WashU Expert: Wisconsin move to limit power of incoming governor signal of new norm

Perhaps recent court rulings redrawing district lines in some states, or even the mid-term election results, caused counter legislative acts in Wisconsin and Michigan, but while these will make governing for Democrats in those states more difficult, they’re not illegal, says a constitutional law expert at Washington University in St. Louis.

Greg Magarian, professor of law at the School of Law, doesn’t see any constitutional roadblocks to recent movements by the Wisconsin and Michigan Republican-majority legislatures designed to limit power of newly elected Democratic governors.


“The big takeaway from the Wisconsin legislature’s sabotage of its voters’ mandate, and the similar action in North Carolina in 2016, closely following Republicans’ federal proceduralist approach to matters like the Supreme Court and Obamacare, is that this is the new normal,” Magarian said. “No prominent Republican I’m aware of has spoken out against the Wisconsin/Michigan governor gambit.”

This gives the appearance of a concerted national strategy by the Republican Party to assert partisan politics as a matter of rule of law, Magarian said.

“The strategy seems to be to make it harder for Democratic-leaning voters to cast their votes and to manipulate electoral and legislative process rules to leverage power,” he said.

From a legal standpoint, it is difficult to frame why a legislature would attempt to undermine the power of a properly elected leader who isn’t even sitting in the governor’s chair yet, Magarian said.

“Republicans have declared all-out partisan war rather than make it a legal battle,” he said. “If the issue isn’t about constituents or constitutional law, their sole loyalty is to their party and its paymasters, and their sole aim is partisan power.”

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