Rep. Murphy defends legislation that weakens incoming Dems
Opponents call special session a power grab
By Scott Bellile
Rep. David Murphy, R-Greenville, defended Republican lawmakers’ passage of controversial legislation that would weaken the powers of Wisconsin’s incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.
“We had a rare opportunity to make government more accountable to the people, and it would have been irresponsible to pass it up,” the representative for Wisconsin’s 56th Assembly District said in a statement issued Wednesday, Dec. 5.
Murphy stated the “common sense reforms” he supported keep power in the hands of the people and do not remove power from anyone.
“The real powers of the governor and attorney general exist in the state constitution and are not up for discussion,” Murphy stated. “Unlike what you may have heard elsewhere, the changes I support are not about limiting the powers of anyone, they are common sense reforms to make government more transparent and responsive to the public.”
The GOP-controlled state legislature approved the bills early Wednesday, Dec. 5, following an all-night special session. The bills now await outgoing Gov. Scott Walker’s signature.
One of the limitations imposed upon Gov.-elect Tony Evers is lawmakers, not the governor, would hold the majority of appointments to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s governing board. Evers has considered dissolving this workforce agency altogether.
Another restriction is Evers would need permission from the legislature to seek federal waivers to change the rules for public benefit programs that are run jointly by the state and federal governments.
Evers also could not ban guns from the Wisconsin State Capitol without approval from the legislature.
Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul’s powers were weakened in legislation that would require lawmakers to approve settlements for state-involved lawsuits as well as decide how to spend court settlements.
The legislature also voted to restrict early voting to two weeks before an election. The Democratic strongholds of Milwaukee and Madison had in recent years expanded early voting opportunities, which likely helped elevate Evers and Kaul to victory last month.
No Democratic legislators supported the measures, including Amanda Stuck, D-Appleton, who represents Murphy’s neighboring 57th Assembly District.
After the vote, Stuck issued a statement calling the Republicans’ extraordinary session “anti-democratic” and a “power grab.”
Stuck stated she normally hears from constituents on both sides of the aisle when the legislature considers controversial bills.
This time, none of the nearly 100 people who contacted her expressed support for the lame-duck session, she said.
“Across the State of Wisconsin and especially in the Fox Cities, people have had enough of partisan political tricks and want their elected officials to work together to tackle the big issues impacting our state like transportation, healthcare, and education,” Stuck stated.
Evers called the legislature’s executive session a “[p]ower-hungry” act the state has never seen before.
“Wisconsin values of decency, kindness, and finding common ground were pushed aside so a handful of people could desperately usurp and cling to power while hidden away from the very people they represent,” Evers said in a statement. “Wisconsinites expect more from us and I hope at some point the Legislature will rise to the occasion and work with me to solve the pressing issues facing our state. That’s what the people of Wisconsin want, that’s what the people of Wisconsin deserve, and that’s more than what they got from government here tonight.”
Murphy, who represents the towns of Dale, Greenville, Grand Chute, Winchester and Wolf River, said his voted for the bills in his constituents’ best interests.
The area native and 1972 Hortonville High School graduate enjoys high support from the 56th Assembly District. Sixty percent of voters elected Murphy to his fourth term in November.
Murphy said the fact voters elected Democrats to the state’s executives and Republicans to the state legislature is proof that they support a split government with checks and balances.
Critics of Wisconsin’s current election maps argue Republicans gerrymandered them in their favor by packing Democrats into districts after the 2010 census.
During the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats won 54 percent of the state Assembly popular vote but only about one-third of the seats.
Democrats won 34 of their 35 Assembly seats this year either in uncontested races or by at least a 60-percent majority.
This story was corrected to state the last census occurred in 2010, not 2011.