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GOP Senate leader: Nothing ruled out for lame duck session

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Nothing has been ruled out for consideration during a lame duck legislative session next month before Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers takes office, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said on Monday.

But Fitzgerald, speaking to The Associated Press in his office, said alarms have been sounded by the concerns that county clerks have raised about the cost and complications that would be incurred if the date of the 2020 presidential primary were moved.

Any bill approved by the Legislature in a so-called lame-duck session later this year then could be signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker before Evers takes office on Jan. 7.

The Senate also was considering returning to vote on a tax-incentive bill to keep the consumer-products giant Kimberly-Clark Corp. from closing a plant that employs about 390 people near Appleton. Republicans haven’t got the votes to pass it, and Fitzgerald said Monday he didn’t know yet whether there were enough votes to pass such a bill.

Walker said earlier this month that failing to pass the incentives, worth tens of millions of dollars, by the end of this week will mean that Kimberly-Clark will close the Cold Spring plant in Fox Crossing and the jobs will be lost. The Assembly passed the proposal, but it’s now stalled in the Senate and there are no signs since a public hearing on the measure on Nov. 14 that it’s going to be revived.

Senate Republicans were scheduled to meet privately on Tuesday to discuss the Kimberly-Clark bill and other measures they want to support in the lame-duck session.

Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential primary is now scheduled for the same date as a spring election in which a Walker-appointed Supreme Court justice is up for election. Democratic turnout is expected to be higher than Republican turnout in the presidential primary, so moving that election to March would increase the odds that Justice Dan Kelly will win in April.

Last week, 34 county clerks issued a joint statement saying there wasn’t enough time to squeeze in a new election in March, at a cost of millions of dollars, in between elections already required in February and April.

Fitzgerald said opposition from the clerks was a concern and something senators would talk about when they meet on Tuesday. But he declined to say that idea, or any other, was out of consideration.

Republicans are also talking about limiting the governor’s authority over enacting state-agency rules; enshrining rules related to the state’s voter photo ID law to make them more difficult to change; and making it more difficult for the governor to block a work requirement for Medicaid recipients, which the federal government recently approved.

Evers said last week that he may try to withdraw the state’s request for a federal waiver giving Wisconsin permission to proceed with the work requirement. Carrying out that new requirement, which Walker and Republicans wanted, was expected to take about a year.

Republicans have also called for adding more legislative appointees to the state Building Commission and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation board. Evers wants to return to having something like the old Department of Commerce, which was a state agency, not partly private organization like the WEDC.

Both Senate and Assembly Republicans were scheduled to meet separately on Tuesday. Fitzgerald, who was back at the Capitol after having his appendix removed two weeks ago, said he was also scheduled to meet with Walker on Tuesday.

Walker has voiced support for moving the election date and making other, unspecific changes in the lame-duck session.

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