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Evers Suing Legislature for Violating State Constitution

Gov. Tony Evers is suing members of the Republican-controlled Legislature for violating the Wisconsin constitution.

In the lawsuit filed Tuesday by Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, Evers alleges that Republican lawmakers have violated the state Constitution’s separation of powers requirement by blocking executive branch actions, such as withholding pay raises for University of Wisconsin System employees and blocking conservation projects. 

The governor is asking the liberal-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court to take up the legal challenge, bypassing lower courts.

Elizabeth Koehler, State Director for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Wisconsin, thanked the governor, saying in a statement that the lawsuit “asks for a restoration of the separation of powers that are central to the healthy functioning of our democracy – functioning that Wisconsinites deserve and benefit from.”

In particular, she said the lawsuit is necessary to restore transparency to the process by which Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program (KNSP) grants are approved or denied. TNC and other conservation organizations rely upon KNSP funding to protect and care for the state’s land and water.

“KNSP has been broken for several years by a lack of transparency and unnecessary legislative roadblocks during the funding allocation process,” she said. “We saw the impact of that brokenness with projects like the Pelican River Forest, which has been indefinitely held up by a single, anonymous objection by a member of the Joint Finance Committee. Healthy government function shouldn’t hinge on the votes of anonymous individuals, and transparency should remain at the heart of legislation in Wisconsin. We believe it’s time to break up the unnecessary logjam that is hindering our democratic processes.”

Anonymous objectors also held up Knowles-Nelson funding for the Pebble Beach purchase in Sister Bay and the Egg Harbor beach expansion project.