In yet another twist in the controversy in Wisconsin swirling around Gov. Scott Walker’s bill that would deep-six collective bargaining for public unions, the legislation was published — ignoring a court restraining order. This is likely to further arouse passions and polarize Wisconsin as well as other parts of the country where labor unions are under being challenged by GOP governors:
In a stunning twist, controversial legislation limiting collective bargaining for public workers was published on Friday despite a judge’s hold on the measure, sparking a dispute over whether it takes effect Saturday.
The legislation was published Friday to the Legislature’s website with a footnote that acknowledges the restraining order by a Dane County judge. But the posting says state law “requires the Legislative Reference Bureau to publish every act within 10 working days after its date of enactment.”
The measure sparked massive protests at the Capitol and lawsuits by opponents because it would eliminate the ability of most public workers to bargain over anything but wages.
The restraining order was issued against Democratic Secretary of State Doug La Follette. But the bill was published by the reference bureau, which was not named in the restraining order.
This is basically “ends justify the means” politics: using a loophole.
Laws normally take effect a day after they are published, and a top GOP lawmaker said that meant it will become law Saturday. But the nonpartisan legislative official who published the law disagreed.
“I think this is a ministerial act that forwards it to the secretary of state,” said Stephen Miller, director of the Legislative Reference Bureau. “I don’t think this act makes it become effective. My understanding is that the secretary of state has to publish it in the (official state) newspaper for it to become effective.”
Prediction: Walker will insist it is now valid and implement it where he can.
Walker signed the bill March 11. Under state law, it must be published within 10 working days, which was Friday.
The law has not been printed in the Wisconsin State Journal, the official state newspaper, as other laws are. Late Friday, State Journal publisher Bill Johnston said in an email that the notice for the law had been scheduled to run but had been canceled. He did not elaborate.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) claimed it didn’t matter that it hasn’t appeared in the paper.
“It’s published,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s law. That’s what I contend.”
The question is: how will independent voters react to this? Polls have shown that in Wisconsin and elsewhere Walker’s actions are not winning the argument. This move, at first blush, at least, seems a “whatever it takes” on this issue. But the problem for Walker and the GOP is that many Americans have clearly now concluded that it isn’t just the budget at play in Wisconsin and other states where Republican governors are slicing away rights that were considered a “given” in American life. There is an ineffable aroma of power politics — partially ideology and part an effort to remove a group that has traditionally supported Democrats, in the believe it’d hurt the Dems in 2012.
However you can now predict this: Wisconsin is likely to rally unions and many union members more than ever to the Democratic party and rally the party’s base, even if they are not totally pleased with Barack Obama.
A CROSS SECTION OF VIEWPOINTS ON THIS ISSUE
We still don’t know if the state Supreme Court will take up the restraining order on the bill, which has been appealed by the state Attorney General. But the Walker Administration is acting like the restraining order didn’t exist.
The level of contempt for the law is astounding to me…
…Of course, the point is not necessarily whether the Secretary of State has the sole power to publish law – that looks clear to me. It’s whether the Walker Administration THINKS the bill is now published and law that’s the problem, and what will be the remedy for that.
….Democrats are surely on their way back to court even as you’re reading this to demand that the TRO be expanded to cover the LRB, Walker, the legislature, and everyone else under the sun. The judge did, after all, enjoin “further implementation” of the law generally before specifying a particular actor, so they’ll probably win and the scope of the order will be enlarged. In fact, according to the Journal-Sentinel story quoted above, there’s already a new court action pending that challenges the collective bargaining law on some sort of equal protection grounds (treating one group of workers differently from another by limiting their CB privileges) and argues that the state GOP should have needed a three-fifths quorum to pass it instead of the simple majority quorum they used. Nothing should change here, in other words, and since the state supreme court is probably going to deal with this sooner rather than later, even if the law is implemented immediately its ultimate fate should be decided in a few days anyway.
The law is being followed: State law “requires the Legislative Reference Bureau to publish every act within 10 working days after its date of enactment..
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.