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 Click The Law - Headline Legal News
Wisconsin Republicans are improperly blocking conservation work, court says
Legal Topics | 2024/07/01 17:18
The Wisconsin Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget committee can’t legally block conservation projects initiated by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The decision marks a victory for Evers, whose relationship with Republican lawmakers has deteriorated since he took office in 2019, as well as environmentalists across the state.

“I’ve spent years working against near-constant Republican obstruction, and this historic decision rightfully resets constitutional checks and balances and restores separation of powers,” the governor said in a statement. “This decision is a victory for the people of Wisconsin, who expect and deserve their government to work — and work for them, not against them.”

The Legislature’s attorney, Misha Tseytlin, didn’t immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment Friday morning.

The court ruled 6-1 that provisions that require the Joint Finance Committee to unilaterally block projects and land acquisitions funded with money from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program violate the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches.

The Legislature gave the executive branch the power to distribute stewardship money when it established the program, Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote in the majority opinion. Once that power was conferred, lawmakers lacked authority to reject decisions on how to spend the money short of rewriting spending laws, she wrote.

The Legislature created the stewardship program in 1989. The state Department of Natural Resources uses money from the program to fund grants to local governments and nongovernmental organizations for environmental projects. The gubernatorial cabinet agency also uses money from the program to acquire land for conservation and public use. The Legislature has currently authorized the agency to spend up to $33.2 million in each fiscal year through 2025-26 for land acquisition, according to court documents.


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