Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) administration isn’t letting one court order stop them from implementing the new law curtailing public employee unions — nor do they seem concerned by a second court order, and threats of sanctions, after they had sidestepped the first.
As the Wisconsin State Journal reports, Secretary of Administration Mike Huebsch has announced that the state will continue implementing the law, holding it to still be in effect:
Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch said Wednesday he has a legal obligation to implement all laws passed by the Legislature, signed by Gov. Scott Walker and published into law. Huebsch said the Department of Justice and his own legal counsel, a team of DOA attorneys, agree the measure has met those requirements “and is now effective law.”
“It is my duty to administer that law,” he said.
Huebsch’s statement also questioned whether Dane County (Madison) Judge Maryann Sumi’s order could be binding upon him, as his department was not a defendant in the lawsuit against the bill: “It is unclear how she can issue an order binding non-parties to a case who have not had their day in court.”
The lawsuit had targeted Democratic Secretary of State Doug La Follette, in his official capacity to publish bills before they take effect — to which the Republicans responded by publishing it within a different agency, and claiming that it was now law.
Here is Huebsch’s full statement, via WisPolitics:
“I have a legal obligation to execute all laws pertaining to my department that have been passed by both houses of the legislature, signed by the Governor, and published into law. The Department of Justice has concluded that 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 has met those requirements and is now effective law. My legal counsel agrees with the Department of Justice’s legal reasoning and conclusions. Accordingly, it is my duty to administer that law.
“On the other hand, Judge Sumi made clear in comments from the bench yesterday that she intended to prevent further implementation of Act 10 by anyone including, apparently, non-parties such as myself and the Department of Administration. Yet, the TRO she issued fails to state that Act 10 is not in effect. In fact, Judge Sumi declined a request to declare that Act 10 was not lawfully published. It is unclear how she can issue an order binding non-parties to a case who have not had their day in court.
“Because of the questions this TRO raises, its legal effect on my implementation of Act 10 is also unclear. DOA will continue to monitor court proceedings and work with legal counsel and the Department of Justice to determine an appropriate course of action.”
Two Fridays ago, Judge Sumi blocked the law on 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 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 La Follette (D) from publishing the act in the Wisconsin State Journal. The State Journal 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.
This past Friday, however, state Republicans had the bill published by a different state agency — 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.
And Monday, Huebsch announced that he was now carrying out the law, with government employees’ paychecks starting on April 21 to contain deductions for contributions to their health care and pensions — and to no longer deduct union dues.
Then on Tuesday, Sumi issued another order to block the law — and Assistant Attorney General Steven Means, who worked for Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, said the law would still hold:
“Apparently that language was either misunderstood or ignored, but what I said was the further implementation of Act 10 was enjoined. That is what I now want to make crystal clear,” she said.
But minutes later, outside the court room, Assistant Attorney General Steven Means said the legislation “absolutely” is still in effect.
Correction: This post has been edited in order to clarify the nature of Judge Maryann Sumi’s order blocking the bill.