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Lawsuit seeks to block implementation of union law (UPDATE)

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A judge was considering Friday whether to block enactment of a law taking away nearly all collective bargaining rights from the vast majority of Wisconsin’s public workers.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed the legislation Friday morning, but it does not take effect until the day after an official notice from the secretary of state is published in the Madison newspaper. A lawsuit filed by Democratic Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk attempts to stop the publication on the grounds that the bill unconstitutionally passed the state Senate on Wednesday.

Secretary of State Doug La Follette said the governor asked him to publish the official notice Monday, but he wanted to talk with Walker before taking that step.

“It doesn’t strike me as prudent to do anything when there’s a possible court action,” said La Follette, who opposed the bill. “It’s been rushed enough already.”

La Follette said his typical practice is to wait the 10 business days he’s allowed under state law before publishing a law.

Dane County Circuit Judge Amy Smith was hearing arguments in the lawsuit Friday afternoon. It was not clear when a decision would be issued.

The lawsuit contends the Senate did not have the legally required quorum of 20 senators when it passed the bill. Only 19 Republican senators were there when the vote was taken on a stripped-down version of the bill that did not include spending items. Had the spending items been included, at least 20 senators would have had to be present. That number couldn’t be reached because all 14 Democrats had fled the state three weeks before in order to block the vote.

Prior to the Senate taking up the bill, a special committee was convened to remove the fiscal items so a vote could take place. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he ran the move by the Legislature’s bill drafters, attorneys and fiscal bureau and all three said it was legal.

But the lawsuit points out that Walker and Republican lawmakers had repeatedly said every part of the bill had a fiscal impact, including the collective bargaining pieces that remained intact.

Falk argues in the lawsuit that fiscal items remained in the bill and for that reason the vote should be invalidated. She also argues that the special committee meeting to remove the fiscal items was in violation of the state open meetings law because it convened with less than two hours’ notice.

State law generally requires 24 hours’ notice unless there’s an emergency. Senate Clerk Rob Marchant has said the meeting was legally called under rules of the Senate that have no time requirement.


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