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Democrats Contest Anti-Union Bill on Procedural Grounds, as Assembly Vote Nears

The vote in the Wisconsin Assembly on the anti-union bill jammed through last night should happen soon. The legal challenges will begin almost immediately. The Assembly Minority Leader, Peter Barca, has filed an official complaint that yesterday’s conference committee violated state open meetings laws. The complaint has a number of findings of fact, and then asserts that the conference committee “was not conducted in compliance with Joint Rule 3” of the Wisconsin Legislature, as well as not being exempt from open meetings law requirements, specifically the stipulation that 24 hours notice be given for a public meeting. This complaint goes to the Dane County district attorney. Greg Sargent notes:

The general sense I’m picking up in labor circles today is that people are pessimistic that there will be a legal way to block what happened last night. On the other hand, Dem and labor strategists think it’s worth a shot. Kicking up as much noise as possible about potential illegalities will keep the story in the news and help feed the impression that Republicans subverted democracy last night — an impression that can only help recall efforts.

But that’s not all. In the Assembly today, Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwakuee) raised a point of order that the bill was before the chamber improperly, because “the bill remains a fiscal bill.” Therefore, it would need a quorum of 20 in the Senate to move to the Assembly, and only 19 members voted there. Richards also raised a point of order that the conference committee report had been changed after it was passed. Both of these points of order were overruled and upheld on roll call votes. But it sets up the legal battles to come.

Meanwhile, you may be interested in White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s statement about the events:

“The actions taken last night, which divorced the issue of the state’s budget problems from the issue of the rights of public sector employees, pretty clearly showed that the actions were not following the principle that we need to all come together and work together and not denigrate or vilify public sector employees, but bring them into the process,” Carney said.

That’s clearly as far as the White House is willing to go on this. Anything more would violate their “just talk about winning the future” message discipline.

But no matter. In the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, this fight is just getting started.

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David Dayen

David Dayen