Republicans spend taxpayer money on lawyers instead of doing their job, say Democrats

    Rep. Evan Goyke and Rep. Chris Taylor exchange with the rest of the comittee members. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)
    Rep. Evan Goyke and Rep. Chris Taylor exchange with the rest of the committee members. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)

    Democratic state representatives Chris Taylor (D-Madison) and Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) are not OK with Republican leaders bringing a lawsuit against the Safer at Home restrictions to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on behalf of the entire state Legislature, without consulting the legislative body. 

    They also object to taxpayers being forced to cover unlimited  private attorneys’ fees in the effort to overturn the health secretary’s Safer at Home orders — which public health and infectious disease experts maintain are saving the lives of Wisconsinites.

    “I object in the strongest possible way to a few Republican legislators bringing an original action in front of the Supreme Court on behalf of the entire legislature when they didn’t bother to consult with members of the body about it,” Taylor said in a statement. “Many legislators do not consent to this action, do not believe these legislators have the authority or adequate grounds to bring it, and oppose the unlimited amount of taxpayer dollars they are wasting on their high priced attorneys to pursue a course that is harmful to the people.”

    Goyke agreed and added that if the Republican legislative leaders do not like the law, their job is to have the Legislature write a new one or alter the statute.

    “If the Republicans don’t like the law, they can change it — that is literally the role of the Legislature,” said Goyke. “Bring us into session, stand up and offer your own plan, and back it up publicly with your vote — not with your lawyers. Instead, Republicans are hiding behind taxpayer funded lawyers, which in recent cases have been paid nearly $300 an hour — close to the maximum an unemployed worker can receive for an entire week in Wisconsin.”  

    The statute states  that the secretary of the Department of Health Services (DHS)  “may promulgate and enforce rules or issue orders for guarding against the introduction of any communicable disease into the state, for the control and suppression of communicable diseases, for the quarantine and disinfection of persons, localities and things infected or suspected of being infected by a communicable disease.” And, as noted here, it explicitly adds, “Any rule or order may be made applicable to the whole or any specified part of the state.”

    “While Republicans sue, Democrats continue to seek action on the many needed areas of relief for people all across our state,” added Goyke. “In this moment, we should act to help one another, not further the divide with lawsuits.”

    Taylor said that in their lawsuit Republican leaders are essentially asking the court to do their job, when the Legislature is the branch of government empowered by the state constitution to act. She added that she also finds the action — as cases of COVID-19 are on the rise in Wisconsin — a terrible idea: “Initiating a lawsuit that could result in the deaths of untold numbers of people in the midst of the worst public health crisis in a century is not just legally suspect, but just plain wrong and heartless.”

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    Melanie Conklin
    Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.