Wisconsin GOP’s Lame-Duck Power Grab Ruled Unconstitutional

A Wisconsin judge ruled on Thursday that laws passed by the Republican-controlled legislature in December to limit the powers of newly elected Democratic Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul were unconstitutional.

The lame-duck bills limited early voting, stopped the newly elected governor from expanding Medicaid coverage to more citizens, prevented him from withdrawing the state from a lawsuit attacking the Affordable Care Act, prevented the attorney general from representing the legislature in lawsuits, and further curtailed the administrative powers of the new government.

The lawsuit was brought by a coalition of plaintiffs, including three citizen’s groups, the League of Women Voters, Disability Rights Wisconsin, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities. It argues that three bills passed last December in the lame-duck session as well as the confirmation of 82 nominees to various boards “are unenforceable” on the basis that “executive session” during which the laws were enacted “was not convened in accord with the Wisconsin Constitution.”

The Wisconsin Constitution Protects Against “Irregular, Capricious” Meetings of Legislature

The Wisconsin Constitution Article IV Section 11 provides for a “special session” convened by the governor and a regular session as provided by statute, but the statute makes no mention of an “extraordinary session.” The legislature’s policy on extraordinary sessions, which curtail public notice and participation and suspend the regular rules of debate, was created by a rule of the legislature, not a statute.

Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess issued a temporary injunction to block the laws. “The bottom line in this case is that the Legislature did not lawfully meet during its December 2018 ‘Extraordinary Session,’” therefore violating Article IV of the constitution.

The judge made clear…

Read more