UPDATE: GOP Senators decide not to challenge authority of judges - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Senate Republicans decide not to challenge authority of local judges


MADISON (WKOW) -- Senate Republicans are backing off on a bill that would have essentially stripped local judges of the right to temporarily block state laws, even though the Assembly passed the bill last June.

The Assembly bill is in response to court orders like the one Dane County Judge Mary Ann Sumi issued in March of 2011, which struck down the state's collective bargaining law.  That led to a delay in its implementation until the State Supreme Court overturned her decision on appeal months later.  Its one of a handful of state laws held up by local judges over the past three years.

Under Assembly Bill 161, such an injunction or restraining order would be stayed as soon as an appeal of that ruling is filed.

"This bill, it seems as though it violates the basic balance of powers that were set up in the government to protect citizens from abuse of power by one branch," said Andrea Kaminski, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.

Those types of concerns caused Senate Republicans to reverse course on the bill Tuesday afternoon.  The Judiciary Committee amended the bill, removing the portion about staying such orders.

"There's a balancing act between what you want and how certain you are that something will be ruled constitutional," said Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.  "And I think there were some reservations, by some lawyers, not all lawyers, that the original bill may have had some problems in that regard."

Sen. Grothman said the amended bill will require that injunctions that are upheld by appeals courts immediately move on to the Supreme Court for review.

"We feel it will create a situation where the State Supreme Court will act much quicker than they are today, where now it may bounce back to the circuit court and drag on that way," said Sen. Grothman.

Opponents of the original bill are just happy to see Republicans backing off on what they saw as a large legislative overreach.

"I hope that they've gotten the message that the legislature should not be interfering with the judiciary," said Kaminski.

The Senate will likely take up the amended version of the bill before the end of this session, but a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says it will not be on the calendar next week.


MADISON (WKOW) -- The Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee will vote on a bill Tuesday that would greatly limit the power of local judges to block state laws.

AB 161, which passed the State Assembly last June, would stay any injunction or restraining order set by a judge as soon as an appeal of their ruling is filed with a Wisconsin appellate court or the Supreme Court of Wisconsin. 

The bill's Republican authors say that one judge in one county should not be able to block implementation of a statute that was passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor.

They cite the injunctions on voter ID and the collective bargaining law as examples.  Both bills were temporarily put on hold after judges in Dane County struck them down.

But opponents of AB 161, such as the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, contend that it is appropriate for a law to be blocked if a judge has ruled that it violates the state constitution.

Capitol Bureau Chief will be at today's hearing and will have a live report on 27 News at 5 and 6.


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