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Bill now makes any suspension of state law by a circuit court judge ‘immediately appealable’

Shawn Johnson, Wisconsin Public Radio

The state Senate passed a significantly watered-down version of a plan on Tuesday that was originally aimed at limiting the power of circuit court judges to block laws that they find unconstitutional.

Republican authors originally drew up this plan in response to judges in Dane County who issued injunctions blocking key pieces of Wisconsin's new voter ID and collective bargaining laws. Under the original version of this plan, those laws would have remained on the books in their entirety as long as the attorney general filed quick appeals, and only the Wisconsin Supreme Court would have had the power to block them.

Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, was glad to see that original idea tossed aside in the Senate.

“The Assembly came up with a crazy idea, which I think is totally unconscionable and unconstitutional,” said Risser.

In its place, Republican senators amended the bill to say that if a circuit court suspends any state law, that ruling is “immediately appealable as a matter of right.” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he liked the original version better, but indicated that this amended version would plan his chamber too.

“The Senate has their prerogative, and I think the most important thing for us is that the concept remains intact,” said Vos.

It's not entirely clear how this plan would differ from current law, since the attorney general already has options for expedited appeals of circuit court decisions. In some cases, the Supreme Court has granted those requests for appeals; in other cases, justices have rejected them.