Dem Gov.’s Lawsuit Against Legisture to be Heard by Wisconsin Supreme Court

In a dispute that Democratic Governor Tony Evers filed against the Republican-controlled Legislature, the Wisconsin Supreme Court justices questioned Wednesday the proper authority of legislative committees; the outcome of this case might significantly alter the operation of state government.

Winning the case would simplify the approval process for land stewardship program projects and alter long-standing procedures in the Legislature, according to Evers. To be sure, the justices shared Republican worries about the case’s far-reaching implications on the check and balance between the legislative and executive departments.

Legislative attorney Misha Tseytlin said that supporting Evers would jeopardize the established order of our state government.

Liberal Justice Jill Karofsky, on the other hand, refuted the arguments against changing long-established procedures by speculating that they may have been wrong for a hundred years and that it would be foolish to continue making this mistake.

Evers claims that the Joint Finance Committee, which is responsible for drafting the state budget and is now controlled by Republicans with a 12-4 majority, is acting independently of the Legislature and exceeding its constitutional lawmaking power. The legislative branch maintains that the committee’s authority to approve state conservation projects and similar initiatives is well-established by statute and judicial precedent.

Karofsky questioned if the budget committee had too much authority.

Tseytlin claims that if the court upholds Evers’s position, it will invalidate specific long-standing responsibilities of legislative committees such as the budget committee and the State Construction Commission. For more than a hundred years, these features have served their purpose.

Concerned about the possible effects of the court’s decision on the authority and jurisdiction of several parliamentary committees, conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley voiced her reservations.

Colin Roth, Evers’s lawyer, claims that the duty to execute laws passed by the legislature transfers to the executive branch per the constitution’s stated provisions. He claims that the legislature is going too far by giving committees the power to reject measures like stewardship project approval.

While speaking about the case on Tuesday, Evers stressed how critical it is for the state Supreme Court to recognize the Legislature’s budget committee as a separate but equal part of government and work to rein it in.

As highlighted in the complaint, the committee rejected several conservation projects selected by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources under the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

Republicans have long advocated for reducing stewardship acquisitions, citing their negative effects on tax income for northern Wisconsin towns, the expansion of the state’s debt, and the exempt status of a large amount of property.

Concerns about the program’s size and financial ramifications led legislators to scrutinize it more closely.