The Daily Brew: Wisconsin high court upholds legality of legislature’s 2018 special session actions

Today’s Brew highlights a Wisconsin high court ruling regarding the legislature’s session last December + the single-party control of some governorships up for election in 2020  
The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Monday, June 24, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Wisconsin Supreme Court affirms constitutionality of December 2018 legislative session
  2. Four states holding 2020 elections have had governors from the same party since 1992
  3. School board election apparently decided by four votes in El Paso, Texas

Wisconsin Supreme Court affirms constitutionality of December 2018 legislative session

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 4-3 Friday that the legislature’s December 2018 extraordinary session did not violate the state constitution. That decision overturned a March 2019 state circuit court ruling that had blocked the actions taken during the session, including the confirmation of 82 appointees made by outgoing Gov. Scott Walker (R). The case resulted from a lawsuit filed by a group of plaintiffs, including the League of Women Voters.

Although state Supreme Court elections in Wisconsin are nonpartisan, liberal and conservative groups typically coalesce around specific candidates. The four justices who joined the majority opinion were originally appointed by a Republican governor or have been supported by conservative groups. The three justices who dissented have been supported by liberal groups.

In November 2018, Tony Evers (D) defeated Walker, 49.5% to 48.4%, resulting in divided government in Wisconsin when Evers was inaugurated in January 2019. Republicans have controlled both chambers of the legislature since 2013.

Evers renominated 67 of the 82 appointments made by Walker that were confirmed by the legislature during the special session. Evers did not reappoint 15 appointees. The state Supreme Court had ruled April 30 that those 15 appointees could continue in their positions pending the resolution of the legality of the extraordinary session.

The legislature also passed three bills during the extraordinary session that were signed into law by then Gov. Walker. According to a summary published by, the legislation::

  • requires “the governor to request permission from lawmakers before creating certain administrative rules and making changes to programs managed jointly by the state and federal governments.”

  • requires that the attorney general obtain legislative approval prior to the state’s withdrawing from a lawsuit.

  • limits in-person absentee voting to 14 days before an election and makes other changes to in-person absentee voting

Judge Rebecca Bradley, in her majority opinion, stated, “The extraordinary session comports with the constitution because it occurred as provided by law. The terminology the Legislature chooses to accomplish the legislative process is squarely the prerogative of the Legislature. The Wisconsin Constitution itself affords the Legislature absolute discretion to determine the rules of its own proceedings.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Rebecca Dallet wrote, “The plain constitutional text of Article IV, Section 11 makes clear that with the exception of the Governor’s ability to call special sessions, the Legislature has authority to “meet” only at “such time as shall be provided by law.” Yet, the majority opinion ignores this clear language and instead concludes that a joint resolution work schedule is “law” that allows for a continuous, perpetual legislative session and the ability to convene at any time without notice.”

Earlier this year I wrote several times in the Brew about the significance of Wisconsin’s April 2 election for a seat on the state supreme court.

Brian Hagedorn defeated Lisa Neubauer 50.2% to 49.8% in the race to replace Shirley Abrahamson, who had served on the court since 1976. Hagedorn was supported by conservatives and Neubauer—like Abrahamson—was backed by liberals. Hagedorn’s term on the court begins August 1.

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Four states holding 2020 elections have had governors from the same party since 1992

Four states holding gubernatorial elections in 2020 have not seen that office change partisan control in 28 years. Those four states—Delaware, North Dakota, Utah, and Washington—represent one-third of the 12 states holding gubernatorial elections next year.

The Republican candidate for governor of Utah has won the past 10 elections. The last Democrat to win election to the office was in 1980. Should Republicans win their 11th consecutive gubernatorial election in the state, they would surpass the 10-election winning streak Oregon Democrats achieved in the 2018 elections. Utah and Oregon currently hold the longest streak of gubernatorial elections won by the same party.  

In Washington, the last five governors of the state have been Democrats, and the most recent Republican to be elected to that office was also in 1980. Jay Inslee (D)—who is a candidate for president—is the current governor of Washington. He has not ruled out running for re-election if he drops out of the presidential race.

Both Utah and Washington have gubernatorial winning streaks that started in 1984, but Utah held a special election in 2010, giving Republicans one win more.

Delaware and North Dakota have seen the same party control the governor’s office since 1992. Democrats have won seven consecutive gubernatorial elections in Delaware and Republicans have won seven consecutive gubernatorial elections in North Dakota. Both state’s incumbent governors—John Carney (D-Del.) and Doug Burgum (R-N.D.)—have not yet announced whether they will run for re-election next year.

Two states holding gubernatorial elections in 2020 saw control of the office change hands in the previous election. Republicans won the Missouri governorship in 2016 after two terms of Democratic control. Democrats won the North Carolina governor’s race in 2016 after one term of Republican control.

Read more about next year’s gubernatorial elections→

School board election apparently decided by four votes in El Paso, Texas

The margin in the runoff election for a seat on the El Paso Independent School District Board of Trustees in Texas is four votes, according to unofficial results. Joshua Acevedo leads Rene Vargas, 578 votes to 574, in the runoff held June 15 for an open seat on the seven-member board.

Vargas has not yet decided whether to challenge the election results or request a recount, according to elections department officials contacted by Ballotpedia. A recount must be requested within two days after the school district completes canvassing the results.

In 2013, the Texas Education Commission replaced all seven elected members of the El Paso school board with a state-appointed board of managers due to a cheating scandal that ultimately led to the indictment of the district’s former superintendent. Control of the school district was returned to elected trustees in 2015.

The El Paso Independent School District served 59,424 students in the 2016-17 school year.