The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor voted 3-2 Tuesday in favor of a bill that proponents say would result in prompter rulings on appeals of circuit-court injunctions.
Assembly Bill 161, which was passed in June by Republicans in the state Assembly, would allow circuit courts’ injunctions of new state laws to be stayed until an appellate court or the state Supreme Court rule on their constitutionality or other matters raised in legal challenges.
But an amendment unanimously adopted by the judiciary committee Tuesday would no longer apply the stays, merely allowing injunctions to be appealed as a “matter of right.”
State Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend and chairman of the judiciary committee, said the change was needed to make the bill more palatable. He said the amended version would not fulfill his original intent – Grothman is the author of a companion bill, Senate Bill 154 – but would still push appellate courts or the state Supreme Court to rule on injunction appeals more promptly.
“Now,” he said, “we have some of these things drag out for years.”
Because of the adoption of the amendment, the bill cannot become law without receiving approval again from the state Assembly, as well as being voted on by the Senate and signed by Gov. Scott Walker.
Critics of the previous version of the legislation had said it would hand too much power to the Legislature and infringe on the separation-of-powers of doctrine. On Tuesday, state Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, questioned if the amended version would result in a real change to state law, which already allows appeals of trial courts’ injunctions.
The bill, if eventually adopted, would apply to all legislation passed by Wisconsin lawmakers. But it comes after Dane County Circuit Court judges handed down injunctions against two of the best-known pieces of legislation to be passed by the Republicans who control the state Legislature: the 2011 laws taking away the bulk of most public employees’ collective-bargaining rights and requiring voters to submit photo identification to election officials before casting ballots.
The injunction against the collective-bargaining law, commonly known as Act 10, was quickly overturned by the state Supreme Court in a June 2011 ruling. The District 4 Court of Appeals, meanwhile, overturned one injunction against the voter ID law in May 2013 but has another, also handed down by a Dane County Circuit Court judge, pending.
The two laws remain the subjects of legal challenges. The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in November in a case brought against Act 10 by the Madison Teachers Union and a union representing Milwaukee public employees, as well individual members of each group. The court is expected to rule on the case by the summer.