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Data Wonk: Wisconsin’s Legislative Committees Uniquely Powerful?

Legislative committees' ability to veto executive actions without having to amend state statute is unique to Wisconsin.

Urban Milwaukee’s Data Wonk dug into the history that allowed Wisconsin’s legislative committees to veto executive actions without having to amend state statutes, a prerogative that appears to be unique to Wisconsin. Several of these vetoes, including Joint Committee on Finance vetoes blocking Knowles-Nelson Stewardship projects, were the impetus for Governor Evers’ lawsuit against the Republican controlled Wisconsin Legislature, accusing it of appropriating powers that should belong to the executive.

Erosion of Wisconsin’s separation of powers appears to have begun with two court cases: JF Ahern Co. v. Building Commission decided by the Court of Appeals in 1983 and Martinez v. DILHR (Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations) decided by the state Supreme Court in 1991. Decisions in both those cases found the separation of powers doctrine to be a principle of shared power rather than completely separated powers.

Data Wonk speculated that the political environment at the time those cases were decided, which was much less polarized than today, made the idea of “shared powers” plausible. But today’s Legislature is not interested in shared power and has included provisions giving veto power to legislative committees over executive branch implementation in many of the bills it has passed.

Featured image by Connor Betts, 2016

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Supreme Court

WI Environmental Groups Celebrate Supreme Court Ruling

Midwest Environmental Advocates and Clean Wisconsin, both of which filed amicus briefs in the separation of powers lawsuit, praised the court’s decision that a statute allowing the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) to block Knowles-Nelson projects is unconstitutional.

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