For some time now, commentators have been pointing out that Wisconsin’s Senate Republicans only needed a supermajority to pass a budget bill, not to modify public sector unions’ collective bargaining rights or pass other legislation. It made a lot of sense for the Republicans, who command an absolute majority, to begin passing legislation, starting with collective bargaining and moving on to the rest of the Republican agenda. If the Democrats want to sit out all of those votes in Illinois, so be it.
Tonight, the Republicans finally moved forward with that plan, adopting legislation to limit collective bargaining rights for most, but not all, state employees. (I haven’t seen the text of the bill, but I assume it was the same as what had previously been proposed as part of the state’s budget bill.) It passed the Senate 18-1. The Wisconsin Assembly will vote on, and presumably pass, the legislation tomorrow morning.
Thus ends the comical saga of the fleebaggers, who say they will return to Madison now that the collective bargaining bill–which, ironically, they never had the power to block by staying away–has been enacted.
The Republicans stripped the collective bargaining provisions out of the budget bill in a conference committee. Democrats are howling that the move was illegal because Wisconsin’s open meeting law requires some public bodies to give 24 hours notice before they meet. Would an open meeting law apply to a legislative conference committee? I don’t know, but you can study the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Open Meetings Law Compliance Guide and decide for yourself. This is what the guide says about the law’s application to the legislature:
Generally speaking, the open meetings law applies to the state Legislature, including the senate, assembly and any committees or subunits of those bodies. Wis. Stat. § 19.87. The law does not apply to any partisan caucus of the senate or assembly. Wis. Stat. § 19.87(3). The open meetings law also does not apply where it conflicts with a rule of the Legislature, senate or assembly. Wis. Stat. § 19.87(2). Additional restrictions are set forth in Wis. Stat. § 19.87.
A partisan caucus of the legislature could have prepared a bill consisting of the collective bargaining portions of the earlier legislation; whether that is what happened today is not clear. Nor do I know whether there is a rule of the legislature that would supplant the open meetings law. No doubt we will hear more about this.
Wisconsin Democrats got just what they deserved and what they should have seen coming, but nevertheless they are going insane. Ann Althouse reports that Democrat Party thugs have stormed the state Capitol, outnumbered or overpowered security, and handcuffed the doors shut from the inside. They apparently are barricading themselves inside the Capitol to keep police out.
Let’s hope that the authorities have finally had enough, and the Democrats and union thugs are arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
UPDATE: Republican Senators reportedly left the Capitol under police guard to protect them from threats of violence from Democratic Party protesters. Police advised that it is not safe for Republicans to be in Madison tonight.
FURTHER UPDATE: This provision of the open meeting law may prove relevant; Republicans apparently gave two hours notice of the committee meeting:
Public notice of every meeting of a governmental body shall be given at least 24 hours prior to the commencement of such meeting unless for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical, in which case shorter notice may be given, but in no case may the notice be provided less than 2 hours in advance of the meeting.
I believe the Republicans’ position is that even that notice was not required.
MORE: Ann Althouse has photos. The state police are maintaining their casual attitude toward lawbreaking and threats of violence. Handcuffs, apparently, are for the doors to the Capitol, not the thug protesters:
FINAL UPDATE: It is now universally conceded that there is no validity to the Democrats’ claim that the meeting in which it was agreed to turn the collective bargaining provisions into a separate bill was somehow invalid under the state’s open meeting law.