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Democrats slam proposal streamlining court challenges to state laws

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MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - State Senate President Mike Ellis says he doesn’t like the way lower courts are temporarily holding up laws passed by the Legislature.

So he’s asked his colleagues Friday to co-sponsor a bill to force the State Supreme Court to take up legal challenges to state laws – and to make their rulings with 150 days.

Democrats are up in arms about the idea. Assembly Judiciary panel member Gary Hebl of Sun Prairie says it’s an example of how Republicans try to change the rules when things don’t go their way. And he says constitutional questions are too important to be rushed with artificial deadlines.

Senate Democrat Fred Risser of Madison says Ellis’s bill, “tramples the boundary between the legislative and judicial branches of government.” Risser says the bill would eliminate court trials and contested agency cases – and it, “violates the judicial process altogether.”

Ellis says lower courts are negating acts of the Legislature – and he says issues that affect the entire state should be heard only by the Supreme Court.

The Republicans’ limits on public union bargaining passed in 2011 were thrown out by a Madison judge last fall for local government and school employees – and while that’s still being appealed, a federal court ruled in favor of the law for all employees.

Ellis say the conflicting rulings cause confusion. Also, the GOP’s photo ID law for voting has only been used once since it passed in 2011. It’s been tied up in appellate courts, and voters have not shown their ID’s at five elections since last April. 

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