A dangerous proposal is being fast-tracked in the State Capitol. An intrusion of the legislature upon the judiciary, AB 161 would damage the critical checks and balances which protect citizens from the abuse of power by one branch of government.
Proponents of the bill complain that, currently, one judge elected by voters in one county is able to block implementation of a statute that was passed by the full legislature and signed by the Governor. They cite the injunctions on voter ID and parts of the collective bargaining law as examples.
Yet that is why we have higher courts. If the state believes a judge has incorrectly blocked a law as unconstitutional, it may appeal the ruling and seek to reverse a preliminary injunction. In the case of voter ID, the state sought a stay of the injunctions from two circuit court judges, two appeals court panels and the state Supreme Court. A total of 15 judges and justices—not just one—declined to stay the injunctions. Thus a process already exists to appeal a preliminary injunction. It is not an easy process, nor should it be. Judges have to be able to block laws they deem to be in violation of the constitution.
This bill could allow the legislature to pass unconstitutional laws without consequences. The Wisconsin Legislative Council, the legislature’s independent nonpartisan legal research service, has concluded that the proposed law may very well violate the state constitution
Contact your state legislators and urge them to reject AB161 and its companion bill SB154. Click here to find your elected official’s contact info
New lawmakers were sworn in earlier this week with a lot of talk of bipartisanship. We'll see how that translates into action.
Mining. One thing that does not bode well is that Senators Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) and Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) have not been assigned by their party leaderships to the mining committee. The two senators led a Select Committee in 2012 to study the issues and devise mining legislation that “provides the certainty the industry asked for while also protecting our environment, especially our water,” according to Sen. Cullen, quoted in The Capital Times.
The League of Women Voters believes mining policy should not weaken environmental protection, and it must provide ample opportunities for citizen input and, when needed, legal remedy.
State budget. Citizen Action’s Robert Kraig says that of all the budget decisions Governor Walker is likely to make this year, “none will have a bigger impact than whether Wisconsin accepts over $12 billion in federal health care reform money over the next decade to fill the holes in BadgerCare.” Read Kraig's column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Last fall John Keckhaver, who leads a public policy consulting firm in Madison, spoke to the League’s legislative committee about how to follow the state budget. He noted the budget is a “nearly continuous process.” Last year the Governor sent instructions to state agencies, and the agencies submitted their requests. In February the Governor will release the executive budget, which will be introduced as legislation. It will have analysis and hearings before having a vote in each house. Here are ways to follow the budget process:
Visit the Legislative Fiscal Bureau website for official documents and nonpartisan summaries
Subscribe to Keckhaver’s budget alerts on his website
Subscribe to the Wisconsin Budget Project blog
Call your legislator’s office with specific questions.
Position on Mining Legislation
The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network opposes any new mining legislation that weakens environmental protections or reduces opportunities for citizen comment or legal redress.
Current mining law balances the needs of mining companies against the public interest in clean air and water. It recognizes that mining inevitably leads to pollution and destruction of natural areas, yet offers reasonable environmental protection if the DNR is vigilant, and has sufficient staff, time, and information. Any compromise of these elements would constitute a give-away of our natural heritage and our civic legacy.
Adopted by LWV Ashland-Bayfield Counties board of directors August 15, 2011; recommended by LWVWI Education Network Legislative Committee August 16, 2011; adopted by LWVWI Education Network board of directors August 19, 2011.