May 2024 Legislative Update 

  • Campaign Season Underway. With the legislature adjourned, the focus shifts quickly to campaigns. Numerous legislators have announced their plans to either run again, retire, or seek a different office. Candidates have until June 3 to submit their nomination papers, after which there will be a clear understanding of who is running where and in which district.
  • KNSP Case Update. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is considering a legal challenge from Gov. Tony Evers (D) to the Wisconsin Legislature’s committee oversight power over the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. Oral arguments before the court were held April 17. Specifically, the lawsuit from Gov. Evers alleges that a provision giving the Joint Committee on Finance the power to review and veto funding awards under the Stewardship Program is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. The supreme court accepted the case, styled Tony Evers v. Howard Marklein, in early February. Sen. Marklein (R-Spring Green) is the Republican Senate co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance.

During oral arguments, liberal Justice Jill Karofsky and attorneys representing the governor’s position focused on the apparently unlimited nature of the committee veto power in questioning its constitutionality. Justice Brian Hagedorn also appeared skeptical of the committee veto power and the legislature’s arguments defending it.

Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley and attorneys representing the legislature focused on the fact that most of the activities of the executive branch are approved or delegated by the legislature through statutes, appropriations, and rulemaking authorization, suggesting that the committee veto is a natural extension or retention of the legislature’s constitutional powers.

Gov. Evers announced the filing of the lawsuit in October of last year, claiming that Republicans in the Legislature are “violating the Wisconsin Constitution and intruding into executive powers.” The suit was filed as a petition for original action by Attorney General Kaul at the governor’s request. It is an uncommon and significant step for the supreme court to accept a petition for original action (meaning that a case is not developed in the lower courts before being decided by the supreme court).

It is anticipated that the court may rule on the case in late spring or early summer.