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Republicans ask to stay order blocking lame-duck laws

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers talks to reporters at the state Capitol on Thursday after a Dane County judge blocked the so-called lame-duck laws that Republicans passed in December to limit the power of the governor and attorney general, both Democrats. (Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers talks to reporters at the state Capitol on Thursday after a Dane County judge blocked the so-called lame-duck laws that Republicans passed in December to limit the power of the governor and attorney general, both Democrats. (Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

By TODD RICHMOND Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Republicans asked an appeals court on Friday to immediately halt a judge’s order that had blocked GOP-backed laws limiting the powers of Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, both Democrats.

Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess issued an injunction on Thursday blocking the laws, which had been quickly approved in December before Evers replaced Republican Gov. Scott Walker. On Friday, an attorney for the Republican lawmakers asked for an immediate emergency stay to block Niess’ order.

Attorney Misha Tseytln told the 3rd District Court of Appeals that Niess’ injunction was already causing confusion for military and overseas voters, noting an election was only days away for the state Supreme Court. He said Neiss’ ruling also undermines the validity of thousands of other laws passed during so-called extraordinary sessions, which are unscheduled legislative sessions convened by leaders of whatever party is in the majority at a given time.

He also questioned whether scores of Walker’s appointees still have jobs. Lawmakers confirmed 82 of Walker’s appointees during the December session, ensuring Evers couldn’t remove them when he took office.

“This indefensible injunction is already causing serious harm to our State,” Tseytlin wrote.

The laws approved during the lame-duck legislative session in December prohibit Evers from withdrawing the state from lawsuits without legislative approval. The bills were designed to prevent him from pulling Wisconsin out of a multistate challenge to the Affordable Care Act, but Evers quickly started the process on Thursday following Niess’ order.

The laws also require Kaul to seek legislative approval before settling any case and to deposit settlement winnings in the state general fund rather than in state Department of Justice accounts. The laws also rework voting regulations, restricting early in-person voting to the two weeks preceding an election and loosening requirements for military and overseas voters.

A lawsuit challenging the laws was filed in January by a coalition of liberal-leaning groups led by the League of Women Voters. The group argued that, under the Wisconsin Constitution, the Legislature couldn’t meet in extraordinary session unless the time for doing so was specified in a law passed every two years or called for by the governor.

Niess agreed on Thursday, saying there was no statutory grounding for extraordinary sessions.

Hours after Niess issued the injunction, Evers ordered Kaul to move to withdraw Wisconsin from the ACA lawsuit. Evers didn’t immediately make any other moves with his restored powers, saying he needed time to digest the injunction.

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