Wednesday, March 30, 2011

JB Van Hollen Insists Act 10 is in effect

Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen says the recently passed Budget Repair Bill, now referred to as Act 10 by State officials, is in full effect after publication Friday on the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's Web site. The publication of the new law via the LFB was deemed permissable by the Department of Justice because the Legislative Fiscal Bureau was not named in the suit that was filed in Dane County Circuit Court by District Attorney Ismael Ozanne last week. The DOJ believes that the LRB has full power to implement the collective bargaining restrictions in the new law due to State Statute35.095(3(a) that says the Legislative Fiscal Bureau has a ministerial duty to publish laws signed by the Governor within 10 days of passage. As a result, the Department of Justice, and particularly Van Hollen, has issued an appeal with the District 4 Appellate Court in Madison to vacate the temporary injunction issued by Judge Mary Sumi last week that kept the Secretary of State from putting the Act into law.

"These motions argue that the requested relief is appropriate because Act 10 is now in force due to its publication by the Legislative Reference Bureau on March 25, 2011. The Legislative Reference Bureau was not named as a party in the Ozanne case and was not bound by any order issued by the Dane County Circuit Court. Because the law is in force, the appeal, which was based on the harm caused by enjoining the legislative process, is moot. The briefs explain that the Secretary of State made a good faith attempt to comply with the temporary restraining order and did not cause the publication of Act 10," said Bill Cosh in a press release from the Department of Justice.

The appeal was issued yesterday and was not directed to the State Supreme Court as the Supreme Court has not officially accepted the case involving the original injunction and therefore has not yet become a conduit for settling the conflict. The DOJ's insistence on the LRB measure adds even more intrigue to a debate that runs on both sides of the aisle, with the Democrats, including LaFollette himself maintaining that the Secretary of State's Office has the sole authority to publish the law and Republicans maintaining that the Department of Justice is correct in its assessment of Statute 35.095. Legal scholars are divided in their opinions as well.

“It’s now my legal responsibility to begin enactment of the law," said Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch during a Monday afternoon conference call. “It’s clear that for as many attorneys as you wish to ask you are going to get an opinion on this particular law and the status of it,” “We have looked at the statutes and are defining them as clearly as we can as it states in the statute as to the requirements that must be met.”

Meanwhile, Madison Judge Mary Sumi has convened the first hearing this morning on the injunction and has gone ahead with testimony regarding the lawsuit. Ozanne filed papers yesterday to motion Sumi to declare the LRB publication of Act 10 as not being an act of public law and include LRB in the injunction.

Legislative Reference Bureau Chief Stephen Miller today said he believes his agency has a distinct duty to publish new laws within 10 working days of their signature by the governor. But he also does not believe that LRB action alone implements the law.

"I did not think that this act of the LRB made the law effective," Miller said today during testimony in the injunction case.

The Department of Justice argued against Sumi proceeding with the injunction hearing. Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar argued the court may not assert itself in the legislative process and that since Republican lawmakers in the suit have not been served and are not in the courtroom, their due process rights are being violated.

Huebsch says that all of the changes made the State Payroll program to implement the 5.8% contribution to pensions and 12.6% contribution toward health care insurance premiums and that the first set of checks to be printed with the changes will be on April 21st. However, if a State Court orders otherwise, the changes can be quickly undone.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Budget Repair Battle shifts to the State Supreme Court

As was expected by many, the ruling over the constitutional legality of the CBA restrictions in Scott Walker's Budget Repair Bill has been sent on to the State Supreme Court. A panel of appellate justices made the ruling yesterday, stating prior cases have both ruled equally in favor of the Dane County District Attorney's case against it and the State of Wisconsin Department of Justice's position favoring it. At issue is the complaint filed by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne that the Special Conference Committee called to convene to pass the bill on the evening of March 9 violated the State's Open Meetings Law by now allowing sufficient public notice and by restricting public's access to the Capitol to attend the meeting. Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued an injunction on March 18, barring the Budget Repair Bill that had been signed by the Governor on March 11, from being allowed to take effect, citing that Ozanne's complaint had merit and the law needed to be reviewed before being put in place. Wisconsin Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, had filed the appeal with the 4th District Appellate court in Madison on Monday to lift injunction saying that Judge Sumi had ruled on the conduct of a separate branch of government.

