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Do Challenges to Wisconsin Labor Bill Have Merit? No.

A close look at Wisconsin law shows that Judge Sumi is wrong and the suits are simply buying time, hoping the state senate flips next election cycle.

by
Gary Wickert

Bio

April 1, 2011 - 12:55 pm
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The merits of the Democrats’ desperate effort to delay a legitimately and democratically passed law are lacking. Wisconsin’s open meetings laws specify requirements of cities, towns, and other governmental entities for notice and conduct of meetings in order to ensure that the public is not kept in the dark and action is not taken without proper notice. Specifically, the Democrats and Judge Sumi are concerned with whether there was a violation of Section19.84 of the open meetings laws, which provides as follows:

§19.84 (1) Public notice of all meetings of a governmental body shall be given in the following manner: … (2) Every public notice of a meeting of a governmental body shall set forth the time, date, place and subject matter of the meeting, including that intended for consideration at any contemplated closed session, in such form as is reasonably likely to apprise members of the public and the news media thereof. The public notice of a meeting of a governmental body may provide for a period of public comment, during which the body may receive information from members of the public. (3) Public notice of every meeting of a governmental body shall be given at least 24 hours prior to the commencement of such meeting unless for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical, in which case shorter notice may be given, but in no case may the notice be provided less than 2 hours in advance of the meeting.

A close look at the open meetings laws reveals that they do not apply in this case. With regard to another section of those laws, Section 19.84(2) provides as follows:

§19.87(2) No provision of this subchapter which conflicts with a rule of the senate or assembly or joint rule of the legislature shall apply to a meeting conducted in compliance with such rule.

The relevant question then becomes whether there was a rule of the Senate or Assembly which conflicted with Section 19.84. And there was. Joint Rule 27 provides as follows:

Joint Rule 27. Committee hearings open to public. Unless otherwise provided by law, every committee hearing, executive session, or other meeting shall be open to the public. If time permits, advance notice of every regularly scheduled committee hearing, executive session, or other meeting shall be published as provided in joint rule 75.

To make the Democrats’ position even more far-fetched, the committee meeting complained of was not even a regularly scheduled meeting and therefore Rule 75 would not even apply. Senate Rule 93 goes even further with regard to the notice required prior to a committee meeting like the one the Democrats are complaining of. It provides:

Senate Rule 93. (2) A notice of a committee meeting is not required other than posting on the legislative bulletin board, and a bulletin of committee hearings may not be published.

Senate Rule 93 (3). (3) The daily calendar is in effect immediately upon posting on the legislative bulletin boards. The calendar need not be distributed.

The notice required by Rule 93 was provided. The Senate clerk posted notice of this committee online.

But the merits of the union lawsuit intended to thwart democracy aren’t really important to the public employee unions. What is important is additional delay so that more and more unions can ram through last-minute contract negotiations which will tide them over until the next election cycle. Banking on a recall of the “extreme” Republicans looking to save Wisconsin from insolvency, they are hopeful that they can avoid the will of the taxpayers who pay all of the lavish salaries and benefits altogether.

What we are seeing in Madison is sanity beginning to peek through from behind a cloud of union self-interest, red tape, debt, and huge deficits. With a poor economy, no stimulus funds, the ending of budget gimmicks, and taxes maxed out, more spending cuts will be necessary to save our state. Thwarting legitimately passed legislation with a radical judicially legislating judge named Sumi is the only way for the self-interested Democrats and union supporters to circumvent one of life’s simplest truths: you can’t spend more than you make.

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Gary Wickert is a board-certified trial lawyer, living in Cedarburg, Wisconsin with his wife and two sons. He has a political column in Reality News and has been an op-ed contributor for Ozaukee County's News Graphic as well as a feature writer for several Wisconsin magazines. He is also the author of several legal treatises on a variety of subjects and currently serves as supervisor in the town of Cedarburg. In 2011, Gary lost a bid for the Wisconsin Assembly in the Republican Primary by 72 votes.
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