A Wisconsin legislative measure designed to curb the collective bargaining power of unions could become law as early as Saturday, despite an order [text; JURIST report] enjoining Wisconsin Secretary of State Douglas La Follette [official website] from publishing the legislation. The Budget Repair Bill [SB 11, text] was published [text] on the Wisconsin Legislative Bureau [official website] online on Friday sparking debate [AP report] among government officials as to whether the law was now in effect. Reference Bureau Director Steve Miller called the publishing a procedural step and insisted the law would not take effect until La Follette takes implementation action by publishing the law in a newspaper; however, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) [official website] insisted the online publication meant the law would take immediate effect. La Follette said he was unclear as to the significance of the publication, but that he would not be taking any action due to the court order. In response to the online publication, two unions representing Wisconsin public works employees and firefighters, filed a lawsuit [State Journal report] against Governor Scott Walker [official website] alleging not enough Senate members were present when the vote on the bill was taken. Firefighters Local 311 [official website] and AFL-CIO Laborers Local 236 are seeking a judicial order declaring the bill null and void. This is the third lawsuit that has been brought challenging the controversial bill.
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals [official website] on Thursday declined to rule [JURIST report] on the order enjoining La Follette from publishing the Budget Repair Bill. The case will move on to the state Supreme Court, which will decide whether a court has the authority to enjoin the secretary of state's publication of the bill before it becomes law. Last week, District Attorney Ismael Ozanne (D) [official website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] alleging that Republican legislators did not follow the state's open meetings law [text], a rule requiring 24 hours notice or two hours if there is an emergency, before a public meeting. A similar suit [complaint] was filed earlier this month by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk (D) [official profile]. On Wednesday, Attorney General JB Van Hollen (R) [official website] asked the court to block [motion, PDF] the Dane County Circuit Court [official website] order. He also asked for leave to appeal the order and for relief consisting of an order to stay the circuit court's ruling. Van Hollen argues that the Dane County Circuit Court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case because the four named defendants, who are all state legislators, enjoy legislative immunity during the regular legislative term. He also argued that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction to enjoin the publishing of the law. The provisions of the Budget Repair Bill limiting bargaining rights incensed unions and their supporters, sparking protests which have been ongoing since mid-February, when the bill was introduced. The bill was signed [JURIST report] into law by Governor Scott Walker on March 11.