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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wisconsin Ruling Has a Partisan -- And Possibly Corrupt -- Odor

Protesters at Wisconsin Capitol
Something is not right here. Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the State of Wisconsin threw out a lower court's ruling that, in passing Gov. Walker's union-buster, legislative Republicans had violated the state's open meetings law. In doing so, the court cleared the way for the law to take effect -- mere hours away from Republican's arbitrary and self-imposed deadline for passing it themselves.

The problem for Republicans: they didn't have the votes to pass the thing and everyone knew it. In other words, the conservative majority on the court swept in and saved the bill from dying. Something is not right here.

Let's start at the beginning. In March, Senate Republicans stripped a provision that would remove collective bargaining rights for most state employees from the state budget and passed it as a stand-alone bill. They did this because the state's rules require a quorum for passage of all bills that have a fiscal impact and Democrats had famously denied them that quorum by fleeing the state. In order to do this, they had to skirt open meetings laws. They also had to admit that removing collective bargaining was a policy issue with no fiscal impact. This admission was later confirmed by Gov. Walker himself, while testifying under oath in Washington. File this little tidbit away for later.

↓ CONTINUED AFTER THE JUMP ↓


The violation of the open meetings law was brought before a Dane County judge, who put a restraining order on publishing the law. At this point, the remedy for Republicans was simple; hold another vote with adequate prior notice and pass the bill. There would be nothing Democrats could do on their own to stop it. They simply did not have the numbers. But Republicans didn't reschedule that vote. Apparently, under the pressure of recall elections for some and public opinion for others who weren't eligible for recall, the votes were no longer there. The window of opportunity to pass the bill on an up or down vote had closed. None of this was stated outright, but later actions by Republicans made it obvious.

For example, instead of rescheduling a vote and bypassing Judge Sumi's order, Republicans chose to defy the order. In the end, this didn't work and Republicans were left to wait.

But waiting was too much for them.

Wisconsin State Journal:

Assembly Republicans plan to add Gov. Scott Walker's limits on collective bargaining for most public workers to the state budget as soon as Tuesday if the Wisconsin Supreme Court hasn't acted by then.

"If need be, we are going to have to pass collective bargaining again because it is such an integral part of not having those services slashed and those people laid off," Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said of the plan, which is currently held up in court.


Now remember, even the governor himself admitted that union-busting wouldn't save any money and Senate Republicans originally passed it as a policy bill without any fiscal impact. Fitzgerald's claim that people would have to be laid off and services would have to be "slashed" without it was pure BS. There was no emergency that required passing this bill, other than to put the whole thing behind them in the face of upcoming recall elections. The obvious purpose of Fitzgerald's "Now, now, now!" rhetoric was to create a false urgency.

And so the clock ticked toward Fitzgerald's arbitrary deadline. He had basically called his own bluff and would soon have to hold the vote. It would pass the Assembly, but die in the Senate. Of this I have absolutely no doubt. You don't violate a restraining order to do something when you have the votes to do it without controversy and/or scandal. The bill was dying.

Then, rescue.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Acting with unusual speed, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the reinstatement of Gov. Scott Walker's controversial plan to end most collective bargaining for tens of thousands of public workers.

The court found that a committee of lawmakers was not subject to the state's open meetings law, and so did not violate that law when it hastily approved the collective bargaining measure in March and made it possible for the Senate to take it up. In doing so, the Supreme Court overruled a Dane County judge who had halted the legislation, ending one challenge to the law even as new challenges are likely to emerge.


Fat officially pulled from the fire. Something is not right here.

The timing, of course, is perfect. The Supreme Court was under no obligation to render a judgement before Fitzgerald's self-imposed and arbitrary deadline. Writing for the majority, even Judge Patrick Crooks admitted to "a hasty decision." Yet here the court was, rushing to beat a clock set by a partisan bluff.

It all seems coordinated. There may be a very big scandal in the pipe. Something is not right here and we are by no means done with this story.

-Wisco


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