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Assembly to take up roads in lame-duck session (UPDATE)

By TODD RICHMOND
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Republicans’ plan for a lame-duck legislative session solidified on Friday as GOP leaders confirmed they will consider bills dealing with federal transportation money, as well as moving the date of the next presidential primary date and early voting.

The GOP aims to hold floor debates Tuesday, which would give Republicans a final opportunity to pass legislation before Republican Gov. Scott Walker leaves office.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald circulated paper ballots to their chambers’ leadership committees asking for a vote to authorize the session. The ballots included vague, one-sentence descriptions of six bills on the chamber’s agenda.

One bill relates to spending federal transportation dollars. Road funding has been another sore spot for the GOP for years.

Republicans in the Assembly have shown support for raising the gas tax to pump more money into road construction, but Walker has steadfastly resisted those attempts. The ballot description circulated on Friday presented no details of the proposal.

The most contentious bill is a proposal to move the 2020 presidential primary from April to March. Republicans have acknowledged the shift is a purely political tactic; the conservative state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, a Walker appointee, will be on the April ballot and Republicans fear a Democratic wave could cost him his job. They’ve said decoupling Kelly’s race from the primary could help him win election.

The bill would set the stage for the state to have three elections in three subsequent months: a state primary in February, the presidential primary in March and then the state general election in April. Local clerks have balked at the plan, saying it would be impossible to administer so many contests in such a short stretch of time.

The bill also deals with individual income cuts, but the descriptions circulated on Friday contain no details of that proposal, either.

Other bills on the agenda deal with early and overseas voting and federal waivers allowing work requirements for government benefits. The proposed legislation separately relate to the composition of various state agencies and agencies’ processes for adopting administrative rules, which are regulations that have the force of law. No further details were immediately available on the measures.

The last bill would guarantee health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. The Assembly passed the bill in 2017, but it died in the Senate. The federal Affordable Care Act already guarantees such coverage and debate over the coverage hurt Walker’s re-election bid. Walker said he favored coverage for pre-existing conditions even though he authorized Attorney General Brad Schimel to join a lawsuit challenging the federal health-care law.

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