On December 12, 2018

Disturbing news for democracy

By Angelo Lynn

In Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Missouri, legislators led by Republicans are using this lame-duck session (that time between the Nov. 6 General Election and the start of the new administration in January) to pass a slew of state laws that would either reduce power of the incoming Democratic governors or attorney generals, push for more restrictive voting rights and make it more difficult for citizens to directly influence legislation.

In each case, it’s a power grab by Republicans who either lost the election to Democrats and are changing the rules before the transition, or they are upset with citizen initiatives that place limits on Republicans in power.

The actions are stunning in their rejection of the public will. In Wisconsin, in particular, the Republican-led Legislature made no bones about why they stripped away the powers of Governor-elect Tony Evers: they were afraid his more liberal agenda would reverse some of the draconian provisions put in place by defeated Gov. Scott Walker.

Thousands of protesters have demonstrated against the Republicans’ actions, expressing their outrage, but Republicans pressed ahead this week and passed the bills. Time will tell how voters will respond two years from now.

Meanwhile, in Michigan and Missouri, efforts by Republican legislators are trying to undo citizen-passed amendments that had imposed limits on how self-serving their state legislatures could be.

In Michigan, where newly elected Democrats will also become governor and attorney general, the Republican-controlled Legislature is working quickly to pass a new law to give themselves control over court cases involving the state, as well as a law that would strip powers from the secretary of state, a Democrat, preventing her from creating provisions that could make it easier to register and vote. Republican leaders there are also trying to gut popular citizen-initiated laws that mandated paid sick leave and an increase in the minimum wage from $9.25 to $12 by 2022.

In Missouri, citizens overwhelming passed a constitutional amendment that focused on preventing corruption and extreme gerrymandering. Dubbed as “Clean Missouri,” the citizen-initiated amendment bars legislators from accepting lobbying gifts over $5 and bars former state officials from accepting a lobbying job for two years after leaving office. The measure also changed the process for drawing up legislative districts to make it more reflective of the true demography. Republicans are trying to weaken the measure, which passed with 62 percent of the vote. 

In Ohio, Republicans still control both the governor’s office and Legislature, but apparently that’s not enough. Republicans in the Legislature, with the governor-elect’s blessing, are working to make it almost impossible to pass citizen amendments. Why? Because earlier this year voters in Ohio overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment to restrict gerrymandering, an action that could put the Republicans’ dominance at risk.

These are not the typical acts of the outgoing party tying up a few loose ends before turning over power. On the contrary, these are clear actions that put the party above the welfare of the voters. It’s yet another sign of the Republican Party losing its way – and of a nation put at risk by a political party willing to undermine democracy for its own gain. Trump-like, to be sure, but as un-American in spirit as can be.

Angelo Lynn is the editor and publisher of the Addison Independent, a sister paper to the Mountain Times.

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