By Benjamin Yount for Watchdog.org
There’s more uncertainty at the Wisconsin Capitol after a three-judge panel on Wednesday reversed a Dane County Court’s temporary order that held up a package of Republican reforms from last December claiming they were unconstitutional.
The Wausau-based appeals court ruling means laws passed during December’s extraordinary session can once again be enforced.
“Independent judges have put a Dane County ruling on hold that was based on politics, not the law,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a joint statement after the ruling. “A judge should not violate the Legislature’s basic ability to convene when its duly elected members call a session day.”
The judges ruled that the people of Wisconsin could be harmed if laws passed by duly elected representatives are placed on hold.
After Democrat Tony Evers defeated Republican Gov. Scott Walker in November’s midterm election, GOP lawmakers called an extraordinary session in December and passed measures to give the legislature more authority.
The Wednesday ruling from the appeals court does nothing to undo Tuesday’s ruling from a separate Dane County judge that said lawmakers overstepped their bounds when they passed a law to keep Wisconsin in a national lawsuit that challenges Obamacare. That judge said the GOP-backed law violated the constitutional separation of powers.
Republican leaders at the statehouse have promised to appeal the second judge’s ruling as well.
Evers raced to remove Wisconsin from the Obamacare lawsuit within hours of the first judge’s ruling. He also moved to replace 82 appointments that lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker approved before the former governor left office.
State Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said Evers’ quick decisions before the legal cases were fully resolved are now causing chaos.
“In a rash and irresponsible move, Governor Evers fired 82 citizens – including five from my district. It is clear he didn’t put any thought into how his partisan move will affect real people,” Darling said Monday. “Now crucial boards and councils are left in chaos because of Governor Evers’ rash political decision. Boards that protect consumers, victims of domestic violence, and seniors are left without guidance. The governor continues to break his promise of bipartisanship.”
An attorney for the 82 removed appointees says they should all get their jobs back. But Evers’ office says they won’t.
“The stay does not invalidate the withdrawal of the appointees, nor does it affect the governor’s ability to make appointments to those vacant positions,” spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff told the Journal Sentinel Wednesday.
All of this points to more lawsuits and legal challenges. Lawmakers in Madison said that most business at the statehouse will be on hold until the court challenges to the reform laws are mostly settled.
Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for Watchdog.org.