With update, wherein the Walker Administration complies with the third temporary restraining order.
From the Wisconsin State Journal:
State officials say they will move forward with Wisconsin’s controversial collective bargaining law, despite a judge’s order barring its implementation — and a threat of sanctions against anyone who violates it.
Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch said he has a legal obligation to implement all laws that have been passed by the Legislature, signed by Gov. Scott Walker and “published into law.”
Huebsch added that the Department of Justice and his legal counsel agree that the measure has met those requirements “and is now effective law.”
“It is my duty to administer that law,” he said.
Huebsch’s comments raise questions about whether he or other state officials could be held in contempt of court after a hearing Tuesday, when Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi made it clear that any further implementation of the law is barred.
“Now that I’ve made my earlier order as clear as it possibly can be, I must state that those who act in open and willful defiance of the court order place not only themselves at peril of sanctions, they also jeopardize the financial and the governmental stability of the state of Wisconsin,” Sumi said.
Huebsch’s argument is based on the publication by the Legislative Reference Bureau (an arm of the legislature); statutes indicate that for the law to be in effect, it needs to be published in the state’s official paper, the Wisconsin State Journal. Indeed, the head of the Legislative Reference Bureau itself does not interpret the law as being in effect. From Wisconsin State Journal (3/26):
But officials with the nonpartisan Reference Bureau and the Legislative Council — the Legislature’s drafting and research agency and its legal service, respectively — said publication of the act online was only an administrative step.
Reference Bureau Director Steve Miller and Legislative Council staff attorney Scott Grosz both said La Follette still needs to designate a date for publication and actually publish the act in the Wisconsin State Journal — something the court order bars the secretary of state from doing.
Judge Sumi has posed an interesting question; as she notes, the dispute could be easily resolved. From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
As the legal fight continues, Sumi said the dispute could be resolved by the Legislature again passing the measure.
“I am dismayed at this point given the relative easy fix for this that thousands and thousands of dollars are being spent, all being footed by the taxpayers of this state to pursue this litigation,” Sumi said.
That is, if the bill were placed for a vote, but with 24 hours notice, presumably the bill would pass (if the Republicans voted as they did before), but this time clearly in accord with legal requirements.
Digression: Eliminating Benefit-Cost Analysis?
Here is something that struck me — as someone who teaches in a public affairs school with courses in policy analysis — as odd, particularly in a time when resources are limited. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal would eliminate a law requiring state agencies to study the costs and benefits of outsourcing work.
That provision and others in the GOP governor’s 2011-’13 budget drew questions from both Republicans and Democrats at a briefing Tuesday before the Legislature’s budget-writing committee.
Current law says agencies must compare the costs of having private contractors do work costing more than $25,000 against what it would cost to have state workers do the job.
Speaking to the Joint Finance Committee, Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch said that the law was cumbersome and required an analysis of contractor costs to be done even in cases where state workers couldn’t do the work.
“We did a cost-benefit analysis on the cost-benefit analysis and found it was costing us money,” Huebsch told the committee.
That analysis is definitely one I would love to see. (I am hopeful that the “we” in the passage refers to him and staff.) The article continues.
Under Walker’s bill, the cost-benefit analyses would be retained only for engineering services at the state Department of Transportation.
The proposed change drew questions from Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and Rep. Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee). Olsen said he didn’t want to burden state agencies with red tape but also wanted to make sure that agencies weren’t spending money unwisely in a time of tight budgets.
“Can you explain why, when we’re in a time of serious fiscal trouble, we would not want to do a serious cost-benefit analysis?…When you are cutting government and cutting programs, you can’t afford to make mistakes,” Olsen said.
In May 2009, a legislative audit found that the state Department of Transportation outsourced 125 construction engineering projects over 16 months even though it determined each one of them could have been done for less using state workers.
Using state workers instead of outsourced engineers could have saved $1.2million during that period, the Legislative Audit Bureau report found.
State officials are often reluctant to hire more workers because of concerns that they will have to pay those costs for years into the future. Contractors, while sometimes more expensive, are paid on a project-by-project basis.
For those interested in learning about CBA, see this collection.
Update, 10:56am Pacific, 3/31
Budget Blog: Sumi declares collective bargaining changes not in effect
Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi (left) signed a revised temporary restraining order this morning declaring the legislation changing collective bargaining powers for public employees has not been published and is not in effect.
In response to the order, DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch said the agency will suspend implementation of the legislation, even though he continues to believe it was properly published and is law.
Sumi’s order, sent to the media this morning by the Dane County DA’s office, comes on the heels of statements by the Department of Justice and Huebsch that the effect of her earlier restraining order was unclear and that the changes were still law.
A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald referenced his prior comments that the lawmaker found it disappointing the judge was interjecting herself into the legislative process with “no regard to the state constitution.”
And Other Changes…
From the Capital Times:
Grass Roots: Capitol Police have blocked meal for the homeless in wake of protests
A volunteer group that puts out a spread for homeless people every Sunday afternoon has been out in the cold for weeks since the Capitol Police barred them from the statehouse, where they’ve been serving up a weekly meal for years.
Edged out by crowds of protesters in mid-February, Savory Sunday organizers say Capitol Police refused last Sunday to let volunteers and the people they feed shelter themselves under the portico of the Capitol, despite the cold and rainy weather.
The meal served at the Capitol is popular with homeless people who congregate downtown, but its future is up in the air.
Capitol Police want to meet with meal organizers “to see if they can accommodate them,” Carla Vigue, a spokeswoman for the Department of Administration, which oversees the Capitol Police, told me Friday afternoon. The “cafeteria” area in the basement where the group serves the meal, was used as a staging area for police during the peak of the protests, but is less in need now, she says.
But meal organizer Tom Barry tells me that Capitol Police told him Friday that the group could resume serving on April 3. The arrangement would be week-to-week, Barry says, depending on the number of protesters at the Capitol.