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Judge Blocks Laws Limiting Power of New WI Governor

A county judge ruled on Thursday that all of the laws and appointments passed by legislators were unlawful because they met in what's known as an "extraordinary session." (Yinan Chen/Creative Commons)
A county judge ruled on Thursday that all of the laws and appointments passed by legislators were unlawful because they met in what's known as an "extraordinary session." (Yinan Chen/Creative Commons)
March 22, 2019

MADISON, Wis. – A judge has given Democratic Gov. Tony Evers back his powers after striking down lame-duck laws passed by Republicans in what many viewed as an effort to restrict his control.

Soon after Evers won the governorship, GOP lawmakers passed the lame-duck laws during a December extraordinary session that curtailed an array of Evers' and Democratic Attorney Josh Kaul's power. One of them included prohibiting Evers from withdrawing the state from lawsuits without legislative approval.

A coalition of groups sued in January, arguing the Legislature can't meet that way. Erin Grunze, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, says part of their claim was that lawmakers could convene only at times laid out in a law they pass at the beginning of each two-year session or at the governor's call.

"We celebrate it as a victory for the people of Wisconsin,” says Grunze. “We think that it looks to undo those bills and their intentions, which were to take away powers and essentially curb the voters' will."

Republican legislative leaders vowed to appeal and predicted the ruling ultimately would be overturned. Evers called the ruling a victory and used his restored powers to pull the state out of a multistate challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans also used the lame-duck session to confirm 82 of former Republican Governor Scott Walker's appointments. This meant Evers couldn't immediately replace them when he took office.

Grunze says the judge's ruling restores fairness in the process.

"We're not looking for a partisan fight,” says Grunze. “We want fair, representative government and we didn't think that this extraordinary session was representative or fair to the voters of Wisconsin."

Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess' ruling is just one of four actions challenging the lame-duck laws.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - WI