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Ben Wikler @benwikler
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Flight booked. Madison, see you tomorrow.
And here we go.
All I want for Christmas is my democracy back. #WIpowergrab
Resistance caroling in Capitol rotunda from, I’m guessing, @SolidaritySing vs the #WIpowergrab
Which box to check? Ah yes, the pro-democracy one.
The room where it’s gonna happen. All seats are now filled in or reserved in the Joint Finance Committee hearing room for the #WIPowerGrab testimony, and they’re already moving folks into the second overflow room.
GOP press conference re their power grab attempt to kneecap the incoming Gov and AG. Their message literally provoking laughs in the room: “We’re trying to restore the balance of powers in the Wisconsin state government.”
“I’m a little surprised by the reaction” to the #WIpowergrab says @SenFitzgerald (who doesn’t call it a power grab)
Republican Senate leader @SenFitzgerald: “People ate outraged. I’m not sure where that’s coming from right now.” GIVE ME A BREAK.
Robin Vos, leader of the Republican Assembly in which gerrymandering meant 45% of the vote netted 63% of the seats, tells press that the power grab bills are needed because “the legislature is the most representative of the people.”
I’m still agog at the moment when Senate leader Fitzgerald said early voting laws must be changed because people in his area are sick of seeing footage of people early-voting in Milwaukee when their own clerks’ offices are closed. The solution should be *expanding* early votes.
Fitzgerald says they still have a little to do to “get Senators comfortable” with all the proposals. Particularly changing the presidential primary date. Public: your job is to not let anyone get comfortable with these bills.
Fitzgerald saying they’re tweaking the early vote cuts to avoid being defeated again in court. Refuses to explain how. Press conference ends suddenly.
Activists snuck into the GOP’s press conference. The second it ended, they started chanting “Stop this coup! Respect our votes!”
MoveOn text hitting thousands of members’ phones in Wisconsin now, including mine:

TOMORROW, WI GOP will try to severely restrict new Dem Gov., Lt. Gov. & AG. Tell your State Sen. to oppose power grab & attack on voting: (844) 686-8631
Voters furious, chanting outside of hearing room here at Wisconsin state capitol: “RESPECT OUR VOTES! PROTECT OUR VOTES!”
Here in Joint Finance Committee hearing room, you can hear the very angry crowd chanting outside.
Chair announces public hearing will be adjourned at 9:30pm tonight. So 7.5h hearing, from now forward. 2 minutes per citizen testifying. Dems raising objections.
Robin Vos, the WI state assembly leader, refusing to testify on his own bills. This means the author won’t be present to answer questions of intent. Meanwhile, crowd outside thumping on door and chanting “SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!”
Chair explicitly clears something up: this isn’t a one minute hearing, as some incorrectly inferred from the legislative calendar. It’ll go for hours.
Rep. Chris Taylor asks the legislative reference bureau what income levels would benefit from the tax cut buried in the #GOPPowerGrab bills. Answer: couples with incomes over $200k/year. Audible gasp in room.
So along w everything else, the #WIpowergrab means a $60m reduction in tax revenue per year, to send money to families earning >$200k.
Another provision of the #WIpowergrab: restrict federal highway funds to a narrower set of state projects, so that federal prevailing wage and environmental protections don’t apply to more WI road projects. “So this is an attack on worker’s wages,” says @RepShankland
@JonErpenbach (D) speaking now, asking if the #WIPowerGrab would result in fewer projects getting done l—in a state where road conditions are an atrocity. (See: “Scottholes,” named for Scott Walker.) Answer: “possibly, and certainly there’s less flexibility with federal funds.”
GOP Rep John Nygren (@Rep89), chairing the hearing, keeps threatening to clear the room whenever observers make noise. He’s had security toss out two people so far who’ve reacted too loudly to the ludicrous GOP claims. They’ve been greeted as heroes by protesters in hallway.
@JonErpenbach asking a series of questions driving at a stunning point. The GOP #WIpowergrab would allow legislative leaders to hire lawyers using taxpayer funds to defend themselves vs ethics charges—& sounds like scope of fees & services could be exempt from open records laws.
In fact, @JonErpenbach is pointing out, under @WIpowergrab laws, the GOP state legislature could hire unlimited private lawyers to conduct work, in confidence protected by attorney-client privilege. They could even get office space in the Capitol. A secret, outsourced government.
If the #WIPowerGrab passes, the Republican state legislative leaders could, in any case involving the constitutionality of a state law, kick out the (Dem) attorney general and hire private attorneys at taxpayer expense to try the case their way.
It's alarming that private law firms, accountable only to Republican legislative leaders instead of anyone elected statewide, could argue cases in court to supposedly represent the interests of the people of the state. It's alarming. It's wrong. – @ChrisTaylor4WI
Once again, a GOP lawmaker just argued that rural folks are sick & tired of people voting in Milwaukee when their small-town clerks' offices aren't open. Then he caught himself and insisted it "wasn't about race," just that small communities lack resources
For the GOP, this is used as a justification for rolling back early votes in cities like Milwaukee and Madison. But as @JonErpenbach immediately interjected, this is actually an argument for providing more resources to allow full early voting statewide. Room = sea of jazz hands.
More on the jazz hands situation here in this mini-thread:
Discussion now re GOP proposal to move WI presidential primary to March, so it's not on same date as Supreme Court election. This would cost ~$7 million and create giant headaches for county clerks. Why do it? To help elect conservative Supreme Court justice via low turnout.
This thinking is *explicit.*

“Certainly there’s many people that think that Justice Kelly would have a better chance if there’s not really this competitive Democrat primary for president” – actual quote from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.…
Hearing is now explaining the GOP's terrible health care elements. I could sit here and live-tweet and stew. But instead, I'm going to head out and help set up the protest, which starts in 45 minutes. If you're in WI and can come to State St steps of Capitol early, come and help!
NEW: Statement from governor-elect Tony Evers just distributed to the press. “The legislation before you today and the spirit of this extraordinary session are unfettered attempts to override and ignore what the people of Wisconsin asked for this November.”
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