Wisconsin assembly to take up health care, roads, primary in lame duck session

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Republicans’ plan for a lame-duck legislative session solidified Friday as GOP leaders confirmed they will consider bills that would move the next presidential primary date as well as deal with transportation funding and early voting.

The GOP aims to hold floor debates Tuesday, which would give Republicans a final opportunity to pass legislation before Republican Gov. Scott Walker leaves office.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald circulated paper ballots to their chambers’ leadership committees asking for a vote to authorize the session. The ballots included vague, one-sentence descriptions of six bills on the chamber’s agenda.

The most contentious bill is a proposal to move the 2020 presidential primary from April to March. Republicans have acknowledged the shift is a purely political tactic; conservative state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, a Walker appointee, will be on the April ballot and Republicans fear a Democratic wave could cost him his job. They’ve said decoupling Kelly’s race from the primary could help him.

The bill would create three elections in three months: the February state primary, the March presidential primary and the April state general election. Local clerks have balked at the plan, saying it’s logistically impossible to administer so many contests in such a short period of time.

Another bill on the agenda relates to spending federal transportation dollars. Road funding has been another sore spot for the GOP. Assembly Republicans want to raise the gas tax to pump more money into road construction, but Walker has steadfastly resisted their efforts. The ballot description offers no details of the proposal.

The bill also deals with individual income cuts, but the description contains no details on that, either.

Other bills focus on early and overseas voting and federal waivers allowing work requirements for government benefits. Proposed legislation also looks at the composition of state agencies and agencies’ processes for adopting administrative rules, which are regulations that have the force of law. No further details were immediately available on the measures.

The last bill would guarantee health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. The Assembly passed the bill in 2017, but it died in the Senate. The federal Affordable Care Act already guarantees such coverage and debate over the coverage hurt Walker’s re-election bid. Walker said he favored coverage for pre-existing conditions even though he authorized Attorney General Brad Schimel to join a lawsuit challenging the federal health care law.