The appeal was conducted before the judges Paul Lundsten, Paul Higginbothum, and Brian Blanchard. In the ruling, the 3-judge panel cited four cases, two that ruled in favor of the judicial branch voiding or interfering with an application of the legislature's violation of it's own procedures and two that ruled that the legislature was not subject to oversight or rulings by the judicial branch. Because the Appellate Justices didn't lift the injunction, it is in effect until it is lifted by another court and, therefore; Secretary of State Doug LaFollette did not publish it today, when it had been originally scheduled to be put into effect. At the heart of the matter is essentially State Constitution Article IV, Section 10 that makes up the backbone of the legislature's Open Meetings Law:

The doors of each house shall remain open, except when the public welfare requires secrecy, it is declared to be the intent of the legislature to comply to the fullest extent with [the open meetings provisions set forth in] this subchapter.

The four cases revolve around the premise as to whether or not certain operations of the Legislature, including procedural rules like the State Open Meetings Law, are subject to the constitutional provision before legislation is published into law. They are:

Goodland v. Zimmerman (1943), Lynch v. Conta (1976); State ex rel. La Follette v. Stitt (1983) and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel v. Wisconsin Dept. of Admin., 2009.

In summation the appellate panel said, "Goodland and Stitt appear to favor the Secretary of State’s (La Follette's1983) position that courts lack authority to invalidate legislation enacted in violation of the Open Meetings Law or, at the least, to do so before publication. In contrast, Lynch and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel support the District Attorney’s (Ozanne in 2011) view."

"It is appropriate to certify to the Supreme Court appeals raising issues which that court might otherwise ultimately consider on a petition for review, in order to reduce the burden and expense of the appellate process on both the parties and the judicial system," said the panel in final summation."

Judge Sumi has scheduled hearings on the injunction on Tuesday March 29 and Friday April 1 but until any ruling is made to the contrary of the original injunction, the Budget Repair Law is on hold and as of this time it is not very clear when the Supreme Court will take up the case.

"I don't know how the court's going to react to that" case, Justice David Prosser told Journal Sentinel editors and writers Thursday. Prosser, for his part, has to weigh the consequences of involving himself in a fight that may make him look to some on both sides as if he has a conflict of interest.

"I know it would not be proper for me to react to that," he said. "To delay the case (past the election) because it might be embarrassing to me politically."

He could also be criticized for taking the case and looking like a Walker backer but he isn't backing down.

"This is my business," he told the Sentinel. "I'm a judge. I hear cases."

Janine Geske, a Marquette law professor and former state Supreme Court justice, told the Sentinel that the high court may not want to address the case at this stage because it is ongoing and another legal challenge to the collective bargaining law has been filed.

"The likelihood that anything is going to be decided before the election is not very great," she said.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wisconsin after the Union Takeover

"Are you wearing a bulletproof vest?"

Click. Michael Hintze's phone line went dead -- the caller never identified himself. A prominent Wisconsin Tea Party leader, Hintze is the latest recipient of anonymous death threats.

Maybe you thought it was finally over in Wisconsin. Walker overcame the liberal blitzkrieg, elected Republicans decided that there's no moderate stance between bankruptcy and prosperity, the bill was passed and signed, and the fourteen Democrats gave up their life on the run.

But there's more. Though chapter one undeniably ended with a resounding victory for Walker, the next part may easily become a forgotten chapter among thousands in the left's annals of Alinsky-style combat.

Wisconsin has become the latest setting for organized liberal activism. Pro-union forces are setting out to execute the power-plays of leftism: divide, intimidate, and conquer. Community organizers are working tirelessly to increase the opposition through lies and distortion in the hope of building cold-blooded hatred for Walker and his allies.

