MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s Democratic governor. On Tuesday, he sued the Republican-controlled Legislature, arguing that it obstructs basic government functions, including approving previously approved pay raises for university employees.
Evers is asking the liberal-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court to take up the case directly, bypassing the lower courts.
Republican legislative leaders, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.
In addition to failing to approve pay raises for about 35,000 University of Wisconsin employees, Evers says the Legislature is blocking state conservation programs, updates to the state’s commercial building standards State and ethical standards for licensed professionals.
The Legislature included a 6 percent pay increase for UW employees over two years in the state budget it passed earlier this year and which Evers signed. But salary increases also must be approved by a committee of legislative leaders. That Oct. 17 panel approved pay raises for civil servants, but not for UW employees, because Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos opposes spending at the university for efforts and diversity, equity and inclusion positions.
Evers argues in the lawsuit that the Legislature is violating the state constitution and the separation of powers by creating “legislative vetoes” through which committees controlled by a few Republican lawmakers can block actions of the executive branch.
Evers and the GOP-controlled Legislature have had a contentious relationship since Evers was elected in November 2018. He has issued more vetoes than any other Wisconsin governor, including blocking numerous bills changing the way whose elections would take place in this key presidential battleground state.
The Legislature called a lame duck session just weeks before Evers took office to weaken the new governor’s powers. They have repeatedly rejected nominations Evers made to boards and commissions, including firing the majority of members of the Natural Resources Council in October.
In another sign of their strained relationship, Evers rarely met with Republican legislative leaders. Evers is in the first year of his second term.
Republicans have worked to increase the number of seats they hold to reach a veto-like supermajority. They have the necessary two-thirds majority in the Senate and are two votes behind in the Assembly.
Evers and other Democrats are backing a state Supreme Court lawsuit aimed at throwing out the Republican-drafted legislative map in favor of one that would likely reduce GOP majorities. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for November 21.
Evers’ new lawsuit argues that the Legislature is effectively attempting to change state law without passing a bill or sending it to the governor for approval or veto. The lawsuit claims that similar efforts by legislatures have been struck down by courts in Alaska, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and West Virginia.
“Republican lawmakers are unconstitutionally obstructing the fundamental functions of government – actions that not only seek to prevent state government from effectively serving the people of our state, but which are now actively harming tens of thousands of Wisconsinites every day across our state,” Evers said. in a report.
The lawsuit argues that the state Supreme Court should take up the case directly because of its significant statewide impact and damages related to blocked pay increases, delayed programs and failure to meet modern building standards. Four of the court’s seven elected judges are liberal, giving them a majority.
If the court agrees to accept the case, it will then set deadlines for arguments within a few weeks. Otherwise, the case would first have to go to lower courts, which would likely take months or longer.