Tony Evers has seen this before. When he was Wisconsin’s state schools superintendent, the GOP-controlled legislature and Gov. Scott Walker tried to limit his powers. He sued them over it, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in his favor. So after deposing Walker in November’s gubernatorial election, he’s not surprised that the GOP came after him again, passing a sheaf of last-minute laws in a lame-duck session that would severely restrict his ability to do his job and fulfill the promises he made to voters.
So, once again, he plans to rely on the courts to protect his right to do the job to which he was democratically elected. Via Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
He suggested he wouldn’t go along with parts of those wide-ranging measures but wouldn’t specify which ones. The new laws limit his authority over state rules, require him to get permission from lawmakers to adjust public benefits programs and diminish his say over the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
“Having gone through this in my previous job as state superintendent, I think it’s more likely that I will be sued because I’m now the chief executive of the state,” Evers said of a potential legal fight over the lame-duck legislation “Same thing happened when I was state superintendent — I was sued. So that’s where I anticipate most of the action to be.”
Evers didn’t specify which restrictions he would ignore, but he did lay out an ambitious first budget and agenda which can give us a few clues. According to the Journal-Sentinel report, he is aiming to “expand health insurance coverage under the ACA; allow illegal immigrants to qualify for driver’s cards; give immigrants who came to the state illegally as children the chance to pay in-state tuition; and allow property taxes to rise by more than they have in the past.”
The health insurance aspect is telling, as one of the GOP’s lame-duck power-grab laws was taking away the executive branch’s ability to pull out of the infamous Obamacare lawsuit that is currently making its way through the courts after a disastrous opinion in Texas last month.
Evers says he won’t fight the changes that Republicans made to Scott Walker’s corporate lobbyist piggybank, the state’s Economic Development Corporation, which means he can’t appoint its new leader until September. His budget won’t eliminate the group, given the restrictions placed on him, but look for its influence to be diminished during Evers’ term.
Wisconsin’s Supreme Court has two big elections these next two years, which could make a big difference in how the lawsuits over executive power are decided. This spring, liberals will defend the seat of a retiring justice, and in 2020, a conservative seat will be open for the taking.
In this spring’s election, the stakes will be especially high; though it’s technically non-partisan, Republican-backed candidate Brian Hagedorn was Walker’s chief legal adviser before Walker appointed him to the District 2 Court of Appeals. His Democratic-backed opponent, Lisa Neubauer, also sits on the court.
Also of note: There are already lawsuits filed that challenge the GOP’s awful restriction on early voting, which hit record highs in Wisconsin this fall and helped Evers knock off Walker. Former Attorney General Eric Holder’s group, the National Redistricting Foundation, is involved in that effort.
It’s good to see Democrats playing hardball and no longer just sulking before succumbing to Republican treachery or waiting on courts to fix it years later. At the same time, we’re getting to the point that laws are sort of meaningless, and we’re descending into a hellish anarchy. Unfortunately, it may take totally electorally obliterating Republicans before they get the message that their shit will no longer be tolerated for us to get back to some kind of state of political normalcy.
For more stories like this one about state politics, progressive activism, and crucial updates on policies that matter, subscribe to the free Progressives Everywhere newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t bombard your inbox!