Traditional Wisconsin symbols have been co-opted to foment anti-Walker sentiment. UW Madison mascot Bucky Badger is portrayed as a victim of Walker's budget cuts, cheese is promoted as union-friendly, and some even claim that Walker has cut state funding for the Green Bay Packers.

Shockingly, the absurdity doesn't end there. The Wisconsin Dog Rescue is joining others in vilifying Walker as a dog-hater, and liberal blogs steadfastly avow that "Governor Scott Walker wants to kill puppies."

Common citizens and private businesses are the next objects of union wrath. Director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association Jim Palmer signed a letter giving businesses who donated to Gov. Walker's campaign one week to publicly denounce Walker or face a union-organized boycott.

Sendik's Food Market has refused to capitulate. Consequently, their doors were super-glued shut at one of their Milwaukee locations.

In Merrill, a group trying to recall Democrat Sen. Jim Holperin set up a table outside the Lincoln County Courthouse. Soon union protestors arrived and surrounded the group's table, waving signs and screaming through megaphones. In a press release, the group reported that even as the pro-union crowd chanted "this is what Democracy looks like," one of the protesters, "pretending to be interested in signing the petition, wrote profanity across a partially collected petition form, then began ripping up the completed petitions that were in close proximity."

Pro-union forces remained around the table and prevented people from reaching the petitions. According to the group, police officers stood by and did nothing.

In another incident, during school hours, a supposed teacher posted this on the Madison Craigslist:

So you Tea Bags want to take away my hard earned blue ribbon bennies. Well guess what you scum sucking Tea Bags, I got your kids all day long in my classroom and with just a few slick questions I know who the little tea bags are! And you think you'll have the last laugh HA-Ha-ha

I, too, a twenty-year-old college student, have been subject to this union onslaught. Nearly two weeks ago, I captured incriminating video of doctors handing out sick passes on the streets of Madison. The video went viral, and I consequently appeared on Fox News and several radio shows to discuss the fraud. The left has yet to forgive me.

I've been stalked, chased, and verbally assaulted by several individuals. One woman drew a crowd around me and proceeded to rattle off my full name, my age, my hometown, and the exact size of my family. She noted that I am the second-oldest of thirteen children. She also recited the very dates I had been on Fox News and the time period of my visit to New York.

Creepy though it was, this woman's knowledge of my personal life was impressive. She knew information that many of my friends were not aware of.

This is the new norm in Wisconsin: an unrivaled, systematic assault is leveled against anyone who refuses to carry the union's water. It's a war zone where the left seems driven by Saul Alinsky's motto: "The end justifies almost any means."

Democrats and their union allies are making their agenda clear: retain power at all costs. If they can raise enough money, silence enough foes, recall enough senators, intimidate the opposition, and strong-arm enough businesses, they believe that they will ultimately win.

If they lose the fight to preserve collective demanding, Democrats fear that Republicans will review every other liberal policy failure. Entitlement reform could be the next target -- or worse yet, America's growing economic quagmire, also known as the national debt.

Gov. Walker is a new kind of Republican -- a leader whose steadfast convictions break from the indecisive muddling that has forever defined the right.

Such fortitude is a dramatic shift from past eras, where Democrats routinely bullied Republican leaders onto their list of tribute-paying victims. Walker's victory changes all that. It sends a simple but clear message to the overpowering bully: "Take my name off your list."

That is something the left can't afford to tolerate.

Originally posted on the American Thinker

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tension Explode Between Wisconsin Governor and Democrats

The impasse in the Wisconsin State Senate led to a firestorm of words Monday between Governor Scott Walker, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and Senate Minority leader Mark Miller. The reaction resulted from a letter Miller sent to Governor Walker suggesting they meet to find a compromise solution to the problem. Citing instances of mismanagement on Miller's part, the Governor would have none of it.

“For the last several weeks both Sen. Fitzgerald and my administration have been reaching out to reasonable senators, many of whom are very interested and willing to come back to the state of Wisconsin, and time and time again the person standing in the way of making that possible is Sen. Mark Miller,” Walker shot him down during a press conference on Monday.

