Politics, it’s been noted famously, isn’t bean bag. It can be cutthroat and often feeds into the worst instincts of lawmakers elected to fulfill the will of the people.
Unfortunately, the citizenry of several states are witnessing the misguided actions of their elected officials right now. Faced with prospect of reduced power in their respective state capitals due to losses at the ballot box in November, Republicans in Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina are trying to ram through policies during lame duck sessions that will hurt their constituents but will score them points with the donor class.
In Wisconsin, for example, GOP legislators – faced with the loss of Scott Walker in the governor’s mansion and other statewide party losses – are throwing a temper tantrum by voting to scale back the authority of incoming Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul.
Statehouse Republicans worked through the night Tuesday into early Wednesday to pass legislation that would weaken the governor’s ability to put in place rules that enact laws and shield the state jobs agency from his control. It would also reduce early voting in the state and reduce his oversite on health care implementation in the state.
Another bill would also reduce the AGs power by requiring a legislative committee, rather than the AG, to sign off on withdrawing from federal lawsuits. That would halt the efforts of Evers and Kaul to withdraw Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit seeking the repeal of Obamacare.
The actions of the Michigan Legislature, meanwhile, are no less cowardly. There, lawmakers decided to usurp the will of the people by approving two bills that curb citizen-initiated efforts to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour and require employers to offer paid sick leave to their workers.
The move is particularly galling because it was Republicans who rushed to implement legislation in September to avoid having the public vote on the issues on the November ballot. The Legislature approved measures that raised Michigan’s minimum wage from $9.25 an hour to $12 by 2022 for most workers and by 2024 for tipped restaurant employees. The paid sick leave law, meanwhile, mandated employers provide up to 72 hours a year of earned sick leave and provide legal protections for workers who took their earned time.
Under the changes pushed by the GOP, the $12 minimum wage won’t be implemented until 2030 for most workers, and never for tipped employees. They will be capped at $4 an hour, up just 48 cents from what they earn now. Similarly, the paid sick day requirement would be slashed to four days a year, plus one hour of additional sick time for every 40 hours worked.
They are also going after incoming Democratic officials. One Republican proposal would guarantee the GOP-controlled Legislature the right to intervene in any legal battles involving state laws that the attorney general may be reluctant to defend.
And in North Carolina, with Republicans about to lose their veto-proof grip on the Statehouse there, GOP lawmakers are rushing to implement voter suppression legislation that would hinder the ability of many disadvantaged state residents to vote.
This is not how government is supposed to work. Lawmakers shouldn’t be forcing through punitive bills at the last moment just because they are losing power and don’t like those who won. It’s even more vile that they are allowed to curb the power of incoming elected officials.
Elections are supposed to have consequences. But the actions of these three legislatures show otherwise. It just reinforces the beliefs of those who say they’re vote doesn’t really matter. And that is not good for democracy.