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Friday, March 18, 2011

A Setback for the Walker Administration's Union-Busting

When Gov. Walker's union busting bill was passed by the state legislature and signed into law, there was only one thing standing in the way -- Secretary of State Doug La Follette. The law would need to be published by the office of Sec. La Follette and the Secretary decided he'd publish it at the latest date allowable by law, which was ten days after signing.

This was, apparently, nothing new. "I'm doing what I normally do," he explained to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which was publish the law at the latest possible date, in order for opponents to have a chance to file legal challenges. La Follette estimated at the time that this was the case with 96% of the bills that come through his office. If it's not an emergency, it cools off for a bit.

It turned out to be a good practice today, as a judge put a halt to implementation of the law:

Wisconsin State Journal:

A Dane County judge Friday issued a temporary order blocking implementation of Gov. Scott Walker's controversial measure limiting collective bargaining rights for public employees, saying a legislative committee likely violated the state Open Meetings Law when it rushed passage of the bill March 9.


Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued the order around 10:30 a.m. in a lawsuit brought by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne.

Of course, Rep. Peter Barca tried to warn Republicans that this was coming.

As you can see, they ignored his warning. Wisconsin law requires twenty-four hour notice be given prior to this sort of a vote, with an exception made for emergency legislation -- which still has to have a two hour warning. Even if you could argue that banning collective bargaining constituted an "emergency" -- and it's extremely difficult to see how you'd do that -- Republicans were in such a rush to get this done that they published notice one hour and fifty-five minutes before the meeting took place.

The moral of this story, children, is if you're going to skirt the law, stick as closely as possible to the absolute minimum requirements of that law.

So, what happens now? There seem to be two possibilities; the Walker administration fights this in court or the legislature gives twenty-four hour notice and votes all over again.

In the first case, the outcome isn't exactly guaranteed and -- at this point at least -- seems to lean against Republicans. In the second... Well, that's probably less foreseeable than you'd first imagine.

See, it's because of this bill that eight Republican senators are facing possible recall elections and it's because of this bill that as many as three to five of them could lose their seats. This whole "bust the unions" thing is what got them in hot water in the first place -- now you want them to do it again? Nuh-uh, buddy. If three Republicans bail on the law or even skip the vote, the whole thing goes down.

I suspect that one of the reasons why they originally had to vote on it now, now, now, now, now was that a few GOP senators were wobbly and in danger of tipping over. It was reported as a sudden, surprise vote to the absent Democrats, but I think it also might have come as a surprise to more than one Republican. Republican leadership wanted to get the vote done while every one of their caucus was still on paper as a supporter.

If I'm right -- and granted, this is all deduction, not fact -- then the votes won't be there this time around. The only way I can be proven wrong is if a re-vote is scheduled and the bill passes again -- and it doesn't sound like anyone's extremely confident of that.

"This legislation is still working through the legal process," a spokesperson for Gov. Walker said in a statement. "We are confident the provisions of the budget repair bill will become law in the near future." A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald declined to comment, calling it "an ongoing legal issue."

So, it seems a legislative fix has been ruled out for now. It is strictly a legal issue. The window of opportunity for passing this dog of a bill seems to have closed.


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