After having various Republican-introduced laws challenged by courts the past two years, a GOP-backed motion that would discontinue the power of circuit judges to block state laws passed committee Wednesday.
The Assembly Committee on Government Operations and State Licensing passed the bill co-sponsored by Rep. David Craig, R-Big Bend, 10-6 after heated debate.
According to Craig, the legislation would alter the current system of judicial review in Wisconsin so challenges to state laws would be seen by higher courts exclusively, not circuit courts.
This means laws previously prevented by circuit courts would be put back in effect until a higher court ruled on them. This includes two court decisions that placed temporary injunctions on a law requiring voters to show IDs at the polls, which were both decided by Dane County circuit court judges.
Similarly, portions of Gov. Scott Walker’s law that eliminated collective bargaining rights for many public sector employee unions struck down by a Dane County circuit court judge would also be immediately re-implemented until they were reviewed by a higher court.
Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, said this law is worrisome because if the Wisconsin Supreme Court declined to review a bill, the bill in question could remain in effect indeterminately. She criticized Craig’s initiative and Republican Party leaders moving to pass this bill.
“You had several opportunities to fix this and make this a workable bill … I can’t see myself voting for this thing,” she said. “Even a former supreme court justice who was appointed by a Republican governor said this is clearly unconstitutional. It appears to me that you’re just not taking the advice of the people that actually understand these issues.”
Rep. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, called Craig “extremely childish,” saying the motion was an example of the Republican Party “just wanting to stop anyone else from doing anything [they] don’t like.”
Claiming an amendment was promised by the co-sponsors was heard in Wednesday’s committee meeting, Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, said he was also disappointed in the bill,
“We know there are problems,” he said. “The authors admitted there were problems with the bill, but are doing nothing to fix those problems.”
He called the bill another example of “pace-making waste” by Republicans controlling the state. The only employment opportunities possible from this bill are to those of lawyers who push lawsuits to the state’s supreme court, according to Hulsey.
Craig defended the bill, citing its ability to minimize costs to the state and those involved in court cases.
“We are taking a process and basically fast-tracking it. We’re slimming down costs on the state… and litigants,” he said.