Wisconsin’s conservative-controlled Supreme Court on Friday upheld lame-duck laws limiting the powers of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, handing Republican lawmakers a resounding victory.
A group of liberal-leaning organizations led by the League of Women Voters sued in January alleging the laws are invalid because legislators convened illegally to pass them in December. The groups maintained the Legislature’s session had ended months earlier and that the lame-duck floor session wasn’t part of the Legislature’s regular schedule.
But the Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, declared that the Wisconsin Constitution gives lawmakers the authority to decide when to meet.
“The terminology the Legislature chooses to accomplish the legislative process is squarely the prerogative of the Legislature,” the conservative majority wrote. Three liberal justices dissented, saying the Legislature went beyond what is constitutionally allowable when it convened the lame-duck session.
The legal fight over the lame-duck laws isn’t over. A group of unions has filed a separate lawsuit in state court arguing the laws steal authority from the governor and attorney general in violation of the separation of powers doctrine. That challenge is pending before the Supreme Court.
The state Democratic Party has filed a federal lawsuit contending the laws are meant to punish Evers’ supporters in violation of free speech and equal protection guarantees.