Email suggests lawmakers knew court would act - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Email suggests lawmakers knew court would act

MADISON (WKOW) -- An email obtained by WKOW27 News indicates several local officials Monday were assured by Republican lawmakers the state Supreme Court would rule on the contentious collective bargaining case this week.

In a 4-3 decision, state Supreme Court justices Tuesday upheld the collective bargaining bill and vacated a Dane County judge's restraining order against it.

Four Republican legislators met with Sheboygan County department heads Monday as part of monthly sessions involving state and local officials.

After the meeting, county corporation counsel Carl Buesing briefed other county attorneys across the state on information pertaining to the collective bargaining bill's inclusion of employee contributions to their pension and health care.

"This Monday morning we met and were assured that the Supreme Court was going to rule by Wednesday and that that legislature was going to clean up all the loose ends,"   Buesing wrote in the email.

In a brief interview with WKOW27 News, Buesing changed his characterization of what lawmakers told county officials, saying an "expectation" of swift court action was expressed.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) had previously stated if no court decision was made by Tuesday evening,  lawmakers would insert the volatile bill into the proposed budget and debate and vote on it again.

Another county official at the Sheboygan meeting, Register of Deeds Ellen Schleicher told WKOW27 News Buesing's characterization of an assurance was accurate, and said it came from Rep. Dan LeMahieu (R-Cascade).

LeMahieu told WKOW27 News he does not remember the exact language he used in the meeting,  but denied he gave an assurance.   LeMahieu said he was not tipped off by anyone to the supreme court's intentions.

"We were hoping they would do that before the legislature,  specifically the assembly,  went to the floor Tuesday.   But I,  nor anybody else,  had certainty,  when that would be."

LeMahieu told WKOW27 News he had anticipated court justices would act last week,  just a day or two after hearing court arguments.   "Because there was some urgency,  because of the timing of the budget."

"If the legislature had to fold the collective bargaining package again into the state budget,   that would re-inflame the passions of February and March,"   Common Cause executive director Jay Heck said.   Legislative consideration of the collective bargaining bill drew thousands of protesters to the capitol in those months.   Heck said as separate branches of government,  it was expected the court would act independently of any legislative deadlines.

Another official at the Monday Sheboygan meeting, county board chairperson Mike Vandersteen,  agreed with LeMahieu lawmakers expressed hope a court decision would come quickly in support of collective bargaining limits and eliminate the need for the legislature to again take up the matter.  

Rep. Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake) also attended the Sheboygan meeting and said he recalled no assurances of court action being given.

Immediately after the court's Tuesday decision was announced,  assembly speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) said there was no conspiracy in the timing. 

Heck of the government watchdog group told WKOW27 News the possibility an assurance was given about a pending state Supreme Court decision requires more answers.

"There needs to be a full explanation by the speaker,  the supreme court spokesperson or the justices themselves to make it clear,  that there wasn't coordination on this matter."

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