Gov. Walker Will Bow to Court Order, Halt Implementation of Anti-Union Bill

Lindsay Beyerstein March 31, 2011

A spokesman for Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walk­er said Thurs­day that the state will com­ply with a court order to tem­porar­i­ly halt the imple­men­ta­tion of a noto­ri­ous anti-union law, pend­ing a court challenge.

Last week, the Walk­er admin­is­tra­tion stunned the nation by declar­ing the bill to have the force of law and announc­ing plans to col­lect addi­tion­al pen­sion con­tri­bu­tions from state employ­ees — despite a tem­po­rary restrain­ing order block­ing enact­ment of the bill. Con­trary to pop­u­lar belief, a bill does not become law in Wis­con­sin the moment the gov­er­nor signs it. The leg­is­la­tion is only embued with the force law after it is pub­lished through the cor­rect pro­ce­dur­al channels.

Accord­ing to the head of Wisconsin’s leg­isla­tive ref­er­ence bureau (LRB), a bill becomes law when it is pub­lished in the state’s offi­cial news­pa­per, the Wis­con­sin State Jour­nal, by order of the Sec­re­tary of State. This has not yet hap­pened. The bill was pub­lished on the LRB web­site, but accord­ing to the LRB, that doesn’t count.

The issue is not whether the bill was pub­lished by some­one, or even by some gov­ern­ment agency. Pub­li­ca­tion only turns a bill into a law when it is pub­lished in the spec­i­fied out­let, under the author­i­ty of the Sec­re­tary of State.

Gov. Walk­er signed the bill on March 11. Sec­re­tary of State Doug La Fol­lette noti­fied the LRB on March 14 that he had des­ig­nat­ed March 25 as the date of publication.

How­ev­er, on March 18, Dane Coun­ty Judge Maryann Sumi issued a tem­po­rary restrain­ing order bar­ring La Fol­lette from order­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of the law. Where­upon, La Fol­lette ordered the LRB not to pub­lish the leg­is­la­tion. The LRB ignored his direc­tive and pub­lished the bill on its web­site on March 25.

La Fol­lette has not giv­en the order to pub­lish the law in the news­pa­per. The court order for­bids him to do so. The LRB wasn’t men­tioned in the court orders, so there was no legal bar­ri­er to the LRB pub­lish­ing the doc­u­ment. It’s a sep­a­rate ques­tion whether pub­lish­ing leg­is­la­tion on the LRB web­site makes it law. Judge Sumi ruled that it does not.

The Walk­er admin­is­tra­tion ini­tial­ly claimed that pub­lish­ing the law on the LRB web­site was enough to make it law.

On Tues­day the 29th, after a day of hear­ings, Judge Sumi issued a sec­ond restrain­ing order.

Now that I’ve made my ear­li­er order as clear as it pos­si­bly can be, I must state that those who act in open and will­ful defi­ance of the court order place not only them­selves at per­il of sanc­tions, they also jeop­ar­dize the finan­cial and the gov­ern­men­tal sta­bil­i­ty of the state of Wis­con­sin,” Sumi warned. 

On Thurs­day morn­ing, Sumi issued an amend­ed restrain­ing order block­ing the imple­men­ta­tion of the law. The order states that the law has not been pub­lished in the rel­e­vant legal sense and is there­fore not in effect.

The pub­li­ca­tion of Walker’s so-called Bud­get Repair bill (aka 2011 Wis­con­sin Act 10”) is being held up pend­ing a court chal­lenge. The local dis­trict attor­ney wants the leg­is­la­tion struck down because the Repub­li­cans alleged­ly vio­lat­ed the state’s Open Meet­ings Law with a last-minute sen­ate con­fer­ence com­mit­tee meet­ing before the vote.

The law is also fac­ing law­suits filed by Dane Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Kath­leen Falk and sev­er­al unions, who argue that that State Sen­ate lacked the author­i­ty to pass the Bud­get Repair Bill with­out a quo­rum because the bill con­tains fis­cal components.

Lind­say Bey­er­stein is an award-win­ning inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Not­ed. Her sto­ries have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Mag­a­zine, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. Her pho­tographs have been pub­lished in the Wall Street Jour­nal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hill­man Blog (http://​www​.hill​man​foun​da​tion​.org/​h​i​l​l​m​a​nblog), a pub­li­ca­tion of the Sid­ney Hill­man Foun­da­tion, a non-prof­it that hon­ors jour­nal­ism in the pub­lic interest.
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