Wisconsin governor sues Republicans over stalled UW raises, conservation projects

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(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s governor is accusing Republican lawmakers of hijacking power at the State Capitol.

Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday filed a lawsuit that challenges the Republican-controlled legislature’s Joint Committee on Employment Relations, Joint Finance Committee and Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules for thwarting his power by refusing to approve pay raises for University of Wisconsin employees and for blocking a handful of conservation projects in the state.

“Wisconsin’s state government has wandered far astray from that foundational division of authority. Through statutes that allow legislative committees to veto executive branch decision-making, small groups of legislators exercise executive authority over large swaths of government activity. The powers to create and to execute the law need to be separated again,” Evers’ lawsuit alleges.

Evers is upset the Republican-controlled legislature blocked pay raises for about 35,000 UW employees as part of an ongoing battle over diversity, equity and inclusion spending at the university.

“Republican legislators are unconstitutionally obstructing basic functions of government – actions that have not only aimed to prevent state government from efficiently and effectively serving the people of our state but are now actively harming tens of thousands of Wisconsinites every day across our state,” Evers said in a statement.

The lawsuit names Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, who chair the Joint Committee on Finance, as well as Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who are in charge of the Joint Committee on Employee Relations, and Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, along with Rep. Adam Neylon, R-Pewaukee, who head the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules.

Evers wants the Wisconsin Supreme Court to strike down state laws that allow the legislature to use its committee rule-making process. Evers’ lawsuit says those committee rules “intrude on the executive branch’s authority to promulgate administrative rules.”

“I’m a born-and-raised Wisconsinite, and what I know for certain is that Wisconsinites expect elected officials to govern. They expect us to get things done, and they expect their government to work and work for them – and certainly not against them. I promised the people of our state that I would always work to get things done, and I’d always try to do the right thing, and today, I’m doing both by insisting we follow our state’s constitution,” Evers said.

None of the lawmakers named in the lawsuit had any comment on the governor’s filing Tuesday.

The governor is asking the State Supreme Court to take the case directly.

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