On October 31, 2023, Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit on behalf of Governor Tony Evers against six Republicans for unlawful obstruction of basic government functions. The lawsuit cites legislative vetoes that have withheld pay raises for University of Wisconsin employees and blocked Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program projects, among other actions, as violations of the Wisconsin Constitution’s separation of powers.
Gov. Evers alleges the Republican-led Legislature used the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) to illegally stall or reject funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program for projects overseen by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Recently, the JFC objected to purchasing conservation easements that would have ensured public access to the Pelican River Forest in Northern Wisconsin in perpetuity. An anonymous objection by the JFC scuttled the project last year and, despite ongoing negotiations, the JFC has refused to take up the project during an open meeting. Gov. Evers’ lawsuit aims to prevent the Legislature from blocking already approved Stewardship program grants.
The Wisconsin State Journal, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin Examiner, and CBS58 report that withholding pay raises and blocking conservation projects are central to the governor’s lawsuit. The lawmakers being sued are the chairs and co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee, the Joint Committee on Employment Relations, and the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules. The lawsuit cites examples of actions by each committee in which lawmakers have thwarted executive branch actions.
Featured image by Joshua Mayer, 2013.