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Democratic Party Launches Another Challenge to Lame-duck Laws

On Feb. 21, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) sued GOP legislative leaders in another attempt to quash the lame-duck laws. This is the fourth challenge brought against legislation passed and signed into law by outgoing Gov. Walker after the November 2018 elections.

DPW filed their complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, located in Madison. The plaintiffs asked the court to declare the lame-duck laws, Acts 369 and 370, unconstitutional and to block GOP legislative leaders from using them as legal authority. In addition to the Democratic Party, plaintiffs include voters from each congressional district in Wisconsin who voted for Democrats Tony Evers and Josh Kaul.

The theme in the complaint is that “elections matter” and that the new laws “deprive the people of Wisconsin of their electoral choice.” Campaign promises by the newly elected Democratic Governor and Attorney General being blocked by the new laws include:

  • Redirecting the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
  • Changing DOT rules relating to voter ID requirements
  • Withdrawing Wisconsin from Obamacare litigation
  • Expanding Medicaid and eliminating its work requirements

The complaint alleges three constitutional violations:

First, because the “extraordinary” lame-duck session. . . was convened for the purpose and had the effect of transferring the powers heretofore wielded by the Executive to the legislature in order to blunt the electoral results, the Acts are void for violating the Guarantee Clause of the United States Constitution.

Second, for much the same reasons, the Acts improperly interfered with the fundamental right of voters to free expression and association, and violate the First Amendment.

Third, by discriminating against Plaintiffs based on political viewpoint and diluting their votes, the Acts violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Defendants in the suit are Robin Vos (Assembly Speaker), Scott L. Fitzgerald (Senate Majority Leader), Alberta Darling (Senate Co-Chair of Joint Finance), John Nygren (Assembly Co-Chair of Joint Finance), Roger Roth (Senate President), Stephen Nass (Senate Co-Chair of Review of Administrative Rules), and Joan Ballweg (Assembly Co-Chair of Review of Administrative Rules). These Republican leaders were targeted as defendants due to, according to the complaint, their role in passing and implementing the Acts. Evers and Kaul are nominal defendants.

Another challenge to this legislation was brought by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and other public sector unions. In a SEIU Complaint filed on Feb. 4, 2019, the unions allege the Acts violate the separation of powers and constitute “an unprecedented power grab by legislators.” See [this blog]

Related Links

2017 Wis. Act 369 Provisions on Legislative Oversight of State Litigation, Robert Fassbender