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Evers names transition team as GOP eyes limiting power

By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers named his transition team Monday, as Republicans who control the Legislature continued to privately discuss ways to protect laws they passed and curtail the new governor’s power before he takes office in January.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos cast a defiant tone Monday after being unanimously re-elected to his leadership position by fellow Republicans.

“While Gov. Evers had a win on Tuesday, he certainly did not get a mandate,” Vos said. “We are not going to roll over and play dead like they assume we probably should.”

Democrats, who will return in the minority in the Legislature next year, are researching how far Republicans could go to kneecap Evers, including whether they could attempt to remove the governor from the process of redrawing political boundary lines in 2021.

Evers has kept a low profile since his 1-point win over Republican Gov. Scott Walker last week, making only one brief public appearance. But he decried GOP attempts to limit his powers as governor, saying it raises concerns over the separation of powers.

Republicans who control the Legislature have been having private discussions about how they can curtail the powers of the governor’s office. Publicly, Republican legislative leaders have said they might limit Evers’ power to make appointments to the state economic development agency and other boards; put administrative rules governing the state’s voter photo ID requirement into law, thereby making it more difficult to change; limit the governor’s authority over the rule-making process; and prevent Evers from stopping federal waivers sought by Walker and the Legislature to force childless adult Medicaid recipients to work to receive benefits.

Vos told reporters Monday his goal was to protect laws Republicans enacted in recent years, such as voter ID and the Foxconn Technology Group project, from interference by Evers.

“I don’t want him to be able to walk in on day one and with the stroke of a pen undo things that the vast majority of the public supports and the Legislature and the governor signed into law,” Vos said.

Democrats met with nonpartisan attorneys for the Legislature last week to ask just how far Republicans could go to take away powers from the governor’s office. Specifically, they asked whether the governor could be removed from the process of redistricting, the process of drawing political boundary lines following the 2020 census.

The Legislative Reference Bureau, in a memo to Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, said somehow enacting a redistricting plan without passing a bill the governor signs would be unconstitutional. Vos said Republicans weren’t looking at changes to redistricting.

Assembly Republicans on Monday voted unanimously to re-elect Vos as speaker, the post he’s held for six years. Republicans return with a 63-36 majority, down only one seat from last session.

Also Monday, Evers announced that his campaign manager Maggie Gau will serve as his first chief of staff, a move that is commonly made following a successful run for governor. Gau, from Wausau, formerly worked as chief of staff for Democratic state lawmakers Chris Taylor, of Madison, and Janis Ringhand, of Evansville.

Evers’ transition team will be led by JoAnne Anton. She worked for more than 20 years for former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl and is the director of charitable giving for Herb Kohl Philanthropies.

Other members of the transition team are former University of Wisconsin board of regents President Chuck Pruitt; Marinette Marine President and CEO Jan Allman; Exact Sciences Chairman and CEO Kevin Conroy; Genesis Health Consulting CEO Dr. Veronica Gunn; and former middle school Teacher of the Year Amy Traynor, who works as an instructional coach for the Eau Claire school district.

The Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget committee prepared to vote Tuesday on a request from Evers for nearly $95,000 to pay for expenses related to the transition.

Evers, a former teacher and school superintendent, has served as Wisconsin state schools superintendent since 2009. He does not plan to resign that position until after he is sworn in, spokeswoman Britt Cudaback said. That will give Evers, rather than Walker, the power to appoint a successor.

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