The Wisconsin Supreme Court granted the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty’s (WILL) action filed in Bartlett v. Evers, asking the court to review Gov. Tony Evers’ use of his partial veto powers. The court granted WILL’s request and assumed jurisdiction for the case.
Evers’ actions, WILL argued, improperly and unlawfully changed various provisions of the Wisconsin State Budget, 2019 Wisconsin Act 9, which created new laws never approved by the legislature.
“Governor Evers used his partial veto to create new laws out of whole cloth,” WILL President and General Counsel Rick Esenberg said in a prepared statement. “The people of Wisconsin never intended the check on legislative power the Governors’ veto represents to permit the Governor to legislate on his own. We are pleased the Court agreed that Governor Evers’ recent use of the partial veto warrants judicial review.”
Evers’ partial veto fundamentally changed several policies enacted by the legislature, which violated provisions of the state constitution, WILL’s July 31 action states. The action refers to Evers’ creation of a $75 million grant program for local road projects, changing vehicle registration fees for heavy trucks, altering the definition of “vapor products,” and eliminating and replacing a grant program for school buses, with a grant for electric vehicle charging stations.
According to the constitution, the governor may only veto appropriation bills in whole or “in part.” The constitutional language clarifies that governor veto power cannot in any way transform the meaning and purpose of the law.
The court’s Oct. 19 order required petitioners to file briefs with the court within 40 days, after which respondents must file briefs within 30 days. Within 15 days of respondents’ filing, petitioners must file a reply brief. Oral arguments will be scheduled for a later date.
Evers’ spokesperson, Britt Cudaback, said the governor’s vetoes “improved Republicans’ budget by increasing support for our public schools and fixing our roads, and were entirely consistent with the Wisconsin Constitution, decades of decisions by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and vetoes by prior governors.”
The partial veto power dates back to a 1930 Constitutional Amendment, which was again amended by voters in 1990 and 2008.
In the 2019 Legislative Session, Republican state lawmakers proposed another constitutional amendment to prohibit the governor from using the partial veto as a mechanism to increase state spending.
The state constitution can only be amended if the proposed amendment passes two consecutive legislative sessions and is approved by voters in a statewide referendum.