March 25, 2011- Wisconsin officials couldn't agree Friday about whether an explosive law taking away nearly all public worker collective bargaining rights was about to take effect after a nonpartisan legislative bureau published it despite a court order blocking implementation.
The Legislative Reference Bureau took the action at 3:15 p.m. Friday, sending confused lawmakers and legal experts scrambling to determine what's next for the measure that has brought waves of chaos to the state since it first was proposed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Legislative Reference Bureau director Steve Miller insisted the action doesn't mean the law takes effect Saturday. He says that won't actually happen until Secretary of State Doug La Follette orders the law published in a newspaper, and a judge ordered last week that La Follette not do anything.
"It's not implementation at all," Miller said. "It's simply a matter of forwarding an official copy to the secretary of state."
La Follette said he didn't know what the action means, but he's not doing anything given the court order.
"I think we're going to have to get some legal opinion on this," he said.
But Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who said he went to the Reference Bureau with the idea, said the action means the law takes effect Saturday.
"It's my opinion it's published, it's on the legislative website, it's law," Fitzgerald said. "It was clear to me after our discussions this morning, if it in fact it is posted and it says published and there's a specific date on it, it would be very hard to argue this was not law."
John Jagler, a spokesman for Republican Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, said he also assumed the action means the law takes effect Saturday.
Walker's top aide Mike Huebsch, secretary of the Department of Administration, issued a statement saying he had been notified that the law had been published.
"The administration will carry out the law as required," Huebsch said.
Requests for additional clarification about whether the governor believed the law was indeed in effect were not returned.