A Democratic state senator has joined a group of labor unions to file a third challenge against a set of laws passed by Republican lawmakers that stripped away some powers from Wisconsin's governor and attorney general.
The Wisconsin chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization, the Service Employees International Union Local 1 and the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, their members and state Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, filed a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court on Monday arguing the laws passed in a December extraordinary session violate the state constitution.
The complaint alleges that the lame-duck laws violate the constitutional guarantee of separation of powers among the executive, legislative and judicial branches.
The laws, passed by the Legislature's Republican majority and signed by former Gov. Scott Walker before he left office, give the Legislature more oversight and influence over some state agencies, limit the powers and scope of the attorney general's office and place some restrictions on early voting and photo IDs used for voting.
Proponents of the legislation argued it was necessary to maintain a balance of power among each branch of state government, while opponents said it unfairly restricted the authority of the incoming Democratic administration.
"In the blink of an eye, the lame-duck Legislature fundamentally altered Wisconsin government by arrogating to itself powers recognized for more than two hundred years as within the exclusive province of the Executive Branch, and by enabling a handful of legislators to change the law without the quorum mandated by the Constitution," attorneys wrote in their complaint.
The new lawsuit follows one filed last month by the League of Women Voters, Disability Rights Wisconsin, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities and three Wisconsin voters, alleging the method by which the Legislature passed the bills — an extraordinary session — is unconstitutional.
A federal judge ruled last month in favor of One Wisconsin Institute and Citizen Action of Wisconsin in a challenge against the provisions of the extraordinary session laws that reined in the availability of early voting and made adjustments to the state's photo ID voting requirement.
The groups argued the lame-duck laws violated a 2016 ruling in which they successfully struck down some limits on early voting and some provisions of the state's voter ID requirements. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge James Peterson wrote it was "not a close question."
Rep. Jimmy Anderson, D-Fitchburg, also filed a complaint with Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne last month alleging the session broke the state's open meetings law. Anderson has requested Ozanne sue Assembly Republicans.