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Gov Scott Walker Vows Anti-Union Bill To Go Through “One Way Or The Other”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) appeared Friday on Fox News, and explained to Neil Cavuto that a judge’s ruling Thursday that struck down his controversial anti-public employee union law, based on a procedure involved in passing it, would not be a major issue — that the state is appealing the decision, and in any case they could simply re-pass the same law without the procedural defect.

“Governor, what do you do now?” asked Cavuto.

“Well, for us, the clear thing that was — we found out of that ruling is not that the law was not valid, but that the process was used, at least according to the circuit court, was not correct,” said Walker.

“So, either next week when the Supreme Court starts to hear this case, either by the time they’re done in June, or ultimately by the end of June, when we have to have the legislature passing a state budget — one way or the other, either through the Supreme Court or the legislature, these reforms will be put into place, and we’ll ultimately be able to protect middle-class jobs and middle-class taxpayers here in the state of Wisconsin.”

Walker also explained to Cavuto: “the process was not the vote itself, it was the timing of the vote, and how far in advance notice was given. They could take this same vote again, as part of the state budget process, or in separate legislation, and still have the same outcome.”

On Thursday, Dane County (Madison) Judge Maryann Sumi — who had previously blocked Wisconsin’s controversial anti-union law from taking effect, pending litigation — officially ruled that the manner in which the bill was passed violated the state’s Open Meetings law, and that the law itself is therefore not valid.

The matter revolves around a key conference committee used to advance the bill — and to get around the state Senate Dems’ walkout from the state — and whether it violated the state’s Open-Meetings law by failing to give enough prior notice. Therefore, it is ruling on procedural grounds, rather than on the substance of the bill itself, which was not addressed. And as such, it would be possible to pass the bill again, giving full notice for all the meetings involved.

Two months ago, Sumi blocked the law on these procedural grounds, issuing a temporary restraining order on the grounds the plaintiff, the Dane County District Attorney, had a likelihood of success in his complaint.

The Walker administration then made multiple attempts to disregard the ruling and implement the law anyway, before ultimately backing down in the face of repeated orders.

 

By: Eric Kleefeld, Talking Points Memo, May 27, 2011

May 28, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Government, Governors, Ideology, Middle Class, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Amoral And Illegal: Gov Walker Misleads On His Administration’s Legal Support For GOP Legislators

Last week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker put a deceptively positive gloss on the legal battles surrounding his stalled union-busting bill in an interview with the right-wing Newsmax website.

Background on the Legal Battles

As CMD has reported, Governor Walker’s union-busting bill (“Act 10”) was amended by a conference committee on March 11 to avoid quorum requirements, then passed by the Wisconsin Senate with no Democrats present. State Open Meetings laws require 24 hours notice for all meetings, or two hours with “good cause,” but neither standard was met at the March 11 vote. Following a complaint from Dane County’s District Attorney, Judge MaryAnn Sumi found a probable Open Meetings violation and issued an order preventing the Secretary of State from publishing the bill, a necessary step before it can become law. Attorney General JB Van Hollen appealed the decision, and the Court of Appeals offered the case to the state Supreme Court on March 24, which has not taken action (possibly because Justice Prosser’s election is still pending). In the meantime, the Legislative Reference Bureau published the law under statutory authority separate from that of the Secretary of State, raising questions of whether the bill has become law, and prompting Judge Sumi to issue an order declaring it not to be in effect.

On April 7, Governor Walker’s Administration jumped into the fray and asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to vacate Judge Sumi’s order.

Walker Administration’s Legal Position Contrary to Governor’s Statements

The Walker Administration’s petition was discussed during the Governor’s videotaped interview with mustachioed Newsmax anchor Ashley Martell. Walker said:

My administration this week appealed to the state Supreme Court on two counts. Really both on […] the fact that we don’t believe it is legitimate for the judge to be an issuing a temporary restraining order when we think the law was dufully (sic) passed by the members of the state legislature. (at 3:29)

Mustache Martella replied: “speaking of that, the legal issue seems to be the notice given before the vote . . .”

The heart of the issue that is regarding the restraining order really involves the issue of the open meetings laws and whether or not there was notice on that. The legislature feels, and I think they are right about this, that they very clearly did follow the statute, that under other circumstances there might be a problem, but in a special session . . . it is clear that they followed the law. (at 4:12)

Despite Walker’s faith in the conduct of fellow Wisconsin Republicans, his legal team is not contending that GOP legislators followed the law, but only that violations of that law be enforced more leniently. In its petition to the Supreme Court, not once does Walker’s Administration argue that Republican legislators acted lawfully.

