Madness in Madison – Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

By YeOldeScribe ~ March 30th, 2011 @ 10:26 pm

We incorrectly assumed yesterday that Judge Maryann Sumi would resume hearings on the Budget Repair Bill today – those hearings are set to start up again on Friday. As a result, today’s post will be shorter than expected. However, we did want to take a look at something most progressives (including us) have been trying not to look at – the worst-case scenario for the bill. We don’t think she will, but Judge Sumi could very easily rule as early as Friday that the Budget Repair Bill became law once the Legislative Reference Bureau posted it online. If Sumi finds that the posting constituted a publication (and that the LRB can make up dates of publication whenever they feel like it), then the bill is presumably law. PoliticalProgressives.com, Democrats, and anyone who cares about democracy have been fighting this process tooth and nail, and we’ll continue to do so. But would that ruling by Sumi mean the end of the world as we know it?

Not so, according to an interesting post by PoliticusUSA. We definitely recommend checking out the article, but if you just want a brief excerpt:

“The irony here is that they didn’t kill their bill by passing it without the necessary quorum, violating state Open Meeting laws or publishing it in violation of a judge’s order; they killed it with their own hubris. Now that it’s published, it is much easier to have it stopped permanently. It can and will be fought on all of the above grounds as well as countless others — amounting to a “tsunami of litigation” against the anti-union law.”

The tsunami quote within the quote is referencing a statement made by Madison Attorney Lester Pines, and although he probably could have chosen better words given current events, the comment shouldn’t be interpreted as “made  in bad taste”.

The article makes some interesting points and it’s definitely worth a read, but we disagree with the point it’s trying to make. The authors of the article are saying that Walker is “killing” his own bill. Even if all we hope for comes true and Judge Sumi rules that the bill is not law, that it was formed unconstitutionally and can’t be implemented, the bill would not be killed – not even close. All the Republicans would have to do would be to pass the bill again – this time, with giving 24 hour’s notice of any meetings. Frankly, we don’t understand why Walker and Fitzgerald haven’t done this already, but we’re not going to complain. Judge Sumi wouldn’t be ruling that anything inside the bill was unconstitutional, she’d be ruling that the process in which the bill came about was unconstitutional.   That problem can be easily remedied, as we just demonstrated.

The article is right when it says the bill becomes much easier to fight if it’s ruled a law – there’s no doubt about that. One of the things Republicans are whining about right now is that Judge Sumi is overstepping her bounds if she declares a law that hasn’t taken affect is unconstitutional. We’ll take a look at exactly how much power Sumi really holds tomorrow, but it’s common sense to say that judges have the ability to determine the constitutionality of laws. Bills might be a different story, but if Walker’s going to claim the bill is a law, it’s that much easier to have it repealed.

In short, the “worst-case” scenario is still bad – in the end, the Budget Repair Bill becomes the Budget Repair Law. But Walker’s hubris on the issue might have given Democrats an easier way to fight the bill in court, and for that, we say “Thanks, Scott!”

We’ll leave you with this quote from AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer of Wisconsin Stephanie Bloomingdale:

“Wisconsin working families hope that Scott Walker and his Republican allies in the legislature will finally begin to respect our state’s judicial process and reverse any damage they’ve done to the working families of our state.  Wisconsinites expect their Governor and his administration to follow the law, and the fact that’s even up for debate shows their actions to be completely reprehensible.”

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