Talking Points Memo: A Bit More Detail

March 26, 2011- As we've reported, a whole new controversy broke out tonight in Wisconsin as state Republicans appeared to defy a court to put into immediate effect the governor's controversial anti-union bill. I wanted to take a quick moment and focus in on the nitty-gritty of the issues involved.

Most of the controversy has centered on the modalities of just how a law goes into effect in Wisconsin. The normal way this is done is when the Secretary of State formally publishes the law in what is deemed state's official newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal. Republicans say they got another state agency called the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) to publish it. And that's good enough to make it law, despite the LRB saying it doesn't.

In other words, the argument here is that they may be violating the spirit of the judge's decision but nonetheless found a technical way around the decision. And the law is all about the technicalities.

Most of the debate has been over who's right on this issue of who can pull the trigger, as it were, to make a law go into effect. (See our report for the details of the dispute.) But as we note in our story, the actual transcript of the judge's ruling seems much broader than that.

A transcript of the judge's ruling reads: "I do, therefore, restrain and enjoin the further implementation of 2011 Wisconsin Act 10. The next step in implementation of that law would be the publication of that law by the secretary of state. He is restrained and enjoined from such publication until further order of this court."

I want to be clear that not only am I not an expert on Wisconsin state law but that each of these controversies seems to move the state further into uncharted legal and even constitutional territory. So every judgment must be tentative. But a plain reading of the judge's order suggests a very broad injunction. Not only did she bar the specific modality of implementation. She seemed to enjoin any steps to put the law into effect. "I do, therefore, restrain and enjoin the further implementation of 2011 Wisconsin Act 10." And if that's the case, all these technical questions on who can 'publish' the law seem moot.

Since state Republicans say the laws goes into effect tomorrow, I'm sure there will be much more discussion of these particulars soon enough. Read our full report here.

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