Walker’s petition focuses on three issues, claiming (1) that breaking an Open Meetings law is a “procedural violation” that cannot be punished through voiding a legislative act, (2) that a court does not have jurisdiction to prevent a bill from becoming law (even if it may have authority to void a law once enacted), and (3) that the Act is published and is now law, meaning Sumi’s order has no relevance. The brief also questions whether the District Attorney can sue to invalidate a statute, and whether Judge Sumi could enter an order considering defendants’ legislative immunity. Significantly, the petition does not discuss whether legislative notice rules can override Open Meetings laws (which, if argued, could have implied legislators acted lawfully).

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Walker’s Newsmax statements give the impression that legislators acted honorably, avoiding the fact that they may have illegally shut citizens out of the political process, violated the state’s constitutionally-recognized open government guarantees, and did so on a bill that has a significant impact and massive public attention. This is no small matter. As the late Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice William Bablitch wrote in the 1994 case State ex rel. Hodge vs. Town of Turtle Lake: 

The purpose of the Open Meetings Law is to protect the public’s right to be informed to the fullest extent of the affairs of government. . . An open meetings law is not necessary to ensure openness in easy and noncontroversial matters where no one really cares whether the meeting is open or not. Like the First Amendment, which exists to protect unfavored speech, the Open Meetings Law exists to ensure open government in controversial matters.

Open Meetings laws are fundamentally important to Wisconsin’s democracy, and violations are serious business. If Walker genuinely believes the GOP lawmakers’ actions were virtuous and lawful, his administration’s legal documents should reflect that.

By: Brenda Fisher, Center for Media and Democracy, April 13, 2011

April 14, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Democracy, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Public Employees, Right Wing, State Legislatures, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wisconsin’s Radical Break From It’s Civic Traditions

Now that a Wisconsin judge has temporarily blocked a state law that would strip public employee unions of most collective bargaining rights, it’s worth stepping back to place these events in larger historical context.

Republicans in Wisconsin are seeking to reverse civic traditions that for more than a century have been among the most celebrated achievements not just of their state, but of their own party as well.

Wisconsin was at the forefront of the progressive reform movement in the early 20th century, when the policies of Gov. Robert M. La Follette prompted a fellow Republican, Theodore Roosevelt, to call the state a “laboratory of democracy.” The state pioneered many social reforms: It was the first to introduce workers’ compensation, in 1911; unemployment insurance, in 1932; and public employee bargaining, in 1959.

University of Wisconsin professors helped design Social Security and were responsible for founding the union that eventually became the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Wisconsin reformers were equally active in promoting workplace safety, and often led the nation in natural resource conservation and environmental protection.

But while Americans are aware of this progressive tradition, they probably don’t know that many of the innovations on behalf of working people were at least as much the work of Republicans as of Democrats.

Although Wisconsin has a Democratic reputation these days — it backed the party’s presidential candidates in 2000, 2004 and 2008 — the state was dominated by Republicans for a full century after the Civil War. The Democratic Party was so ineffective that Wisconsin politics were largely conducted as debates between the progressive and conservative wings of the Republican Party.

When the Wisconsin Democratic Party finally revived itself in the 1950s, it did so in a context where members of both parties were unusually open to bipartisan policy approaches. Many of the new Democrats had in fact been progressive Republicans just a few years earlier, having left the party in revulsion against the reactionary politics of their own senator, Joseph R. McCarthy, and in sympathy with postwar liberalizing forces like the growing civil rights movement.

The demonizing of government at all levels that has become such a reflexive impulse for conservatives in the early 21st century would have mystified most elected officials in Wisconsin just a few decades ago.

When Gov. Gaylord A. Nelson, a Democrat, sought to extend collective bargaining rights to municipal workers in 1959, he did so in partnership with a Legislature in which one house was controlled by the Republicans. Both sides believed the normalization of labor-management relations would increase efficiency and avoid crippling strikes like those of the Milwaukee garbage collectors during the 1950s. Later, in 1967, when collective bargaining was extended to state workers for the same reasons, the reform was promoted by a Republican governor, Warren P. Knowles, with a Republican Legislature.

The policies that the current governor, Scott Walker, has sought to overturn, in other words, are legacies of his own party.

But Mr. Walker’s assault on collective bargaining rights breaks with Wisconsin history in two much deeper ways as well. Among the state’s proudest traditions is a passion for transparent government that often strikes outsiders as extreme. Its open meetings law, open records law and public comment procedures are among the strongest in the nation. Indeed, the basis for the restraining order blocking the collective bargaining law is that Republicans may have violated open meetings rules in passing it. The legislation they have enacted turns out to be radical not just in its content, but in its blunt ends-justify-the-means disregard for openness and transparency.

This in turn points to what is perhaps Mr. Walker’s greatest break from the political traditions of his state. Wisconsinites have long believed that common problems deserve common solutions, and that when something needs fixing, we should roll up our sleeves and work together — no matter what our politics — to achieve the common good.

