers, requires state agencies to periodically report their spending to the Legislature, oblige the Department of Corrections to provide the Legislature a report on who is pardoned, make it easier for overseas citizens to vote and other relatively mundane things.
While every proposal must be evaluated on its own merits, almost every one of the proposals should be passed by the Legislature and signed into law by outgoing Gov. Scott Walker. The conservative revolution in Wisconsin has come to an end. Now it is time for Republicans to protect the gains we made.
Owen B. Robinson is a West Bend resident. He can be reached at owen@boots andsabers.com.