The letter, sent by Miller on Monday morning, plainly asks for the two legislative leaders to meet together to end the stalemate created by the disappearance of the 14 Senate Democrats who fled the State on February 17.

"Over the past several weeks we have witnessed an unprecedented public debate in Wisconsin over the value of

Public workers and the importance of collective bargaining rights," the letter begins. "I write today to offer to meet, in-person,

as soon as possible to resume discussions on how we reach a bipartisan solution to our differences on the January

2011 Special Session Senate and Assembly Bill 11."

"It really leads to a question of who's in charge," Walker further said of the Senate Dems in the press conference where he was accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald fired off his own response to Miller in which he also excoriated the absent Senate Minority Leader.

"Thank you for your hand-delivered letter with an offer to meet, in Illinois, about the business and future direction of Wisconsin. Let’s set aside how bizarre that is for a moment," Fitzgerald's letter began. "As you know, this legislation is designed to finally balance the state budget, prevent layoffs and create jobs in the real world. There are hundreds of thousands of unemployed or underemployed Wisconsinites, and at least 1,500 more whose jobs are in the balance because of your media stunt. We all deserve better than this.

In the meantime, members of your caucus have been meeting with the governor’s staff, talking to the media, trying to find a way back to Madison, and contradicting your message in public. In case you don’t remember, you were present yourself at one of those meetings with the governor’s staff. Your grasp of reality, and control of your caucus as minority leader, continues to amaze me. "

Two other Senators involved in recently disclosed negotiations with Senate Republicans, Tim Cullens and Robert Jauch, then took the opportunity to defend their minority leader and express how offended they were by the Republican statements.

"I was furious when he suggested that Tim and I were willing to cut a deal to find a way to go back," Jauch said told theMilwaukee Journal Sentinel.  ". . . There was no agreement. We were just trying to build that staircase"

"Never, never has there been a suggestion that Tim Cullen and I would somehow abandon the other 12 for the sake of cutting a deal," Jauch said. "That's just an outrageous lie."

"Our understanding in our discussions was always that they had to take where the discussions were at back to the governor, the (Senate) majority leader and the (Assembly) speaker and we had to take the discussions back to our caucus," Cullen said.

Both Senators reiterated their viewpoint that the Democratic Senators weren't thinking of holding out forever and would eventually have to return to the State to take up business in their districts; however, it was up to Scott Walker to compromise on the Budget Repair Bill and both said they were involved in talks with Walker’s Chief of Staff Keith Gilkes and Deputy Chief of Staff Eric Schutt as recently as Sunday morning to talk out details about how they could come to an agreement. Walker, himself also said that he has been meeting with the wayward Dems in negotiations. Jauch and Cullen actually met with Fitzgerald last week in Kenosha and Walker said at the press conference that his staff had met with Miller last Wednesday at a McDonald's in Kenosha and also had met with other Democratic Senators in South Beloit on Sunday.

A spate of recent polls, including a Rasmussen report from over the weekend continue to show that a strong majority of Wisconsinites favor the Governor reach a compromise with Democrats over the collective bargaining provisions of the bill. Walker seems to be showing a posture toward compromise but it is hard to tell if he actually means it. Throughout the course of the debate, the Governor has held firm on his stand that the collective bargaining restrictions will remain in place. The Democrats want them stripped out. Walker and Fitzgerald have both signaled that the restrictions are not up for compromise.

Fitzgerald said today that despite calls for compromise from the other side of the aisle, Republicans are "rock-solid" behind Governor Walker's proposal. Jauch, meanwhile, stated this afternoon that he has been in constant talks with various GOP lawmakers behind the scenes and that "6 or 7" of them have reservations about the CBA restrictions and have felt pressured by Governor Walker to support it. He also says that he has talked with a number of Assembly Republicans who supported the bill but would like to see a compromise measure come out of the Senate.

“My view is it’s time to get back,” Cullen told Wispolitics. “Others just as honorably and just as sincerely believe there’s more to be accomplished by staying here. That’s the different views that human beings have about things.”

