Taking a shortcut around the rule of law in Wisconsin

TAKING A SHORTCUT AROUND THE RULE OF LAW IN WISCONSIN…. When a state judge issued a restraining order against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) union-busting bill about 10 days ago, most expected the next move to be a series of legal appeals.

What few expected was Wisconsin Republicans trying to take a shortcut around the rule of law, but that’s remarkably what’s happened.

To briefly recap, the way a bill becomes a law in Wisconsin is pretty straightforward: bill passes legislature, bill signed by governor, bill published by Secretary of State’s office, law is on the books. A state judge, recently finding that the union-busting bill violated the state’s open-meeting laws, blocked the Secretary of State’s office from taking that final step.

So, late last week, Wisconsin Republicans made up a new process because they felt like it: bill passes legislature, bill signed by governor, bill goes around by Secretary of State’s office, bill published by some agency called the Legislative Reference Bureau, law is on the books.

The Legislative Reference Bureau itself said it can’t publish measures into law and also can’t take the place of the Secretary of State’s office, but the Wisconsin GOP doesn’t care. They’re making up the rule of law as they go along.

And what does the rookie governor have to say about all of this? As of yesterday, Walker began enforcing a law that has been blocked by a state court’s restraining order.

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration no longer is collecting dues on behalf of state unions and, as of Sunday, is charging employees more for their pensions and health care, even though nonpartisan legislative attorneys say the changes are not yet law.

When I describe Wisconsin Republicans as being “out of control,” this is what I’m talking about.

So, as of today, what’s the law in Wisconsin? According to the GOP, the union-busting measure is in effect, and according to Democrats, it’s not. Some local communities in the state are enforcing the law, and some local communities are not.


Expect some kind of court intervention fairly soon.

Update: If you missed it, Rachel Maddow had a terrific segment on this and related labor issues last night, including an interview with the estimable Amanda Terkel.

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