In Wisconsin, the Republicans in the state government are hoping to rush a packed slate of radical measures through the Legislature within the next eight weeks. Critics accuse them of accelerating the ratification process to get ahead of this summer's recall elections and the possibility of Democrats taking a majority of seats in the state Legislature.
Republican lawmakers have proposed measures that will "legalize concealed weapons, deregulate the telephone industry, require voters to show photo identification at the polls, expand school vouchers and undo an early release for prisoners", says the Wisconsin State Journal. Also looming is the threat of a rewritten version of Governor Scott Walker's controversial budget plan limiting the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
Democratic Assembly Leader Peter Barca says the Republicans are reacting to the stiff backlash against Governor Walker's proposals and the fact that six Republican senators will be forced to defend their seats in recall votes this summer. "They know there's a very strong possibility their days of controlling every level of government are numbered," he says. Barca went on to say that the new laws will "dramatically change the direction and traditions and values of this state".
Republican Rep. Robin Vos, co-chair of the Legislature's budget-writing committee, says that the committee will be attempting to draft the state budget in half the normal time, submitting the new budget by June 30. Of the twelve Republicans on the panel, a third are facing recalls.
The frantic atmosphere in the capitol has set off alarms with ethics groups. Kevin Kennedy of the non-partisan Government Accountability Board writes, "There has been no time for the careful evaluation and vetting needed to ensure the best options for voters and election officials is enacted."
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald denies that Republicans are concerned about the recalls. "Right now, I don't foresee (losing the majority)," he says, maintaining that the accelerated pace on Republicans' part is simply an effort to make up for time lost in the Democratic walkout earlier this year.
Governor Walker's original budget proposal is currently mired in legal limbo. A new vote could side-step the multiple legal challenges facing the first vote, which Democrats say violated open meetings law and the quorum requirement listed in the state's constitution.