Judge blocks laws passed in lame-duck by Wisconsin GOP to limit Dem powers

A Wisconsin judge on Thursday issued a temporary block on a series of laws signed by then-Gov. Scott Walker (R) in December that limited the powers of his Democratic successor, Tony Evers, according to The Associated Press.

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the laws in December in an unscheduled "extraordinary session" after Walker lost his bid for a third term in November.

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Walker at the time denied that the bills were an attempt to reduce Evers and Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul’s powers, writing in a Facebook post that Evers would retain “some of the broadest line-item veto authority of any governor in the nation.”

In January a coalition of left-leaning groups filed a lawsuit alleging the session in which the laws were passed was unconstitutional.

“The Wisconsin Constitution does not provide for the Legislature, let alone a small subset of each chamber acting through committees, to convene itself in an ‘extraordinary session,’ and neither does any statute,” wrote the plaintiffs, who included the League of Women Voters, Disability Rights Wisconsin and Black Leaders Organizing for Communities.

In his Thursday ruling, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess blocked the laws, denying a request by the legislature to temporarily pause his order.

"The Legislature overplayed its hand by using an unlawful process to accumulate more power for itself and override the will of the people, despite the outcome of last November's election," Evers said in a series of tweets following the ruling. 

“Today’s court ruling is a victory for the people of Wisconsin, who are entitled to a government that represents their interests transparently, welcomes citizens’ input, and respects the limits of its constitutional authority," the Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Erin Grunze, said in a statement. "As an organization dedicated to voting rights and informed participation in government, we feel vindicated that the court saw the Legislature’s ‘extraordinary session’ for what it was—an unconstitutional act that harmed Wisconsin voters and taxpayers.” 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) have both pledged to appeal the ruling, according to The Associated Press. State House Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R) tweeted that he was “disappointed, but not surprised,” calling the ruling partisan and predicting it would be overturned.