State News: Republicans Plan to Limit Governor Evers’ Powers

Democrats Push Back on GOP Threat to Limit Governor’s Power

Democratic state lawmakers pushed back against efforts from Republican leaders to limit the power of Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers before his inauguration. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, said earlier in the week GOP leaders are considering changes to state laws in a lame duck session. Those proposals include bills that would limit Evers’ ability to appoint people to certain state boards or make changes to rules related to Wisconsin’s voter ID law.

Democrats say that isn’t acceptable.

Speaking to reporters in Madison, Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said it’s lawmakers job to work with whomever is elected.

“But when we’re going to go into a lame duck session and take away the governor’s ability to govern on certain things, it’s not getting off to a good start,” Erpenbach said.

Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, argue the changes are reasonable and will help promote a balance of power at the Capitol.

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, argued balance isn’t what the Republicans are concerned with.

“We’re here to advance the priorities of the people. The people have spoken. They have told us what we need to focus on, but it seems that Speaker Vos and the Majority Leader Fitzgerald are more concerned with consolidating their own power,” Taylor said.


Vos: Republicans Might Limit Evers’ Role in WEDC

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Monday that GOP lawmakers would consider changing the makeup of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s (WEDC) board in order to limit the power of Gov.-elect Tony Evers.

While Vos, R-Rochester, said nothing was final, he told reporters the move was aimed at preventing Evers from undoing agreements that were struck over the course of eight years between Republican legislators and outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

“We have a board that Tony Evers has already said he does not support, so I’d like to make sure the people who are on the board support the organization,” Vos said.

Evers said during his campaign for governor that he supported eliminating WEDC, a quasi-private agency that has been the subject of multiple critical audits. WEDC is also the agency that finalized Wisconsin’s contract with Foxconn, a top priority for Vos.

Walker created the agency as one of his first acts in office in 2011, and under its current makeup, the governor’s appointees set the tone for the agency.

WEDC is run by a 14-member board. Six of those people are appointed by the governor, and two are members of the governor’s administration. The other six are appointed by legislative leaders.

Asked Monday whether he was considering removing gubernatorial appointments from the board, Vos said Republicans were still discussing their options.

“Republicans are so desperate to cling to control, they’d rather eviscerate constitutional checks and balances and the separation of powers than work together with Gov.-elect Evers on the pressing issues facing our state,” said Britt Cudaback, Evers’ deputy communications director. “The people of Wisconsin said loud and clear last week that we want a change from this petty, divisive partisanship, and Gov.-elect Evers believes Republicans should stop any and all attempts to override the will of the people and instead focus on solving the problems of this state.”

Also Monday, Republicans unanimously re-elected Vos as speaker after they won 63 out of 99 Assembly districts in November’s election, a loss of only one seat.

“We are not going to roll over and play dead like they assume we probably should,” Vos said.


Pope OKs Beatification for Wisconsin Brother

Pope Francis has ordered a religious brother from Wisconsin, James Miller, be beatified after declaring the man died as a martyr.

Miller was shot to death Feb. 13, 1982, in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, where he was teaching at a school in Huehuetenango, Guatemala.

Miller was 37 years old and a member of the Brothers of the Christian School when he was killed by masked men as he was doing handyman work outside the school where he taught.

Miller was born to a farm family in Stevens Point. He is now buried in a small cemetery near his home parish in Polonia.

The process for declaring Miller a martyr began in 2009, and the pope approved the decree last week, claiming Miller was killed during Guatemala’s civil war out of hatred for the Catholic faith.

The Rev. Tom Lindner is pastor at Wausau’s St. Anne Parish and described beatification as the “penultimate step just before canonization,” meaning it brings someone one step closer to becoming a saint.

Another man from central Wisconsin was beatified in November 2017. The Rev. Solanus Casey was born in Prescott and worked in Detroit.


Fraser Shipyards Reaches Lead Poisoning Settlement

Fraser Shipyards in Superior has reached a $7.5 million settlement with more than 60 workers who were exposed to unsafe lead levels while working on a Great Lakes freighter. Four lawsuits were brought against the Superior shipyard for blood lead poisoning that occurred while retrofitting the engine room of the 59-year-old Herbert C. Jackson in 2016. The case was set to go before a jury trial in federal court on Dec. 3.

A report by Wisconsin and Minnesota health officials released in 2017 showed 171 out of 233 workers tested had blood lead poisoning. OSHA fined Fraser Shipyards $1.4 million for worker safety violations in 2016. Fraser agreed to pay the agency a $700,000 fine in 2017 without admitting fault or liability after the agency cited them for 14 violations related to lead exposure.

The plaintiffs’ attorney Matthew Sims with Rapoport Law Offices in Chicago, said the lawsuits highlighted the need for OSHA to update lead standards.

“Decades of science have shown that the permissible exposure limits for lead that were set by OSHA in 1993 are woefully outdated and no longer accurately reflect what is currently known about the dangers of lead. There is a scientific consensus that lead, in any amount, is harmful to humans,” said Sims. “Important change is needed from OSHA to make sure workers are no longer exposed to this toxin that serves no useful purpose in the human body. This case should serve as a wake-up call to both industry and government that more needs to be done to protect workers.”


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