A temporary restraining order blocking enactment of the budget repair bill will remain in place until Republican lawmakers can appear in court. The ruling comes after Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne rested his case Friday in a lawsuit claiming passage of the bill violated the open meetings law.
Judge Maryann Sumi says the order stopping the Secretary of State from publishing the bill will stay in effect until Republican lawmakers targeted by the lawsuit can be properly noticed and given a chance to defend themselves in court.
Republican leaders named in the lawsuit, which include Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon), currently have immunity from civil lawsuits while the Legislature is in session. It expires 15 days after the current session ends, but Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar said in court that there’s some confusion over when exactly that would be.
The budget repair bill was passed during a special session of the Legislature, which remains underway. However, lawmakers begin a new floor period next week as well. An appeal of the restraining order still awaits consideration by the state Supreme Court.
Republican leaders could waive their immunity, but Lazar says that’s a discussion they will need to have as the case proceeds.
Meanwhile, the judge took testimony Friday on the alleged violation of the open meetings law from Senate Chief Clerk Rob Marchant, who talked about events surrounding the controversial conference committee meeting on March 9th. Marchant said Senate rules do not state when such joint committees involving members of the Senate and Assembly must be noticed.
He said he was not told any reason why the meeting held the evening of the 9th could not be scheduled 24 hours in advance. But Marchant also conceded that, in retrospect, it doesn’t appear the meeting was noticed on the bulletin board two hours before the meeting. The state Senate passed the controversial measure immediately after that conference committee vote.
The restraining order prevents Secretary of State Doug La Follette from publishing the bill, which also stops implementation of the collective bargaining changes included in the measure. La Follette says he plans to abide by the ruling until the case is resolved.