You might remember that a judge in the People’s Republic of Wisconsin [update: to be known henceforth as Fitzwalkerstan] last week issued a temporary restraining order that stopped the publication of the state’s new union-busting law. This was to keep the law from going into effect, per Wisconsin state law, until a suit challenging the law is decided.
Yesterday the text of the law was published on a website of the Legislative Reference Bureau, which provides research and drafting services for the state legislature. The head of this bureau, Stephen Miller, said that this publication did not constitute action that would put the law into effect. But Wisconsin Republican are saying, aha! The law was published! It can go into effect now.
It appears Miller was maneuvered into publishing the bill by state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel —
Fitzgerald and Miller met Friday. Miller said Fitzgerald asked him to publish the law and, after reading the statutes, Miller agreed that he could do so. He said he had never published a law without being given a date by the secretary of state during his 12 years of running the reference bureau.
After the restraining order was issued March 18, La Follette sent a letter that same day to the reference bureau rescinding earlier instructions to publish the bill Friday. “I further instruct you to remove all reference to March 25, 2011, as the publication date and not to proceed with publication until I contact you with a new publication date,” his letter said.
The Republicans’ argument, as I understand it, is that the court order barred the Wisconsin Secretary of State from publishing the law, which is usually done in a newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal. However, the court order didn’t say the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau couldn’t publish it. And the website publication meets the state’s public notice requirements for putting a law into effect, they say.
Miller himself says the publication was only an “administrative step,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette, a Democrat, says he doesn’t think the website publication satisfies the legal requirements for publishing, and the law is not in effect. But Scott Fitzgerald says it is too in effect, nyah nyah nyah.
I’m neither a lawyer nor an expert on Wisconsin state law. However, since the restraining order was broadly worded and clearly intended to stop the law from going into effect while it was being challenged in court, it is not unreasonable to assume that Fitzgerald’s maneuver does not satisfy the publishing requirement. But the lawyers and judges will have to duke this one out.
It’s fascinating to me that the Wisconsin Republicans aren’t even trying to not look like the old Soviet Politburo now. They’re so all-fired eager to bust unions and punish their opponents they can’t wait a few weeks for the courts to decide the pending suit.