Effort to weaken governor stirs separation-of-powers debate

MILWAUKEE (AP) — If Democrats sue to prevent Republicans from diluting the powers of Wisconsin’s new governor and attorney general, the lawsuits will probably center on one question: Are lawmakers usurping authority that belongs to the executive branch?

The legal threat arose after Republicans passed bills Wednesday that would give lawmakers leverage over actions previous governors and attorneys generals could carry out on their own.

If the bills are signed by outgoing Gov. Scott Walker, lawmakers will decide when the state can withdraw from lawsuits, and the governor will have to ask permission to adjust programs that are run jointly with the federal government, such as Medicaid.

Howard Schweber is a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He says Republicans seem to believe that separation of powers refers to parties rather than branches of government.

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