The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed an amicus brief on Tuesday with the Wisconsin Supreme Court in defense of the laws passed in the state legislature’s extraordinary session last December.
“There is nothing that distinguishes the December, 2018 extraordinary session from any other in a legally relevant way,” the brief states. “Whatever one thinks about an extraordinary session held at the end of the term of an outgoing governor, nothing in the circuit court’s decision turns on the ‘lame duck’ nature of the session. Its rationale – and the arguments advanced by the plaintiffs here – would render any such session held at any time under any circumstance improper and would invalidate each and every law passed in them.”
According to a statement from WILL on Tuesday, “If the Dane County Circuit Court ruling is upheld, the legality of nearly 50 years of extraordinary sessions and over 300 legislative actions would be called into question.”
The laws and the approval of several appointments by former Governor Scott Walker last December are the subject of several lawsuits and have been derailed by two Dane County judges. One case, League of Women Voters v. Legislature, is now being taken up by the Wisconsin Supreme Court which expects to hear oral arguments on May 15.
The brief was filed on behalf of several former Republican members of the legislature: former Lt. Governor Margaret Farrow, Speaker of the Assembly Scott Jensen, Senators Terry Moulton and Leah Vukmir, and Representatives Garey Bies, Adam Jarchow, and Jesse Kremer.
Jensen said Tuesday that the status of the legislature as a coequal branch of government is at stake.
“The Dane County Circuit Court decision would make the legislature a less than co-equal branch of government, elevating the other branches of government above it,” Jensen said. “It would take power away from the people and be in direct conflict to what our founders intended when they gave the legislative branch the ability to determine its own rules.”
Farrow also criticized the lawsuit attempting to overturn the laws passed in the extraordinary session.
“On behalf of our coalition of former lawmakers, I thank the Supreme Court for giving us the opportunity to explain the long bipartisan history of extraordinary sessions and the dangers of the Dane County Circuit Court’s decision,” Farrow said. “It calls into question a number of laws passed in extraordinary sessions such as the recent school safety grants. We ask the Supreme Court to reverse the Dane County decision and protect the constitutional power of the legislature.”
WILL points out that if the Democrats prevail, a number of other laws passed in previous extraordinary sessions could be placed at risk, including tax increases passed by the Democrats in 2009, Wisconsin’s Right to Work Law, and the funding framework for the Milwaukee Bucks’ new arena Fiserv Forum.