When a Wisconsin trial court judge struck down Wisconsin’s new collective bargaining law, she issued an injunction forbidding the state from both enforcing the law, and from publishing it as part of the official Code of Wisconsin. Despite the fact that the order is still in effect, the state has gone ahead and published the law:

In a stunning twist, Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation limiting collective bargaining for public workers was published Friday despite a judge’s hold on the measure, prompting a dispute over whether it takes effect Saturday.

The measure was published to the Legislature’s website with a footnote that acknowledges the restraining order by a Dane County judge. But the posting says state law “requires the Legislative Reference Bureau to publish every act within 10 working days after its date of enactment.”

The measure sparked protests at the Capitol and lawsuits by opponents because it would eliminate the ability of most public workers to bargain over anything but wages.

The restraining order was issued against Democratic Secretary of State Doug La Follette. But the bill was published by the reference bureau, which was not named in the restraining order.

Laws normally take effect a day after they are published, and a top GOP lawmaker said that meant it will become law Saturday. But nonpartisan legislative officials from two agencies, including the one who published the bill, disagreed.

“I think this is a ministerial act that forwards it to the secretary of state,” said Stephen Miller, director of the Legislative Reference Bureau. “I don’t think this act makes it become effective. My understanding is that the secretary of state has to publish it in the (official state) newspaper for it to become effective.”

Walker signed the bill March 11. Under state law, it must be published within 10 working days, which was Friday.

It hasn’t been printed in the Wisconsin State Journal, the official state newspaper, as other laws are. Late Friday, State Journal publisher Bill Johnston said in an e-mail that the notice for the law had been scheduled to run but had been canceled. He did not elaborate.

La Follette urged caution Friday, saying the measure has not been published yet by his office. He said he believes the law cannot go into effect until he directs the State Journal to publish it, which he has not done.

While I’m not familiar with Wisconsin law, I can’t imagine that the law could have any legal force and effect as long as this injunction is in place. Technically, it may not have been a violation for the reference bureau to publish the law since they weren’t parties to the injunction, but it most assuredly violates the spirit of the judge’s ruling. I would expect the parties to be back in court on Monday over this one.

And for those who may have wondered (I did), Secretary of State LaFollette is indeed distantly related to the famous Progressive Republican Robert LaFollette. His great-grandfather and “Fightin’ Bob’s” father were brothers.


Outside the Beltway


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