Gov. Scott Walker Friday said he would sign into law legislation on special elections following GOP legislative leaders’ call to hold an extraordinary session on the topic one day after a Dane County judge’s ruling that ordered the guv to hold elections for two vacant legislative seats.
The call — from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos — comes after Fitzgerald told reporters earlier today the Senate could be on the floor within the next two weeks to take up legislation following Judge Josann Reynolds’ order Thursday.
Walker, in a statement this afternoon, said calling the special session would mean nomination papers would circulate at about the same time as for the November elections, amounting to a waste of taxpayer dollars “at a time when our Legislature is ready to adjourn for the year.”
The guv declined to call for special elections in the 42nd AD and 1st SD after Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, and Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, resigned in late December to take jobs in Walker’s administration.
In a joint statement Friday, Fitzgerald and Vos said the legislation would be aimed at ensuring the special elections law aligns with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act.
“It’s clear that little thought was given to the impact of the special elections ruling,” the two said. “In essence, there will be two elections occurring simultaneously for the two offices. It will undoubtedly lead to voter confusion and electoral chaos.”
Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, at a news conference with reporters earlier this afternoon in Madison didn’t disclose many details about the legislation being considered, although he suggested language that would align special elections “with the elections that are already in place” is a clear path forward.
Dems blasted the announcement, with Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling saying on Twitter Republicans are “making another attempt to rig the system in their favor.”
“Rather than depriving thousands of Wisconsin families their constitutional right to representation, Senator Fitzgerald and Speaker Vos need to get it together and focus on the problems they were sent here to fix,” the La Crosse Dem wrote.
A spokesman for the state Department of Justice declined to comment on whether the office is planning to seek a stay or appeal the ruling, saying it’s still working to determine next steps.
Fitzgerald said the Senate’s looking at coming back the first week of April.
Meanwhile, the background checks bill that passed the Assembly Thursday is likely dead in the Senate.
The language, attached as an amendment to a bill that would mandate reporting of a bullying incident, would expand state-level background checks to rifles and shotguns.
But Fitzgerald said he doesn’t see the bill moving forward.
He was more optimistic, though, about a bill that includes language to provide Georgia-based Meteor Timber certain environmental exemptions as it seeks to build a frac sand processing plant in western Wisconsin.
The language was included in an amendment the Assembly signed off on at the end of February.
“I think I have enough members, especially those on the wetlands bill that are still interested in taking a look at it,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s possible.”
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