Unions File Lawsuit to Protect Wisconsin Governor from Lame-Duck Power Grab

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Oriana Korin

MADISON, Wis.—Today, a lawsuit was filed by AFT-Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization, the Service Employees International Union Local 1, and the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, challenging the constitutionality of laws enacted by the lame-duck Wisconsin state Legislature following the November 2018 election in an attempt to limit Gov. Tony Evers’ power before he assumed office. The suit alleges that these laws violate the state constitution’s separation of powers laws and grant unprecedented authority to the Legislature that traditionally belongs to the governor. The unions filing the suit maintain that the lame-duck proposals are an illegitimate, illegal and partisan attempt by politicians to prevent the governor from acting as the chief executive of the state, simply because they don’t agree with his politics. Similar efforts to thwart the democratic process have been attempted—and ultimately overturned—in other states, most recently in North Carolina in 2014.

Filed in Dane County Circuit Court, the lawsuit details the many ways the new laws shift power from the governor to the state Legislature, including by stripping the executive branch of its litigation authority, empowering legislative committees to override executive branch decisions, and hindering the ability of the state agencies to communicate with the public and execute the law.

“We will not let power-hungry politicians in Wisconsin run roughshod over the will of the people,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “This case is about restoring justice for the people of Wisconsin and for the office of the governor, and it’s about preserving the integrity of our democracy. Elections matter. If you don’t like the outcome, you don’t get to ignore it and legislate a different power structure that the majority of people didn’t actually vote for.”

AFT-Wisconsin President Kim Kohlhaas said, “Wisconsin Republicans have staked their entire legislative careers on putting roadblocks in the way of public schools, affordable healthcare and decent jobs. Now, their legacy will be this sore-loser power grab. We fought hard to elect a governor who would finally stand up for us, and we’ll keep fighting to make sure he can do the job he was elected to do.”

“We have fought to protect affordable, accessible healthcare for the people of Wisconsin,” said Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals President Candice Owley, “and voters agreed: They wanted to expand Medicaid and keep the Affordable Care Act. But before Gov. Evers has even had a chance to make good on those efforts, Republicans are trying to strip him of the power with which Wisconsin voters entrusted him. This lawsuit tells them: ‘Not so fast.’”

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.

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