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Senators Order Missing Dems Arrested; Judge opens Capitol to Normal Business

The Republicans in the Wisconsin State Senate acted Thursday to hold the 14 missing Democrats in contempt after having been AWOL from the Chamber for two weeks in their standoff with the GOP and Governor Scott Walker over his proposed Budget Repair Bill. All 19 Republicans passed the resolution soon after calling the Senate to order yesterday morning. The measure called for all of the missing Democrats to return to the Senate body no sooner than 4 PM in the afternoon on March 3 and if they failed to show up, each member would be declared guilty of contempt and disorderly behavior and the Senate Sargent At Arms would be given the legal authority to use any lawful means or measure necessary to bring them back to the Senate Chamber. The Democrats, not having appeared by that 4 PM deadline, may now be subject to the actions of that resolution. The passage came on the advice of Jim Troupis, attorney for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. Troupis, a Madison attorney, was involved in a related lawsuit Wednesday when an Oconto County Judge ruled that missing Wisconsin Senator James Holperin could not be compelled by the State to return to the Capitol. Troupis, however, advised Fitzgerald that such a measure could be passed by the Wisconsin Senate to order the missing Dems back to Madison.

"It's the same as an arrest. It is an arrest," Fitzgerald said about the Senate resolution. "They have pushed us to the edge of a constitutional crisis."

Though the Dem Senators are camped out in Illinois and the Senate ruling does not cross State lines, Fitzgerald has said that he is confident that all of the Senators have been moving back and forth between their homes and Illinois and that anybody who witnesses any of them in the State can report to law enforcement and have them apprehended. The order will be in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until the Senators can be compelled to appear in the Capitol Chamber.

"It's a sad day in the Wisconsin state Senate," he elaborated at a press conference after approval. "This wasn't about the bill. This wasn't about politics. This is about protecting the institution."

It remains unclear as to whether there is a true constitutionality to the order. The Wisconsin State Constitution does mandate The Senate and Assembly "to compel the attendance of absent members in such manner and under such penalties as each house may provide."

However, the same Constitution also explicitly states that legislators can only be arrested for crimes of "treason, felony, or breach of the peace" and it may be impossible to reasonably state what crimes the Senators committed.

The order is not truly an arrest because the Senators are not suspected of committing any crimes, Troupis explained to theWisconsin State Journal. Instead, the resolution seeks to enforce a legislative process.

"The Legislature has its own powers - that's the principle here," Troupis said. "The constitution is quite explicit in providing our Legislature with independent authority."

Democrats believe the Republicans are overreaching.

"The Republicans have gone around the bend," said Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee. "They've just increased their bullying tactics and are producing an even greater divide in our state."

Meanwhile, A Madison Judge on Thursday ruled that there would be no more overnight stays for protestors in the Capitol; however, the Capitol would be reopened to the public for any and all business during normal hours. Department of Administration Executive Mike Huebsh originally began restricting access to the Capitol early in the week and union protestors responded by filing the suit. Judge John Albert ruled on Thursday afternoon that the Capitol would be immediately cleared at the close of business day at 6 PM and Huebsh would have until 8 AM Tuesday morning to comply with the order.

Former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager represented the union in the lawsuit and said that the result of the ruling indicates that the protestors won the battle.

Huebsh revised the rules for Capitol access this morning. The new rules as they currently stand are:

- Visitors to the Capitol must enter and exit at the North and South Hamilton doors. Employees who display their ID's may enter at the MLK entrance

- Members of the public can enter the Capitol for meetings, committee hearings, tours or other purposes.

- Members of the public participating in a rally or protest must remain in the ground floor rotunda area.

- Carry-ins including sleeping bags, mattresses, musical instruments or noisemakers, cooking appliances and other items prohibited by the administrative code will not be allowed in the building.

- Visitors are prohibited from affixing or removing signs taped inside the Capitol. Retrieval of signs and other materials left behind can be made next week after the building is professionally cleaned.