Could Wisc. lame-duck power grab happen here?

The stunning, lame-duck power grab this week by the Wisconsin legislature would be far more difficult to pull off in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Legislature operates under a system of rules that gives lawmakers nearly a half-year off while they campaign for reelection. During that six-month period, the Legislature meets in what it calls informal sessions, where few lawmakers are present and typically only non-controversial bills are taken up. While nothing is impossible on Beacon Hill with enough votes, it would be very difficult for Massachusetts lawmakers to do what their counterparts in Wisconsin did.

In Wisconsin, after hours of “mysterious closed-door meetings,” the Republican-controlled Senate came into session at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday and passed by one vote a package of bills designed to curb the power of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general. The Republican-controlled State Assembly passed the same legislation by a much wider margin later that morning.

The measures now go to Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has indicated he will sign them into law before relinquishing power in January to Tony Evers, the Democrat who narrowly defeated him in the November election by about 29,000 votes out of 2.9 million cast. On election night, Evers said: “The voters spoke. A change is coming, Wisconsin!”

While Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin have characterized the legislation they passed early Wednesday morning as a rebalancing of power between the political branches, the comments of top legislative leaders suggest the bills were an attempt to thwart some of the change Evers was talking about on election night. (A Politifact report indicated the Wisconsin legislature gave the governor more power in 2011, power it is attempting to withdraw this year.)

Scott Fitzgerald, the Republican leader of the Wisconsin Senate, described Evers on Monday as “the lapdog” of the state teachers union and said that legislators “don’t trust” him. He warned that Evers would create “absolutely the most liberal administration that we have ever seen in the state of Wisconsin.”

GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was equally blunt. “We are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in,” he said.

Evers said the legislature’s action was an attempt to thwart the will of the voters. “I view this as a repudiation of the last election,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The measures approved by the Wisconsin legislature would give lawmakers much more control over transportation and highway spending, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and the disposition of money collected in legal settlements. The measures would also affect Medicaid recipients, fortifying a requirement that they get jobs and codifying a plan mandating that they be tested for drugs. The measures would also prevent Evers from barring guns in the Capitol and allow lawmakers to hire their own private attorneys (rather than Democratic attorney general-elect Josh Kaul) at taxpayer expense if they are sued in their official capacity.

In Massachusetts, it would be far harder to pass such measures in a lame-duck session. The Legislature typically ends its formal session at the end of June in an election year and meets only in informal sessions the rest of the year.

According to House rule 44, the House can only consider specific types of legislation during informal sessions. “No new business shall be entertained, except by unanimous consent,” the rule states. “Formal debate, or the taking of the sense of the House by yeas and nays, shall not be conducted during such informal session.”

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

Looking ahead, budget writers on Beacon Hill are wondering when the eventual economic downturn will come. (State House News)

Former House speaker Sal DiMasi, in his first interview since winning early release from prison because of a cancer diagnosis, called the federal Bureau of Prisons a “rogue agency” because of its negligence in providing prisoner health care. He would not, however, address questions about his conviction on corruption charges and whether he admits he broke the law. (WGBH)

State Rep. David Linsky says he is planning to file legislation to address loopholes in the state’s open meeting and public records laws that have allowed a Wellesley resident to abuse the process. (Metrowest Daily News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Ayanna Pressley offered farewell words to her Boston City Council colleagues as she prepares to take a seat next month in Congress. (Boston Herald)

Someone tried to torch Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter’s city-owned SUV while he was away last weekend. (The Enterprise)

A federal magistrate will hear an update today on the status of the corruption case against Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia, but it’s unclear whether Correia, or only his lawyer, will appear at the Boston courthouse. (Herald News)

A new plan for the Dot Block in Dorchester features high-density housing and retail. (Dorchester Reporter)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Herald columnist Kimberly Atkins (in what as of early this morning appeared online as a single massive paragraph on the paper’s new website) says yesterday’s funeral for former president George H.W. Bush also served as a rebuke of the politics being practiced by the current president, who sat uncomfortably alongside fellow former presidents he has relentlessly savaged.

A Saudi-funded lobbyist paid for 500 rooms at President Trump’s hotel in Washington after the 2016 election as part of an unusual lobbying effort. (Washington Post)

Jim Shaer remembers Paul Tsongas and an era when comity in politics was not unusual. (CommonWealth)

ELECTIONS

Former governor Deval Patrick said in a Facebook post this morning that his decision not to run for president was based on “knowing that the cruelty of our elections process would ultimately splash back on people whom Diane and I love.”  Though he bailed out of the presidential contemplation field before it hit, this hard-hitting Huffington Post recapping of Patrick’s questionable corporate activities with subprime lender Ameriquest and his stints at Texaco and Coke is the sort of thing that might also have given him pause and made him a tough sell with progressive Democratic activists. Patrick told WBUR the election process is “cruel.”

A Globe editorial praising Patrick for his willingness to step back from a run seems to suggest that Sen. Elizabeth Warren might be wise to do so as well. Warren’s decision to have a DNA test done to show evidence of Native American ancestry has put a cloud over her likely presidential run that “has only darkened” in the weeks since, according to a New York Times report.

If ambitious Dems want Ed Markey’s Senate seat, they should get ready to take him on in 2020, not try to push him to retire, says Joan Vennochi. (Boston Globe)

President Trump’s warnings about widespread voter fraud may have been warranted, writes Gail Collins — as officials continue to investigate possible misconduct by a Republican candidate for Congress in North Carolina involving hundreds of absentee ballots. More on the race from the Washington Post.

Paul D. Craney says the “union loophole” in Massachusetts campaign finance laws is headed for a challenge at the US Supreme Court. (CommonWealth)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The new contract between Marriott hotels and its workers in various cities may set a new bar for progressive workplace policies more broadly in today’s tighter labor market. (Boston Globe) The deal in San Francisco calls for a $4-an-hour raise phased in over four years. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

Beverly is planning to spend $3.75 million improving school security. (Salem News)

TRANSPORTATION

A lane change on Storrow Drive upsets a lot of drivers. (WBUR)

A peanut-shaped roundabout hybrid is the leading design for Kelley Square in Worcester. (MassLive)

State transportation officials are weighing whether to embrace a new approach to the region’s commuter rail system that structures it more like the subway, with frequent trips throughout the day, an idea first laid out by the advocacy group TransitMatters.

Disability advocates and the MBTA have agreed to an update of a pact struck 12 years to improve disability access on the system. (Boston Herald)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

In a deal with Attorney General Maura Healey, Berkshire Gas Co. agreed to seek a rate increase of $1.4 million instead of $3.1 million. (Berkshire Eagle)

CASINOS

Bruce Bannister, a former Wynn Resorts shareholder, is suing the company and many of its top executives, alleging they knew about sexual misconduct by company founder, did nothing about it, and watched as the stock dropped when the allegations came to light. (Associated Press)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Federal ICE agents have detained more than 50 illegal immigrants in raids over the last two days in the Boston region, with illegal drug activity a major focus of the efforts. (Boston Herald)

The state medical examiner is processing cases much faster — but doing fewer autopsies. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

WGBH’s Beat the Press, hosted by Emily Rooney, reaches a 20-year milestone.