By TODD RICHMOND, Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers has joined a coalition of labor unions in asking a judge to suspend a lame-duck law passed by Republicans who control the state Legislature to limit his powers, filing an affidavit calling for an injunction to block the measure.
Evers filed the affidavit on Wednesday in Madison. In the document, he contends the law violates separation-of-powers principles, hampers his ability to control litigation on the state’s behalf and could force state agencies to take down tens of thousands of documents explaining how they interpret state statutes.
“This transparent and rushed attempt to stymie the incoming administrations went too far,” the affidavit states.
Misha Tseytlin, an attorney representing Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, declined to comment. He said the Republicans’ position would become clear in forthcoming briefs.
Republican lawmakers passed statutes in an extraordinary session in December limiting the powers of the governor and the attorney general. The decision was designed to hinder Evers and the incoming attorney general, Josh Kaul, before they took office in early January. Both Evers and Kaul are Democrats.
The law prohibits Evers from ordering Kaul to withdraw from lawsuits, ensuring Evers can’t pull Wisconsin out of a multistate lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act. It stipulates that Kaul must obtain permission from the Legislature’s budget-writing committee before he can settle lawsuits and allows lawmakers to use their own lawyers to intervene in litigation.
State agencies also must take down publications that explain how they interpret state law by July 1 unless they send all the publications through a new process that includes a public comment period.
Five unions, including the Service Employees International Union and the Wisconsin chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, filed a lawsuit in Dane County circuit court earlier this month arguing the law violates the separation-of-powers doctrine by stealing power from the executive branch and transferring it to the legislative branch. They also contend the law could result in a vast number of basic government communications vanishing and taxpayers’ footing lawmakers’ bills for private attorneys.
The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order as well as a temporary injunction to block the law.
The unions named Evers as a defendant, but in his affidavit he adopts their positions. He maintains the lame-duck legislation limits his ability to enforce state law and hampers his ability to direct litigation on the state’s behalf. He goes on to argue that state agencies won’t be able to meet the July deadline for revising their guidance documents, leaving people in the dark about how state services work, and that allowing lawmakers to enlist private lawyers to intervene in litigation will be costly for taxpayers and complicate cases.
Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 25 before Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington.
A group of liberal-leaning organizations has filed a lawsuit in state court challenging the law. They argue the Legislature lacked authority to convene in extraordinary session.
The liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now persuaded U.S. District Judge James Peterson in January to strike down sections of the lame-duck law restricting early in-person voting.