March 21 (UPI) — A Wisconsin judged ruled to block laws passed by Republicans in the state during a lame-duck session and restored powers to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul.
Dane County Judge Richard Niess issued a temporary injunction Thursday, stating that all of the laws passed during the session were unlawful because the so-called “extraordinary session” they met to pass them during isn’t explicitly permitted in the state’s constitution.
“There can be no justification for enforcement of the unconstitutional legislative actions emanating from the December 2018 ‘Extraordinary Session’ that is consistent with the rule of law,” Neiss wrote in his ruling.
Niess added that the the legislature “overplayed its hand by using an unlawful process to accumulate more power for itself and override the will of the people,” despite the results of November’s midterm elections.
“I look forward to putting this disappointing chapter behind us so we can move forward together to put the needs of the people of Wisconsin first,” he wrote.
Republican legislative leaders vowed to appeal Niess’ ruling shortly after it was delivered on Thursday.
“Today’s ruling only creates chaos and will surely raise questions about items passed during previous extraordinary sessions, including stronger laws against child sexual predators and drunk drivers,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester said in a statement.
Evers touted the ruling as “a victory” for the Wisconsin Constitution, but said he wouldn’t exercise his newly returned powers with haste in order to beat the Republican appeal.
“We will be moving forward not with speed but with thoughtfulness and make those decisions going forward,” he said. “We don’t view this as a window of opportunity, we think we’re right on the issues and the judge made it very clear that the constitution counts for something in this state.”
Evers and Kaul immediately set the process in motion to withdraw Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act joined by Republicans during the lame-duck session.
“As the governor has requested, please take whatever steps are necessary to remove Wisconsin from Texas v. United States,” Evers’ chief legal counsel, Ryan Nilsestuen asked the Department of Justice.
Thursday’s ruling also struck down 82 appointments former Republican Gov. Scott Walker made in the final days of his administration and if it is upheld would allow Evers to make his own appointments to those positions.
“The appointments are ordered temporarily vacated as a necessary consequence of this temporary injunction,” Niess wrote.