Lawmakers uncertain if budget repair bill is in effect - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Secretary of State says budget repair act not yet effective; Republicans say otherwise


By Derek Staahl - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MADISON (WKOW) -- A leading Republican lawmaker says the controversial budget repair bill now has the effect of law, but Wisconsin's Secretary of State says otherwise.

The controversy began Friday, when the Legislative Reference Bureau published the act despite a temporary restraining order issued by a Dane County judge. The restraining order only enjoins Secretary of State Doug LaFollette, who is typically responsible for publishing laws.

"In every conversation I've had with every attorney I've spoken with yesterday, the idea was... as of today, that it was law," said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).

But LaFollette and Democratic lawmakers insist the LRB's posting of the act on its web site does not satisfy the constitutional requirement that legislation be published one day before it becomes law.

"It's out there, people can see it, but that doesn't make it law, as much as [the Governor] can cross his fingers and hope that it is," said Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee).

Democratic legislators argue that laws only become effective after they're published by the Secretary of State in the official state newspaper.

An attorney for the non-partisan Legislative Council and the director of the Legislative Reference Bureau supported that position, saying the LRB's move was administrative.

Section 35.095 of the state constitution says the LRB must publish legislation 10 working days after the bill is signed by the governor.

"I don't recollect any cases where laws have not been published in the official newspaper," said Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison).

"The Governor has shown a very arrogant style where he decides to move regardless of what the court says, regardless of what the law apparently says."

UW-Madison constitutional law expert Howard Schweber says he could make a plausible case for either side.

He says he can find no clear relationship in the constitution between publishment by the LRB and legal effectiveness.

"This question will go to the court," he said.

Until it's told otherwise, Wisconsin's Department of Administration says it will move forward as though an unsettled law that takes away certain collective bargaining rights has become official.

Department Secretary Mike Huebsch said Saturday that his legal counsel has advised him to begin implementing the law as required after a bill is lawfully published.

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