BEAVER DAM, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said Thursday he doesn’t fault Republicans for not wanting to sign confidentiality agreements as requested by fellow Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, but both sides need to figure out a way to move ahead on settling lawsuits with millions of dollars at stake.
A law passed in December’s lame-duck legislative session gives the Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget committee the power to approve settlements that Kaul’s office reaches on lawsuits. There are at least 15 pending lawsuits that could net the state millions of dollars in settlements that are in limbo as Kaul and lawmakers squabble over how to proceed.
Kaul met behind closed doors with the committee on Tuesday and asked lawmakers to sign confidentiality agreements so they could discuss the lawsuits. The lawmakers refused and no resolution was in sight, despite a warning from Kaul’s Department of Justice that the state must act by Friday on a “very urgent matter of tremendous importance to the state.”
Evers said Republicans who stand in the way of Kaul settling lawsuits on behalf of the state need to figure out a resolution so Wisconsin does not lose millions of dollars in settlement money.
“It’s frustrating and hopefully we’ll figure this out,” Evers told reporters following an economic development announcement in Beaver Dam.
Evers, when asked, did not say what specifically he wants lawmakers to do.
“The bottom line is people expect us to solve this,” he said. “We need to have adults come to the table and figure it out.”
Kaul and Republican co-chairs of the budget committee, Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. John Nygren, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Evers said he understood why Republicans would refuse to sign confidentiality agreements as Kaul requested. Kaul said that reviewing confidential information and keeping that information private “is part and parcel of the review of settlements.”
“If I was a state representative, I wouldn’t sign that thing because you’re responsible for openness and transparency,” Evers said. “That should be left to the attorney general.”
Ultimately, Evers said he hoped the Legislature would repeal the law that requires lawmaker approval of court settlements.
“The bottom line is that the Republican majority was looking to make sure that we’re in a box with the attorney general and myself and to constrain our authority,” Evers said. “And now we’re seeing the results of it. … I’m hopeful that they are able to come to some sort of conclusion without keeping the people of Wisconsin in this weird box.”