In a stunning twist, controversial legislation limiting collective bargaining for public workers was published on Friday despite a judge’s hold on the measure, sparking a dispute over whether it takes effect Saturday.
The legislation was published Friday to the Legislature’s website with a footnote that acknowledges the restraining order by a Dane County judge. But the posting says state law “requires the Legislative Reference Bureau to publish every act within 10 working days after its date of enactment.”
The measure sparked massive protests at the Capitol and lawsuits by opponents because it would eliminate the ability of most public workers to bargain over anything but wages.
The restraining order was issued against Democratic Secretary of State Doug La Follette. But the bill was published by the reference bureau, which was not named in the restraining order.
Laws normally take effect a day after they are published, and a top GOP lawmaker said that meant it will become law Saturday. But the nonpartisan legislative official who published the law disagreed.
“I think this is a ministerial act that forwards it to the secretary of state,” said Stephen Miller, director of the Legislative Reference Bureau. “I don’t think this act makes it become effective. My understanding is that the secretary of state has to publish it in the (official state) newspaper for it to become effective.”
Walker signed the bill March 11. Under state law, it must be published within 10 working days, which was Friday.
The law has not been printed in the Wisconsin State Journal, the official state newspaper, as other laws are. Late Friday, State Journal publisher Bill Johnston said in an email that the notice for the law had been scheduled to run but had been canceled. He did not elaborate.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) claimed it didn’t matter that it hasn’t appeared in the paper.
“It’s published,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s law. That’s what I contend.”
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 has never had something similar happen with the publication of a law during his 12 years running the reference bureau.
After the restraining order was issued on March 18, La Follette sent a letter that same day to the reference bureau rescinding earlier instructions to publish the bill on 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.
Walker’s top cabinet official, Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, gave only a brief statement reacting to Friday’s news.
“Today the administration was notified that the LRB published the budget-repair bill as required by law,” he said. “The administration will carry out the law as required.”
Meanwhile Wisconsinites are out if full force on this beautiful and sunny Saturday collecting Recall Senators to put a stop to the assault on WI Democracy. Join them won’t you.