By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker asked President-elect Donald Trump in a letter delivered Tuesday to give his state more authority in determining how many refugees can come from countries with ties to terrorism.
Walker also asked for help to allow the state to proceed with drug testing for some food stamp recipients and legalizing the hunting of gray wolves.
The requests are among several that Walker, a Republican who challenged Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, makes in the letter. It’s unclear how quickly Trump could move to address Walker’s concerns, some of which are tied up in courts and may require changes to laws.
Walker is drawing attention to issues that play well with conservatives and on which he and President Barack Obama’s administration disagree. Walker told The Associated Press that he was “very optimistic” Trump would act quickly on his requests after taking office next month.
Trump’s spokesman did not immediately return an email seeking comment Tuesday. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, urged Trump to work with the governor on what he called “common sense reforms to increase flexibility and return authority to Wisconsin.”
On the refugee issue, Walker said governors and states aren’t told enough about who is coming in and where they will be located.
“As far as we can tell, they’re just fully integrating these individuals into the communities that they’re in, which doesn’t really fit with the definition of refugee,” Walker said in the interview. “We have no idea how many people may have ties to the Islamic State or to other forms of radical Islamic terrorism or jihadist groups, and I think it’s a legitimate public safety concern.”
Walker wrote to Trump that the state should “have a broader role in determining how many refugees and from which countries” are admitted “until we are comfortable with the vetting process that is being utilized to screen these individuals.”
Walker is also hoping a Trump administration will be more open to drug testing for childless adults who receive food stamps.
Walker sued Obama’s administration to permit such drug testing after the Agriculture Department said federal law prohibits such screening. There’s also been a Republican push in Congress to allow for it.
Walker also wants to charge higher premiums for childless adults earning less than the federal poverty level of $11,880 a year if they smoke or “purposefully increase their health risks.”
The hunting of gray wolves in Wisconsin is a hot issue, particularly in more rural northern parts of the state. Wolf hunting is not allowed in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota under a 2014 federal judge’s ruling that threw out an Obama administration decision to remove gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region from the endangered species list.
Animal protection groups contend wolves must remain protected, but advocates for hunting them say they are increasing in number, becoming more aggressive and are moving south. Walker argues in the letter that Wisconsin successfully managed the wolf population prior to the court ruling and should be allowed to do so again.
Walker said he saw these requests as ones that could be acted on soon, while other issues including giving states more flexibility by providing money in block grants for programs such as Medicaid and transportation will take longer to achieve.
Walker said he has spoken several times with Vice President-elect Mike Pence about these requests. Walker has a close relationship with Pence, the governor of Indiana and helped him prepare for his vice presidential debate earlier this year.
Pence was among dozens of governors from mostly GOP states who attempted to block Syrian refugees following the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, saying there were questions about the federal government’s refugee screening process. A federal appeals court blocked Pence’s attempt to prevent social service agencies from helping resettle immigrants from certain countries in Indiana. A three-judge panel in October called it “nightmare speculation” that refugees might commit acts of terror.
AP writer Rick Callahan in Indianapolis contributed to this story.