MADISON, Wis. -- A coalition of liberal-leaning groups filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to void laws passed by Wisconsin Republicans that reduced the powers of the newly elected Democratic governor and attorney general.
Republicans derided the lawsuit as a frivolous attempt by bitter Democrats to score political points.
The legal challenge is the first seeking to undo all of the measures approved during last month's lame-duck legislative session. The lawsuit argues the session was unconstitutional because it amounted to an illegal gathering of lawmakers.
Then-Gov. Scott Walker, who was defeated by Democrat Tony Evers in November, quickly signed the legislation before leaving office.
The new laws include taking away Evers' ability to withdraw the state from lawsuits without legislative approval, which would prevent Evers from fulfilling his campaign promise to remove Wisconsin from a multistate lawsuit seeking repeal of the federal health care law. The laws also prevent Evers from rescinding federal Medicaid waivers approved under the Walker administration.
Another new law gives the Legislature, rather than newly sworn-in Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, the power to decide how to spend money obtained from lawsuit settlements.
The coalition's lawsuit hinges on the procedural move Republicans used to call themselves into what is known as an "extraordinary session." The lawsuit argues that the Wisconsin Constitution only allows for the Legislature to meet "at such time as provided by law" or in a "special" session, which is a session called by the governor. The lawsuit contends the session held in December didn't fit either category.
The groups that filed the lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court are the League of Women Voters, Disability Rights Wisconsin, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities and three Wisconsin voters.
Wisconsin Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called the lawsuit frivolous and said Democrats were "throwing a tantrum." Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Thursday that he was "absolutely, positively certain this lawsuit won't have merit."
Evers spokesman Melissa Baldauff said the governor expected such a legal challenge and that he would consult with his attorney about his next move.
"This legislation was a hasty and cynical attempt by Republicans to override the will of the people," Baldauff said Thursday.
The lawsuit comes as state Rep. Jimmy Anderson, a Democrat, also filed a complaint with the Dane County district attorney seeking to void the lame-duck laws. Anderson is paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair. He contends Republican lawmakers violated the state's open-meetings law by not revealing when they would vote on the bills.
Anderson, who said he can't be in his chair more than 16 hours a day, missed the early morning vote that came after Republicans negotiated the bills in private all night long.
Tom Kamenick, another attorney with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, said Anderson's allegation was baseless because the state Supreme Court has already ruled courts can't hear open-meetings law complaints against the Legislature.
A Section on 01/11/2019
Print Headline: Wisconsin suit targets GOP-passed legislation