MADISON, Wis. — A judge refused Tuesday to declare that a new law requiring state agencies to get Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s approval before writing regulations applies to state schools Superintendent Tony Evers, saying that’s a question for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Republicans have been trying to strip the superintendent position of its power to unilaterally write regulations for decades. The push has taken on more intensity since Evers, a Democrat, declared he’s running against Walker this fall. He’s one of nine Democrats challenging the governor.
The Supreme Court in 2016 upheld a Dane County judge’s injunction barring Walker from applying a 2011 law requiring state agencies to obtain his permission before writing regulations to Evers, ruling he’s a separate constitutional officer.
Last summer, Republicans passed new statutes similar to the 2011 law. Dubbed the REINS Act, the new provisions require agencies to get permission from Walker and his Department of Administration to promulgate regulations. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative law firm, asked the Supreme Court in November to declare the act applies to Evers.
A group of teachers who support Evers filed a motion in the dormant Dane County case in December seeking a declaration that the REINS Act essentially duplicates the 2011 law and therefore doesn’t apply to Evers.
The teachers’ attorney, Susan Crawford, argued during a hearing Tuesday that Evers needs clarity. State attorneys countered that Walker and DOA have no intention of violating the original injunction.
Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess denied the motion, saying nothing suggests Walker or his administration plan to violate the original injunction.
He noted that Walker and Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel are free to say they believe the REINS Act applies to Evers but that’s a separate matter for the Supreme Court. Until they violate the injunction there’s no reason to take any action, he said.
The Supreme Court has not decided whether to grant the institute’s request and weigh whether Evers is subject to the REINS Act.
Crawford told reporters after the hearing that she didn’t plan to appeal Niess’ ruling since state attorneys told the judge Walker doesn’t want to violate the injunction and she’ll let the issue play out with the high court.
Evers campaign spokeswoman Maggie Gau said in a statement that Evers is pleased that the state feels the injunction remains in place. Walker campaign spokesman Joe Fadness didn’t immediately reply to an email.
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