AP NEWS

Josh Kaul says state likely to remain in ACA lawsuit

February 16, 2019

Attorney General Josh Kaul Thursday signaled the state will remain in a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act if Republicans don’t allow him to drop out.

In an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, Kaul rejected the notion he would take any action to prevent the success of the multi-state suit, such as refusing to cooperate with other involved states.

“That’s not how I’d approach litigation that the state of Wisconsin is involved in,” Kaul said. “If the state is involved, it’s involved in the litigation.”

Kaul added that if the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee rejects his request to withdraw from the suit, the Department of Justice would “litigate the case appropriately.”

The comments from the newly installed Democratic attorney general come after Gov. Tony Evers in early January said he would direct Kaul to change positions in the case.

Kaul in previous interviews has said switching positions midway through the case doesn’t make sense. A Kaul spokeswoman Thursday confirmed he does not plan to change positions in the case.

Evers never ended up making such a request, but did direct him to seek approval from the Republican-controlled finance committee to remove the state from the suit. Kaul made the request, but Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, co-chairman of the finance committee, has indicated Republicans would not grant it.

Both Kaul and Evers had campaigned on withdrawing the state from the lawsuit, but their ability to do so was curtailed through the GOP’s lame-duck law, passed in December, that removed the governor’s authority to approve withdrawals from lawsuits, giving it to the Legislature’s finance committee.

Crime lab funding

Kaul in Thursday’s interview said he will request funding in Evers’ budget for more positions in the state’s crime labs to address delays in processing DNA and firearms evidence. Evers is scheduled to present his budget to lawmakers Feb. 28.

A report commissioned by former Attorney General Brad Schimel and released in September showed the state’s crime labs suffered from low morale, growing turnaround times for the processing of evidence and high employee turnover.

Kaul also said he will request the authority to hire for more positions in the Department of Justice’s digital forensics unit, which works to recover evidence from computers and cell phones. He said hiring for more of these positions could better position the department to help law enforcement agencies across the state process electronic evidence.

Kaul also said he plans to request additional funding for treatment and diversion programs.