LaCrosse Tribune: Our view: Fitzgerald shows why openness matters

March 29, 2011- “It’s my opinion it’s published, it’s on the legislative website, it’s law.” — Scott Fitzgerald, Republic majority leader, Wisconsin Senate

There you have it.

Wisconsin is no longer ruled as a state of laws but as a state of Fitzgeralds.

And when a Fitzgerald proclaims something to be law, it is so.

On Friday, Scott Fitzgerald told the state’s Legislative Reference Bureau to post a law on its website — the controversial law that strikes down almost all collective-bargaining rights for public employees in this state.

And because the law was posted on the Internet, it went into effect on Saturday, according to the fiat by Scott Fitzgerald.

There are a couple of potential problems with that scenario — or merely minor procedural inconveniences, as far as Scott Fitzgerald is concerned.

First, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued a restraining order March 18 prohibiting the secretary of state from publishing the law, which has been challenged because of a possible violation of the state’s open-meetings law by Scott Fitzgerald.

Second, a law must be published by Secretary of State Doug La Follette in the official state newspaper — the Wisconsin State Journal, a sister publication to the La Crosse Tribune.

But Fitzgeralds apparently don’t need to trifle with judge’s rulings, open-meetings laws or requirements that laws receive the necessary publication in the state newspaper.

So Wisconsin awoke Saturday not really knowing whether it was law or not.

La Crosse Mayor Matt Harter signed a new collective-bargaining agreement with a group of city employees late Friday, just in case.

Even though his agency posted the law on its website, the director of the Legislative Reference Bureau, Stephen Miller, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “I think this is a ministerial act that forwards it to the secretary of state. 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.”

And, the secretary of state hasn’t issued the order to publish the law because a judge has told him not to.

In her ruling, Judge Sumi said: “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.”


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