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Wisconsin judge blocks Scott Walker-backed laws curbing Democratic governor’s powers

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A Wisconsin judge on Thursday blocked legislation passed by Republican lawmakers during a December lame-duck session intended to curb the powers of newly elected Democratic Governor Tony Evers, calling the measures unconstitutionally approved.

The governor immediately moved to withdraw Wisconsin from a multistate lawsuit that seeks to overturn the Obamacare healthcare law, the signature domestic achievement of former Democratic President Barack Obama and a longtime target of Republicans, including President Donald Trump.

One of the statutes passed in December prevented Evers from pulling out of the lawsuit absent legislative approval, until Thursday’s decision set the law aside.

Democrats had criticized the legislation as a last-minute power grab. Republican lawmakers in North Carolina and Michigan pursued similar lame-duck moves after Democratic victories in November.

“The legislature overplayed its hand by using an unlawful process to accumulate more power for itself and override the will of the people,” Evers said in a statement.

Wisconsin Republican legislative leaders vowed to appeal the ruling from Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess, who issued a temporary injunction stopping the laws from taking effect.

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“For decades the legislature has used extraordinary sessions that have been widely supported by members of both parties,” Robin Vos, the state Assembly speaker, and Scott Fitzgerald, the state Senate majority leader, said in a joint statement.

“Today’s ruling only creates chaos and will surely raise questions about items passed during previous extraordinary sessions, including stronger laws against child sexual predators and drunk drivers,” the statement added.

In his decision, Niess said the legislature’s use of an “extraordinary session” was not explicitly permitted under the state constitution.

“The bottom line in this case is that the legislature did not lawfully meet during its December 2018 ‘extraordinary session,’” he wrote.

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Lawyers for the legislature had argued that an injunction would cause disruption by making thousands of statutes vulnerable to legal challenges, but Niess rejected that claim.

“Is there anything more destructive to Wisconsin’s constitutional democracy than for courts to abdicate their constitutional responsibilities by knowingly enforcing unconstitutional, and therefore, non-existent laws?” he concluded.

The ruling came as part of a lawsuit filed by several left-leaning groups.

Several other lawsuits have been filed challenging the lame-duck legislation. In January, a federal judge in Wisconsin blocked a Republican-backed law that would limit early voting across the state to two weeks. 

Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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2020 Election

Trump’s reelection support is 50-50 in Texas, Biden and O’Rourke lead the Democrats, UT/TT Poll says

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Texas voters are split when asked about reelecting the president, and Joe Biden and Beto O'Rourke are their favorites for the Democratic nomination to challenge him, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Half of the registered voters in Texas would vote to reelect President Donald Trump, but half of them would not, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Few of those voters were wishy-washy about it: 39% said they would “definitely” vote to reelect Trump; 43% said they would “definitely not” vote for him. The remaining 18% said they would “probably” (11%) or “probably not” (7%) vote to give Trump a second term.

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2012

British PM candidates clash over Brexit as Boris Johnson skips debate

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Candidates to become Britain's next prime minister clashed over Brexit strategy at their first debate on Sunday but the frontrunner, Boris Johnson, dodged the confrontation.

The 90-minute debate on Channel 4 featured the five remaining candidates and an empty podium for Johnson, the gaffe-prone former foreign secretary and former mayor of London.

In sometimes ill-tempered exchanges, four of the five candidates said they would seek to renegotiate the draft Brexit divorce deal agreed with Brussels even though EU leaders have repeatedly ruled this out.

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Saudi Arabia blames Iran for tanker attacks but does not want war

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Saudi Arabia’s crown prince blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and called on the international community to take a “decisive stand”, but said that the kingdom does not want a war in the region.

Attacks on two oil tankers on Thursday, which the United States also blamed on Iran, have raised fears of broader confrontation in the region. Iran has denied any role in the strikes south of the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route and major transit route for oil.

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