The administration of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) has begun implementing its controversial new law curtailing public employee unions, following a move on Friday declaring it be in effect, and despite a judge’s ruling that enjoined said implementation.
“It is now my legal responsibility to begin enactment of the law,” Secretary of Administration Mike Huebsch, a former Republican state Assembly Speaker, told reporters, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Huebsch said that the state will begin withholding pension and health benefits contributions from government employees’ paychecks, while also no longer automatically deducting union dues. The first paychecks to be affected will be April 21.
A week and a half ago, a judge in Dane County (Madison) blocked the law on procedural grounds, ruling that a key conference committee used to advance the bill — and to get around the state Senate Dems’ walkout from the state — had violated the state open-meetings law by failing to give proper 24-hours notice. The judge’s order “restrain[ed] and enjoin[ed] the further implementation” of the law, including the prevention of Secretary of State Doug LaFollette (D) from publishing the act in the Wisconsin State Journal, which acts as the state’s official newspaper for the purpose of giving the public official notice of new laws — the final step for the law to take effect. That decision is now going through an appeals process, which remains up in the air.
But this past Friday, state Republicans had the bill published in a different office — the Legislative Reference Bureau, which handles drafting and research for the legislature — according to the LRB’s statutory requirement to publish legislation within ten days of enactment. Notably, the LRB itself has said that this publication does not constitute action that would put the law into effect.
But state Republican leaders, including Walker’s office and the state Attorney General, say that the law is now in effect. In addition, Huebsch told reporters that the judge’s ruling applied to LaFollette’s office, but not to the LRB and the Department of Administration.
“It’s clear that for as many attorneys as you wish to ask you are going to get an opinion on this particular law and the status of it,” Huebsch said, WisPolitics reports. “We have looked at the statutes and are defining them as clearly as we can as it states in the statute as to the requirements that must be met.”
Interestingly, Huebsch also said that if there is a court ruling to restrain the DOA from implementing the law, the changes will be undone: “If a judge or a court says otherwise that we should not continue we will make every effort to comply with that law.”
When asked for comment, the state Democratic Party gave TPM this comment from chairman Mike Tate:
“Are there any laws that yet bind Scott Walker and the Republicans? With the arrogance of the zealot, they act as if they were laws unto themselves. Ultimately, our Constitution and our courts will protect us from their warped ideologies, but in the meantime, our democracy in Wisconsin is being flayed.”