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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that the Republicans that control the legislature have instructed their Legislative Reference Bureau to bypass the Sec. of State's Office, DEFY A COURT ORDER and publish the collective bargaining bill:

A controversial bill limiting collective bargaining for public workers has been officially published despite a temporary restraining order barring its publication.

The legislation was published Friday with a footnote that notes the restraining order, but says the law "requires the Legislative Reference Bureau to publish every act within 10 working days after its date of enactment."

The publication of the law means that it will take effect Saturday.

The restraining order was issued against Secretary of State Doug La Follette, not the reference bureau. La Follette is a Democrat and the Legislature is run by Republicans, but the reference bureau is a nonpartisan agency widely respected by both sides.

La Follettte and aides to Gov. Scott Walker and legislative leaders could not be immediately released.

This came shortly after the Madison streets department and firefighters just filed the first lawsuit by any union in response to Gov. Scott Walker's bill that kills collectively bargaining rights of Wisconsin's public sector workers.

The lawsuit challenges the manner in which the vote was taken on the bill –that the bill contained fiscal elements, necessitating a 20 member quorum and that only 19 members were present when the vote was taken.

As this is the complaint phase, arguments as to why the bill contains fiscal elements and is therefore unconstitutional, have not yet been provided.

My understanding is that the plaintiffs in this suit are prepared to also bring
constitutional challenges to the substance of the law when (or if) it is ever

The suit was filed on behalf on the unions by attorneys Bruce Ehlke, Katy Lounsbury and Colleen Bero-Lehman of the law firm Ehlke, Bero-Lehman and Lounsbury. I hear that the attorneys were kind enough to personally deliver the lawsuit to Gov. Walker's office. (Disclosure: Katy Lounsbury is my lovely wife.)

Yesterday, I heard from a good source that the head of the LRB would never publish the bill under the current circumstances on their own-- that there was clearly pressure from the Fitzgerald to publish the bill.

That is exactly what happened:

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.

This same source tells me that the LRB and anyone dealing with a court order has an obligation to follow it. You can't look at just one statute and justify a decision to defy a court order, acting on that one statute alone-- you have to look at all related statutes as a group. Clearly, when looking at all the related statutes any reasonable person would come to conclusion that the court order's intent was to stop all publication of the bill.

That is why State Senator Jon Erpenbach issued this strong Statement yesterday at 6 PM:

Senator Fitzgerald has used his position and ordered a non-partisan agency to get involved in a very partisan issue in publishing Wisconsin Act 10 (SS SB 11 - the Collective Bargaining Bill). It is unclear if this publishing by the Legislative Reference Bureau enacts the law without publication by the Secretary of State. What is clear is that Senator Fitzgerald's action ignored a temporary restraining order by a circuit court judge. Regardless of how Senator Fitzgerald feels, or what he thinks, there is no excuse for ignoring a court order and the judicial process.

My opinion is that the LRB privately believed that the bill wouldn't take effect and were simply humoring Fitzgerald and his clever legal strategery. That seems to be the case in their correspondence with Rep. Barca, where they state that their actions do not make the bill go into effect.

Whatever the case, it was still a clear violation of the court order for the LRB to publish the bill and standing up to a bully Majority Leader like Fitzgerald is part of the job. By allowing their arms to be twisted yet againg by Fitzgerald, it shows that the LRB is clearly no longer an independent agency. It also calls into question previous decisions made by the LRB in giving Fitzgerald the green light on many of Fitzgerald's previous ill-conceived and improper legislative tactics.

Originally posted to Jud Lounsbury on Fri Mar 25, 2011 at 01:28 PM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive and Progressive Hippie.

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