Wisconsin needs a chief law enforcement officer who is fully empowered to do his job. Yet, Attorney General Josh Kaul is hamstrung by legislative Republicans.
In the fall of 2018, the voters put their trust in Kaul, a Democrat, to serve a four-year term as attorney general. Legislative Republicans did not like the result, so they conspired to disempower Kaul with “lame-duck” legislation that has effectively blocked his authority to settle legal disputes that past attorneys general—Democrats and Republicans—were able to resolve.
Now, in order to settle any lawsuit involving the state, Kaul must seek approval from the Republicans who control the legislative Joint Finance Committee.
That’s cumbersome, inefficient and absurd. Yet, that’s the mess we’re in. Efforts to resolve more than a dozen lawsuits have been stalled. One, according to Department of Justice staff, involves a “matter of tremendous importance to the state.”
Joint Finance Committee Democrats have had enough.
“(It) should be abundantly clear to Wisconsinites that Republicans did an incredibly sloppy job in their rush to pass the lame-duck laws last year,” said state Sen. LaTonya Johnson, a Milwaukee Democrat who serves on the committee. “Instead of Wisconsin’s duly elected attorney general being able to act in our state’s best interests, we have legal gridlock and the legislative Republicans have no one to blame but themselves. They took unprecedented action to strip powers from Gov. Evers and AG Kaul and are just now realizing they’ve made a mess of our state’s government.”
Committee Democrats are proposing a simple fix: go back to normal. By repealing the changes made during the lame-duck session, the traditional authority of the attorney general, the authority that voters elected Kaul to exercise, will be restored.
“Wisconsin trusts the attorney general to do his job, but Republicans continue to stand in his way,” said state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-West Point. “Republicans desperately passed lame-duck laws in the dead of night that they aren’t able to live up to and now they are postponing settlements and putting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars at risk.”
It is time to clean up the lame-duck mess.