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In Living Commentary

Gov. Scott Walker led off this fracas with by proposing a budget repair bill to close a $3.6 billion deficit.

Voters will decide fate of Walker's bill


The legal drama playing out in Madison over the future of collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin is beginning to look like an early spring training baseball game scorecard.

It's cluttered and confusing, with many players, some of whom are playing multiple positions.

Let's look at the lineup and try to sort out where this is going.

Gov. Scott Walker led off this fracas with by proposing a budget repair bill to close a $3.6 billion deficit by revoking the collective bargaining rights for thousands of public employees in the state.

Walker's Republican comrades in the legislature batted next, carving out the collective bargaining rights issue into a separate resolution that was approved with less than two hours notice by a conference committee and then adopted by both houses, bypassing the 14 Senate Democrats who had fled to Illinois.

Wisconsin Secretary of State Douglas La Follette, a Democrat, was up next, opting to wait the maximum 10 business days before publishing Walker's bill.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, then stepped up to the plate and filed a complaint against the bill, alleging the Republicans had violated the state's open meetings act.

Dane County Circuit Court Maryann Sumi (who was appointed to the bench by former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson) then granted a temporary restraining order against the bill.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, countered by filing for an injunction against the restraining order. Ironically, Van Hollen's petition is filed legally on behalf of La Follette -- against La Follette's will.

La Follette urged all parties to "work together and talk to each other to come up with a solution to the current situation that serves the public trust in our institutions of government."

Van Hollen claims that Sumi has no jurisdiction intervening in the state legislative process.

Next up was the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, which ordered Ozanne to submit a memorandum regarding "the authority of the judiciary to enjoin the secretary of state from publishing an act." The court is asking for additional responses to be filed by Ozanne by Wednesday at 4 p.m.

The Court of Appeals consists of five justices, three of whom were randomly assigned to hear this case. The three justices hearing the case are: Judge Paul Higginbotham, a former Dane County judge who is widely regarded as left-leaning; Judge Paul Lundsten, a former assistant attorney general who is widely regarded as a conservative; and Judge Brian Blanchard, a former Dane County district attorney whom sources say may "lean to the left," but whom is widely regarded as a pragmatic judge who does not let his politics supersede his interpretations of the law.

In other words, Blanchard is the wild card who could decide this case on the appellate level.

However, no matter the appellate decision, with so much at stake, this case will certainly go to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

That means that the electorate ultimately will decide this case in the April 5 election. In effect, a vote for conservative David Prosser will be a vote for affirming Walker's bill to revoke the collective bargaining rights of public employees. A vote for left-learning Joanne Kloppenburg will be a vote against Walker's bill and for affirming those collective bargaining rights.

And with so much at state, both sides will be bombarding the broadcast airwaves with nasty commercials, fueled on one side by groups such as the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the Club for Growth Wisconsin and Americans for Prosperity and fueled on the other side by the labor unions and the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund.

So, what's it going to be, Wisconsin?


Talkbacks

Willia | March 25, 2011 at 11:16 a.m. (report)

BrewCity, I wasn't trying to deny that some of the dues money goes to political activity. I was replying to taxpayer29's complaint that said money goes only to the Democrats--and pointing out that such a complaint could be nullified if the Republicans half-tried.

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AndrewJ | March 24, 2011 at 9:06 a.m. (report)

"Gov. Scott Walker led off this fracas with by proposing a budget repair bill to close a $3.6 billion deficit by revoking the collective bargaining rights for thousands of public employees in the state." False. Governor Doyle led off the fracas by putting us in this position in the first place by allowing the unions and public employee benefits to run rampant, and by borrowing money, raiding funds, and taxing the private sector to make up the fiscal differences.

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BrewCityAllstar | March 24, 2011 at 8:12 a.m. (report)

Willia, It seems to me that all that article says is that a PAC has to be established to act as an intermediary between the union and the funds. Also, it goes on to say that union members can request refunds for dues used in political activities... That sounds like political funding to me. So what if dues can't be directly given to candidates; it sounds like they can be given to a PAC, which can run adds, knock on doors, and make donations.

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ChateauDweller | March 23, 2011 at 4:11 p.m. (report)

Any serious legal mind knows that what Sumi did was wrong. This is merely a delay tactic for local governments to extend contracts. Even if the Open Meetings Law was violated, which it wasn't (See Senate Rules), it does not invalidate a law. The WI Supreme Court has opined on this in the past.

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Willia | March 23, 2011 at 2:46 p.m. (report)

Taxpayer, read the second item here: http://www.milwaukeenewsbuzz.com/?p=527720 Dues money cannot fund candidates. Also, union members can get a refund of money paid that went to political advocacy. IMO, if Republicans are sore that unions mostly support Democrats (maybe because all that corporate money that funds Repubs' campaigns just isn't enough), then Repubs should compete for union money by doing more for the average worker. People and organizations support they candidates they feel are working for their interests. Last, if most of us can have charitable contributions deducted from paychecks, why shouldn't that be an option for union dues? Let the individual workers decide whether to opt in or out of a payroll deduction. If that hacks off the union bigwigs, so be it.

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