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Evers names transition team as GOP eyes limiting power

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov.-elect Tony Evers named his transition team on Monday, as Republicans who control the Legislature continued to privately discuss ways to 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 his 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 can go to kneecap Evers, including whether they could attempt to remove the governor from the procedures that will be used to redraw political boundary lines in 2021.

Evers hasn’t been seen much since winning his 1-point victory over Gov. Scott Walker last week, making only one brief public appearance. But he decried GOP attempts to limit his powers as governor, saying anything along those lines would raise concerns about the separation of powers.

The 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’s economic development agency and other boards; take administrative rules that now govern the state’s voter photo ID requirement and make them actual laws, thereby making them harder 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.

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

The Legislative Reference Bureau, in a memo to Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, said he believes enacting a redistricting plan without passing a bill that the governor would sign would be unconstitutional.

Assembly Republicans on Monday voted unanimously to re-elect Vos as speaker, the post he’s held for six years. Vos, who has spoken in favor of taking action in a lame duck session before Evers takes office, ran unopposed. He told Republicans that with a 63-36 majority, down only one seat from last session, they must “stand like bedrock to guarantee that Wisconsin does not go back.”

Also on Monday, Evers announced that his campaign manager, Maggie Gau, will serve as his first chief of staff, a change that is commonly made following a successful run for governor. Gau, from Wausau, formerly worked as chief of staff for the 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 schools superintendent since 2009. He does not plan to resign that position until after he is sworn in, said his spokesman Britt Cudaback. That will give Evers, rather than Walker, the power to appoint a successor.

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