March 26, 2019 / 11:23 PM / a month ago

Second Wisconsin judge blocks Republican-backed laws curbing Democratic governor's powers

(Reuters) - A Wisconsin judge on Tuesday blocked several laws passed by Republican state lawmakers during a December lame-duck session intended to curb the powers of newly elected Democratic Governor Tony Evers, the second such ruling in the past week.

FILE PHOTO: Then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers waits to speak to supporters at a campaign event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S. November 4, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington issued a temporary injunction on legislation that requires lawmakers to approve discontinuing or settling lawsuits by the attorney general, allows them to dictate how governmental documents are written and gives them the ability to halt state rules written by Evers, court documents showed.

Remington said in his ruling that the labor unions that brought the lawsuit were likely to succeed in showing the laws violate the separation of powers provision in the state constitution.

It was the second ruling against the series of statutes passed in the last days of former Republican Governor Scott Walker’s administration. Democrats had criticized the legislation as a last-minute power grab.

“It is now abundantly clear that the lame-duck session was nothing more than an illegal power grab intended to override the will of the people,” Evers said after the ruling on Tuesday.

Remington did not issue a temporary injunction on laws that allow lawmakers to intervene in legal challenges to state statutes and new enterprise zones.

Republican legislative leaders said they would appeal Remington’s ruling.

“It’s encouraging to see the court ruling in our favor on elements of this case. However, all of the Legislature’s actions are consistent with the separation of powers that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld for decades,” state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in a joint statement.

Last Thursday, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess issued a temporary injunction stopping the laws from taking effect as part of a lawsuit filed by several left-leaning groups.

Niess said the legislature’s use of an “extraordinary session” was not explicitly permitted under the state constitution.

After that ruling, the governor immediately moved to withdraw Wisconsin from a multistate lawsuit that seeks to overturn the Obamacare healthcare law, the signature domestic achievement of former Democratic President Barack Obama and a longtime target of Republicans, including President Donald Trump.

One of the statutes passed in December had prevented Evers from pulling out of the lawsuit absent legislative approval.

Several other lawsuits have been filed challenging the lame-duck legislation.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Editing by Peter Cooney

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