Rep. Snyder hesitant about passing primary election change in lame duck bills

By Emily Davies, WSAW

Madison, Wis. (WSAW) -- Two different stories are emerging from the lame duck legislative session in Madison that would limit powers of the governor and attorney general, but an area representative is hesitant to support one of the bills, going against his party's plan.

The Joint Finance Committee's public hearing Monday on the bills was delayed because of protesters flooding the capitol and telling legislators to "respect our votes!"

What "respecting votes" means depends on the party.

Democratic Rep. Katrina Shankland of District 71 in a phone interview with NewsChannel 7 called the bills an abuse of power and waste of taxpayer money as republicans try to protect initiatives she said voters do not want.

"I think the voters already spoke in November," said Shankland, "but we need to remind the republican legislature that they need to respect the will of the voters and they need to back down on this obstructive plan and this harmful plan to take away power from constitutional offices."

Republican Assembly District 85 Rep. Pat Snyder said in a phone interview they are protecting the initiatives voters in his district still approve of. He said he does not want to take steps backwards, like requiring voter identification at the polls, passing the republican version of protecting pre-existing conditions, and protecting the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation from being dissolved.

"I wasn’t there back in 2011 and 2012 when some of the powers shifted over to the governor and to the attorney general and I would like to have equal branches of government," he said, "and that means that the power of the legislature be there for oversight. The governor is still going to have tremendous veto power."

Snyder is hesitant about one of those bills, which would separate the presidential primary from the state supreme court race. The presidential primary would be moved to a new day in March, creating three elections over three months. The other primary would take place in February, with the general election scheduled for April.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission estimated the change would cost taxpayers at least $6.8 million to fund.

"I don’t want to put more burden and oversight on our county clerks and municipalities to try to meet this," Snyder said, "which I feel is something that if you’re a good candidate, you’ll be able to get the vote out and be able to get people to the polls in April."

The move is designed to ensure that conservative state supreme court Justice Dan Kelly does not face a democratic wave when he comes up for re-election.

"Not only is that wrong, it’s incredibly corrupt," Shankland said. "We should be supporting voter turnout and encouraging people to go to the polls, not taking away their voting rights, which this bill actually limits early voting hours as well as moving the primary."

Tuesday, the Senate and Assembly will meet to vote about the package of bills.

Both representatives encouraged people to voice their opinions with their state legislators representing their area.

The Associated Press contributed to the contents of this article.