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Wisconsin Supreme Court agrees to hear Evers’ challenge to legislature

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(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s new liberal-majority Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case that could limit the state legislature and give Gov. Tony Evers a more leeway to accomplish his priorities.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear part of his challenge to legislative vetoes.

The governor sued the Republican-controlled legislature in October over its use of statehouse committees to stop a massive conservation project expansion and to block pay raises for University of Wisconsin workers.

“When the Republicans decided that 35,000 people that work for the UW System shouldn’t get a raise, without having any legislation that gives them that authority, that’s just bulls–t,” Evers told reporters in October. “That was the defining vote right there.”

The governor wants the court to stop legislative committees from blocking proposals that have been approved in either separate state laws or the state’s two-year state budget.

The new liberal-majority voted 4-3 to hear the governor’s case, but only the conservation angle.

Conservative justices say a ruling for the governor could give him almost unchecked power.

Justice Rebecca Bradley said in her dissent the majority’s decision is “needlessly engulfing this court in the morass of politics.”

“By accepting only one of the issues raised by the governor and holding the other two issues in abeyance, the majority refashions this court as the governor’s avenue for imposing policy changes without the consent of the governed,” Bradley wrote. “When the majority’s political allies say jump, the new majority responds: ‘How high?'”

She also predicted this won’t be the last time Evers asks the high court for a win he cannot get by working with the legislature.

The decision, Bradley wrote, “sets this court on a perilous path to resolve interbranch disputes whenever the governor complains the Legislature is hindering his policy agenda.”

Republican lawmakers on the Joint Finance Committee in January of last year scuttled the governor’s plan to spend $15.5 million to buy more than 56,000 acres in the Pelican River Forest and prevent any future development. A single lawmaker was able to stop Evers’ plan.

Swing Justice Brian Hagedorn said by taking the case directly, and skipping Wisconsin’s lower courts, the state supreme court has opened the door to changing the court’s traditional role.

“In this case, however, no emergency beckons, nor is there a pressing need to short-circuit the normal litigation process,” Hagedorn wrote in his own dissent. “We must remember that we are designed to be the court of last resort, not the court of first resort. Rather, even when the issues are ones we will likely consider in the end, the law is almost always better served by subjecting claims to the crucible of the multi-tiered adversarial process.”

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