In the last few days, the new Republican governor has been ramming through the state Legislature an agenda that changes the state's tax structure, provides new legal protections for businesses and reorganizes a major state agency. In rapid-fire fashion, complicated issues that normally occupy months of debate are going from bill to hearing to law.
"Everything's coming out in a breakneck pace," said Robert Kraig, a lobbyist since 1999. "I've never seen anything like it."
"I didn't want to waste any time,"
Democrats, relegated to the minority, say
The Senate passed a sweeping lawsuit reform bill Tuesday that makes it more difficult for plaintiffs to sue companies and limits damage awards. The Assembly is expected to give its approval Thursday. Also Thursday, both chambers are expected to vote to eliminate state income taxes on contributions to Health Savings Accounts, a long-stalled Republican health proposal.
Other measures teed up for next week would cut taxes on businesses that relocate to
As the bills march by, supporters, opponents and everyone else are scrambling to keep up. Lawmakers who only went into session on Jan. 3 are presiding over hearings while their offices are still full of unpacked boxes. They receive briefings on bills only hours before they vote, not days or weeks in advance. There is little time for feedback from constituents.
"The public couldn't possibly know about all of these changes," said Rep. Peter Barca, the top-ranking Democrat in the Assembly.
Interest groups and advocates barely have time for their press conferences. Kraig, a lobbyist for Citizen Action of Wisconsin, threw together three news conferences in eight days to comment on bills under consideration. Typically, he holds one every few months.
"Although I don't agree with the policy, it is impressive how much they're getting done," he said.
Compare this pace to 2007 when
GOP Sen. Mark Ellis, who is in his 41st year in the Legislature, says the reason for Republicans to rush to judgment is obvious: Because they can.
"Now that we have the majority, what do they expect us to do?" he said.