Wisconsin’s non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau published a controversial law late Friday that makes changes to the collective bargaining rights of most public employees. The move comes despite a temporary restraining order issued by a Dane County judge last Friday that barred final action to make the law official.
A statement released by the Department of Justice contends that Act 10 was legally published and did not violate the restraining order. DOJ says the Secretary of State did not order the move, and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau was operating under its mandatory duty to publish the measure.
Secretary of State Doug La Follette, a Democrat, delayed publishing the bill signed two weeks ago by Republican Governor Scott Walker as long as legally possible, which would have been Friday. La Follette has also waived his immunity from civil action in a lawsuit that resulted in the restraining order.
The Dane County District Attorney brought forward the complaint, saying the conference committee that advanced the budget repair bill violated the open meetings law, invalidating further legislative approval of the bill. The case is currently awaiting a possible appeal before the state Supreme Court.
DOJ says the action by the Fiscal Bureau does not violate the terms of the restraining order, and it is evaluating what impact the move will have on the pending litigation.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) says the action only perpetuates the “cloud of suspicion” surrounding the bill and its passage. Barca says he spoke with Legislative Council attorneys and believes that Act 10 will still not be in effect until the Secretary of State officially takes action to publish the measure.
Barca says the Secretary of State is the only Constitutional officer with the power to publish a law, and La Follette is currently prohibited from doing so under the court order.
Barca says statements from Republican leaders that the LFB publishing the bill will allow it to take effect on Saturday only add to the confusion surrounding the issue right now.