Mr. Walker’s conduct has provoked a level of divisiveness and bitter partisan hostility the likes of which have not been seen in this state since at least the Vietnam War. Many citizens are furious at their governor and his party, not only because of profound policy differences, but because these particular Republicans have exercised power in abusively nontransparent ways that represent such a radical break from the state’s tradition of open government.

Perhaps that is why — as a centrist and a lifelong independent — I have found myself returning over the past few weeks to the question posed by the lawyer Joseph N. Welch during the hearings that finally helped bring down another Wisconsin Republican, Joe McCarthy, in 1954: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

Scott Walker is not Joe McCarthy. Their political convictions and the two moments in history are quite different. But there is something about the style of the two men — their aggressiveness, their self-certainty, their seeming indifference to contrary views — that may help explain the extreme partisan reactions they triggered. McCarthy helped create the modern Democratic Party in Wisconsin by infuriating progressive Republicans, imagining that he could build a national platform by cultivating an image as a sternly uncompromising leader willing to attack anyone who stood in his way. Mr. Walker appears to be provoking some of the same ire from adversaries and from advocates of good government by acting with a similar contempt for those who disagree with him.

The turmoil in Wisconsin is not only about bargaining rights or the pension payments of public employees. It is about transparency and openness. It is about neighborliness, decency and mutual respect. Joe McCarthy forgot these lessons of good government, and so, I fear, has Mr. Walker. Wisconsin’s citizens have not.

By: William Cronon, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, March 21, 2011

March 22, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Jobs, Politics, State Legislatures, States, Unions, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On (and On and On) Wisconsin, As Judge Stays New Union Law

Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin, including Gov. Scott Walker, have yet another decision to make in the wake of a state trial judge’s ruling Friday that temporarily blocked enforcement of Wisconsin’s controversial new public union law. And none of their paths are certain to bring them back to where they want to be.

Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi created the headache for Walker and company when she ruled that Wisconsin’s “open meetings” law required more public notice of a legislative vote than was given by Republican lawmakers on the evening of March 9th. That was the night GOP lawmakers took their surprise vote, in the absence of their still-in-hiding Democratic counterparts, and passed the divisive measure which undercuts collective bargaining rights in the state.

Gov. Walker subsequently signed the law and it was scheduled to be published — a requirement for implementation — on March 25th. But because the measure was enacted in violation of the 30-year-old transparency law, Judge Sumi ruled, it could not yet go into effect. The Wisconsin State Journal quoted her as saying: “This was something that would and did catch the public unaware… what ended up being a closed session of a body in propelling legislation forward.”

Her procedural decision had nothing to do with the legal or political merits of the fight over collective bargaining rights. But it will likely affect those merits anyway, in whole or in part. Here’s part of what the state statute says about how other state statutes are to be lawfully enacted:

“Public notice of every meeting of a governmental body shall be given at least 24 hours prior to the commencement of such meeting unless for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical, in which case shorter notice may be given, but in no case may the notice be provided less than 2 hours in advance of the meeting.”

After a brief hearing on the matter, Judge Sumi said Friday in court: “It seems to me the public policy behind effective enforcement of the open meeting  law is so strong that it does outweigh the interest, at least at this time, which may exist in favor of sustaining the validity of the (law).”

So the GOP in Wisconsin now has a few options. The GOP can go back to the start of the legislative process and seek to enact the measure in more traditional circumstances. This could mean more Democratic walkouts. It could mean more protests at the State House in Madison. It could mean some sort of political compromise. Or it could mean the passage of an exact but newer version of the new collective bargaining law. And there’s no point in betting on which option is more likely because no reasonable person would lay odds on any of it given Wisconsin’s recent political history.

The GOP can slug it out in court and hope that a majority of the justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court have a different view of the open meetings law (and what happened on March 9th) than did Judge Sumi. The problem with that option is that it requires the state’s appellate judiciary to undercut the open meetings law not just in these circumstances — which everyone concedes were unusual — but in more conventional scenarios as well. No one (yet) is claiming the law itself is unconstitutional or otherwise beyond the power of state legislators. The state supreme court could require a do-over at the Statehouse while promising its ruling has nothing to do with the politics of the law.

Or, the GOP can pursue both paths at the same time and hope for success in either one. The problem with that scenario is that it would require politicians to spend more time and energy in pitched legislative battle over an issue — new collective-bargaining legislation, properly noticed — which may subsequently be rendered moot by an appellate ruling that recognizes the legitimacy of the existing collective-bargaining law. I suspect few politicians in Wisconsin would want to go through the ordeal again even if they were assured that it would mean something in the end. But to ask them to do so when the existing law may ultimately be revived may be a bit much.

There are other lawsuits pending against the legislation. Judge Sumi herself is involved in another one of those. What emerged from political chaos looks now to be heading toward a period of legal chaos.

By: Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic, March 18, 2011

March 18, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Politics, Republicans, State Legislatures, States, Unions | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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