Show courage, veto a bad bill

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Raw power play is an insult to voters' rights and historic precedent.

SUDDENLY, ON NOV. 7, when Wisconsin awoke to news that voters had elected Democrat challenger Tony Evers and ousted incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker, leaders of the Republican majority in the legislature discovered governors had too much authority. The leadership had another epiphany, realizing attorney generals had too much power, when it became clear challenger Josh Kaul defeated incumbent Republican Brad Schimel.

So, behind closed doors in deep secrecy, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald concocted a laundry list of changes they intended to pass in a rare lame-duck session before Walker leaves office. The clear purpose - Vos and Fitzgerald barely try to hide it - is to weaken the incoming governor and attorney general and usurp the authority for themselves.

Public input was unwelcome. A familiar pattern was followed - keep it secret, muscle it through fast. People's first look at the legislation came late in the day Friday, Nov. 30. It was quickly taken up and adopted in committee on Monday, Dec. 3, and passed by the Senate in an all-night session Tuesday. The Assembly quickly followed suit and the measure goes to lame-duck Gov. Scott Walker, who has signaled he likes what he sees.

ONCE AGAIN, THIS raw exercise of partisanship made Wisconsin national news. From national newspapers to national broadcasts the narrative, essentially, was that the losing side gave voters an icy stare and raised both middle fingers in the air.

This is embarrassing. More than that, it is shameful.

The American system rests on the bedrock of governing only with the consent of the governed, graciously accepting the results of elections and peacefully and willingly transferring authority. This lame-duck power play sends another message to voters: We run things here, not you.

WALKER SHOULD SWAT this bad bill aside with a veto, but instead he's shown every indication of gleefully cheering it on.

His legacy in Wisconsin history stands in the balance. A courageous veto in the face of his party's worst instincts would cement his place as a bold reformer - and a fair and good man. Go along with the legislative majority and Walker deservedly will be consigned to the ranks of partisan hacks.

A judgment too harsh? Then do this exercise: Flip the script. Imagine Democrats had held power since 2010, and a newly-elected Republican governor was being kneecapped by Democrats in a lame-duck session. Would Republicans be howling?

Do the right thing, Governor. Leave office with honor.

A FINAL WORD: Despite the fact we've always liked a lot of the work done by Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, the Beloit Daily News did not endorse her for re-election this year. We wrote, "When it comes to those big, polarizing partisan priorities, she is not independent-minded. She does whatever leadership wants and votes in lockstep. Every time." And so she did, again. That total submission serves Loudenbeck well in the hyper-partisan legislative chamber. She is moving up her party's leadership ladder, and was recently named vice chair of the powerful Joint Finance Committee. Whether her lack of independence well serves the people, however, is a different matter.

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