GOP legislative leaders Thursday formally dropped their plans to come back next week to take up legislation that would have undercut a judge’s order to hold special elections in the vacant 1st SD and 42nd AD, saying it was too late now that the contests have been called.
Their announcements came after Gov. Scott Walker Thursday morning ordered the special elections, meeting the deadline imposed by a Dane County judge last week.
Dems, meanwhile, hailed the order and asked why Republicans waited so long.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said the chamber “cannot pass” the special elections bill “now that the elections are underway.” He lamented military and overseas voters potentially being unable to cast ballots in the special election “due to the Democrats’ insistence to push forward with the elections.”
Fitzgerald argued during a committee hearing Wednesday the four weeks between the primary and general for a special election was not enough time for overseas voters to receive ballots and return them. Elections Commission legal counsel Mike Haas, though, testified the average was between 12 and 14 days.
Fitzgerald said the Senate now would only come back to take up legislation that would provide tax credits to Kimberly-Clark as an incentive for the paper manufacturer to keep jobs in the Fox Valley that it now plans to cut.
“That will be contingent on the company and the union reaching a deal and whether or not there is a need for state legislation,” Fitzgerald said.
Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said without Senate passage his chamber would also not come in on the bill. He sent a formal notice to Assembly members Thursday that next week’s planned extraordinary session is canceled and the chamber has no further plans to be in session.
“I think we’re all frustrated by the idea of elections running concurrently,” Steineke said. “But the idea of stopping elections once they’ve been ordered is probably a bridge too far.”
Wednesday night, state DOJ dropped efforts to make a last minute appeal to the state Supreme Court to put off calling special elections, and Thursday morning Walker officially issued the executive order.
Dem leadership slammed Walker for leaving the seats vacant since Dec. 29, as they chalked up the guv’s attempts to delay calling special elections to fear of losing the seats.
Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, in a statement applauded the courts for ruling “that Republicans can’t ignore the law.”
Meanwhile, Assembly Dem leader Gordon Hintz said the guv’s effort to push back the timeline to call the elections “show just how intimidated he is by the voters of Wisconsin.”
“Now more than ever, Wisconsinites are ready to advance solutions that move our state forward, and are tired of those in control of state government prioritizing special interests over people,” the Oshkosh Dem said.
See the joint statement: