Wisconsin judge blocks sections of lame-duck laws

In this Feb. 23, 2019 file photo, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks during an interview during the National Governors Association 2019 winter meeting in Washington. Evers said Thursday, March 14, that the state budget he proposed is "pretty close" to not raising taxes, even though it would increase them by $1.3 billion over two years. Evers, in an interview on WTMJ radio, said that there "may be some small tax increases." The comments drew an incredulous reaction from Republican legislative leaders.(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

By TODD RICHMOND Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Another Dane County judge on Tuesday blocked key portions of Republican-backed laws limiting Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul’s powers, handing Democrats a second legal victory in their battle against the legislation in less than a week.

Judge Frank Remington issued a preliminary injunction blocking language that requires Kaul to get legislative approval before settling cases, forces state agencies to review publications explaining how they interpret state law by July and allows lawmakers to suspend agency regulations multiple times.

He let stand other sections that grant the Legislature the right to intervene in lawsuits with its own attorneys rather than Kaul’s state Department of Justice lawyers, and prohibit Evers from withdrawing from federal waivers that enabled former Republican Gov. Scott Walker to enact a work requirement for some people receiving state health care.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, both Republicans, said in a joint statement they were encouraged that Remington left some elements of the law alone but they will appeal the rest of his order.

Remington’s order stems from a union lawsuit alleging the laws violate the separation of powers between the Legislature and the executive branch.

Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess blocked the laws in their entirety last week as part of a separate lawsuit. A group of liberal-leaning organizations allege the Legislature convened illegally when it passed the laws in December.

Republicans have asked a state appeals court to stay that ruling. A decision could come at any time.