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Judge won’t block budget cuts to secretary of state’s office

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Dane County judge has declined to issue a temporary injunction to halt state budget cuts affecting the office of Democratic Secretary of State Doug La Follette.

Circuit Judge Rhonda Lanford ruled Friday that La Follette hasn’t shown that his lawsuit against GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s administration is likely to succeed.

La Follette had argued that the cuts in the 2015-17 budget are an unconstitutional infringement on his office and are so severe that he can’t do his job without causing delays in services. He said he’ll have to talk to his lawyer about their next step.

“To me it’s just irresponsible for the governor and the Legislature to put the secretary of state’s office in a position where we can’t fulfill our duties,” La Follette said.

The judge held out a glimmer of hope for La Follette, however, the Wisconsin State Journal reported Saturday.

“The court is not definitively stating that there is no infringement on the constitutional record keeping duties in this case, just that the evidence before the court at this time does not support such a finding,” Lanford wrote in her 17-page ruling.

La Follette is the only Wisconsin Democrat holding a statewide office. He angered Republicans in 2011 when he delayed publishing Walker’s signature law that all but eliminated most public employees’ union rights. GOP legislators retaliated by stripping him of his publication duties. Republicans also cut his 2011-13 budget by 29 percent, reduced his 7.5-member staff to four and took away additional duties.

The Republican-authored 2015-17 budget reduced La Follette’s remaining funding by nearly 50 percent, and his staff from three people to one full- and one part-time person. His office was moved from a 4,000-square-foot space rented in an office building to a small space deep in the Capitol basement.

In his lawsuit, La Follette singles out his duty to issue “apostilles,” which are internationally recognized certificates of authenticity needed by some state businesses to do work abroad. His office issues about 15,000 of the certificates annually, and he says it’s a constitutional duty because the secretary of state is tasked under Wisconsin’s constitution with applying the great seal of the state to acts of the governor.

But Lanford said La Follette did not show that processing of apostilles is a constitutional duty, nor did he show that applying the great seal to them is even necessary.

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