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Wisconsin Supreme Court Accepts Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Lawsuit

Governor Evers' lawsuit alleges that the legislature is obstructing government function by stalling Knowles-Nelson Stewardship grant approvals.

The Associated Press reported that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has accepted Governor Tony Evers’ lawsuit against the Republican-controlled legislature. The court agreed to hear Evers’ allegation that the 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 (DNR). Oral arguments are set for April 17, 2024.

Gov. Evers’ lawsuit alleges that the JFC’s rejection of conservation projects selected by the DNR under the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is “using legislative committee vetoes to reach far beyond its proper zone of constitutional lawmaking authority.”

The Cap Times reports that once a Knowles-Nelson grant application goes to JFC, any member can raise an anonymous objection. An objection can lead to an indefinite hold on funding while the grant proposal sits without action for weeks, months, or even years.

Wisconsin Public Radio adds that the lawsuit alleges that by blocking funds that have already been approved, these committee actions are unconstitutional and they unlawfully obstruct basic government functions.

The lawsuit cited two other issues — the then-blockage of pay raises for Universities of Wisconsin employees, which has since been resolved, and blocking updates to the state’s commercial building standards and ethics standards for licensed professionals.

Featured image by Richard Hurd, 2013.

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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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