MADISON, Wisc. (CN) – Teachers and parents sued Gov. Scott Walker in a constitutional challenge to another new state law: Act 21, which gives Walker veto power over regulations – including school rules – and allows him to write and promulgate his own regulations as well.
The parents and teachers claim that Act 21 “unconstitutionally delegates to the Governor and the Secretary of Administration authority over the supervision of public instruction … that is equal or superior to the authority vested in the Superintendent of Public Instruction by the Wisconsin Constitution.
By requiring “all state agencies, including the Department of Public Instruction, to submit proposed administrative rules to the Governor for approval,” Act 21 gives Walker free rein is issue any regulations he likes, and to kill those he doesn’t, according to the complaint in Dane County Court.
Until now, the governor’s power to make rules was overseen by the Legislature, which could suggest changes and send the rules back to the governor for revision. Until now, the Superintendent of Public Instruction was the “‘individual or body with policy-making powers over public instruction to whom the [Department of Public Instruction] was required to submit scope statements on proposed administrative rules'” under the Wisconsin Constitution.
But as of June 8, when Act 21 took effect, the Department of Public Instruction must submit scoping statements for proposed administrative rules to both the governor and the superintendent of public instruction, and both must approve the statements. The department must then provide a “detailed analysis and quantification of the economic impact” and submit it to the Secretary of the Department of Administration. The secretary, who serves “at the pleasure of the governor,” has authority to approve the rule and send it to the governor or return it for revision. Once the governor receives the proposed rule “in final form,” he may approve or reject it. He must approve it in writing before it can be sent the Legislature for review or be filed with the Legislative Reference Bureau for publication.
The governor now has authority to originate and write any administrative or emergency rules as well.
Under Act 21, disputes over the validity of administrative rules must be brought “in the circuit court for the county where the party asserting the invalidity of the rule resides or has its principal place of business, or, if that party is a non-resident or does not have its principal place of business in this state, in the circuit court for the county where the dispute arose.” Previously, such actions were required brought in Dane County.
The plaintiffs include presidents of two teachers unions and also a parent of two children with disabilities who attend Madison public schools.
They want Act 21 enjoined as unconstitutional.
They are represented by the Wisconsin Education Association Council and Cullen Weston Pines & Bach.