December 11, 2018 / 9:37 PM / a month ago

Wisconsin governor signals he will sign bills weakening Democrats

FILE PHOTO: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

(Reuters) - Outgoing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Tuesday praised a series of last-minute bills passed by his fellow Republicans that will curb the powers of his Democratic successor, the clearest indication yet he intends to sign them into law before leaving office.

Walker, who lost his bid for re-election in November’s elections, argued in a Facebook post that his office would remain among the most powerful governorships in the country even if he approves the new legislation, although he stopped short of explicitly promising to do so.

Democrats reacted with outrage after the Republican-led legislature called a rare lame-duck session last week and pushed through a raft of bills that would weaken incoming Democratic Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul. They will be sworn in next month after their election victories broke eight years of complete Republican control in Wisconsin.

Republicans in Michigan, where Democrats also won the governor’s office and several other statewide offices in November, are engaged in a similar effort before they cede total control in January. In remarks to reporters on Tuesday, outgoing Republican Governor Rick Snyder did not say whether he would sign those bills, according to local media.

The bills in Wisconsin would prevent Evers and Kaul from fulfilling campaign promises to withdraw the state from a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. They would also limit Evers’ ability to install rules that enact certain state laws and would allow legislators to sidestep the attorney general by intervening directly in litigation involving the state.

Evers, who has suggested he will consider lawsuits to challenge the new legislation, has called on Walker to veto the measures. Former Republican Governor Scott McCallum told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel over the weekend that Walker should not sign the legislation.

But Walker said on Facebook that the legislation would increase accountability and maintain a system of checks and balances.

“Let’s set the record straight - the new governor will still have some of the strongest powers of any governor in the nation if these bills become law,” he said, noting that Evers would exercise one of the most sweeping line-item veto authorities in the country.

Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney

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