Monday, April 4, 2011

Trouble in Dairyland

Have you been following the controversy in Wisconsin over changes to the collective bargaining rights, salaries, and benefits of public employees? The text of the controversial act is available here (PDF).

Several separate lawsuits are currently challenging the law. The first, a procedural challenge based on Wisconsin’s open meetings law was brought by the Dane County District Attorney. Last week the trial court judge in this suit issued a third temporary restraining order to enjoin enforcement of the law. Apparently the third time’s the charm, as Gov. Walker’s Department of Administration has announced they will comply with this order. You can view the complaint and various orders resulting from this case at the Dane County Clerk of Court’s homepage.

Wis. Stat. s. 19.87 (PDF) is the section of the state statutes that applies the open meeting requirement to the legislature. Wis. Stat. s. 19.87(2) allows the legislature’s internal rules to trump the open meetings statute in certain cases. Republican legislators claim Senate Rule 93(2), which applies during special sessions of the legislature, trumps the open meetings statute. Senate Rule 93(2) reads “[a] notice of a committee meeting is not required other than posting on the legislative bulletin board, and a bulletin of committee hearings may not be published.”

Another suit brought by local union chapters alleges that the act was fiscal in nature and therefore required a three-fifths quorum to be considered under the Wisconsin Constitution Article VIII s. 8 (PDF). The bill passed with the 14 Democratic senators in hiding in Illinois, leaving only 19 Republicans senators present when the bill passed, one short of the required three-fifths for fiscal bills.

You can follow the latest developments on this story at and

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