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Posted at 4:45 PM ET, 03/ 3/2011

Police union chief says Wisconsin GOP's proposal to detain missing Dems may be unconstitutional

By Greg Sargent

By now you may have heard that Republican state senators in Wisconsin have unanimously passed a resolution ordering missing Dems to return to the capitol or face possible detainment by police. The top senate republican justified this by claiming Dems had "pushed us to the edge of a constitutional crisis."

But the chief of a major Wisconsin police union tells me this proposal may itself be unconstitutional under state law.

"It's unclear to me on what constitutional authority Senate Republicans think law enforcement officers can take state lawmakers who have not committed a crime into custody," James Palmer, the head of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, told me by phone moments ago.

The GOP proposal would not allow for the arrest of the missing Dems, but would allow for lawmakers to be taken into custody by the Senate sergeant-at-arms if they don't return to the capitol by today at 4 p.m.

"I don't see how a sergeant-at-arms would have that authority," said Palmer, whose union represents all municipal police officers. "I don't see how any individual, law enforcement or otherwise, has the authority to detain another individual if there's no probable cause to suggest that he committed any crime."

Palmer's union endorsed Governor Walker's opponent in the gubernatorial election. But one local paper, the Wisconsin State Journal, also raised the possibility today that the move may be unconstiutional.

Palmer said that while his officers are exempt from Walker's rollback of bargaining rights, this latest act of overreach from Republicans would only increase solidarity between his members and other public employees.

"Most law enforcement officers tend to be a little more conservative, but they know the difference between right and wrong," he said. "This is going to backfire miserably. I am confident that the Republicans' actions today will make the Wisconsin law enforcement community even more supportive of wisconsin's public employees."

UPDATE, 5:21 p.m.: The GOP argument is that the state constitution allows each house of the legislature to "compel the attendance of absent members."

By Greg Sargent  | March 3, 2011; 4:45 PM ET
Categories:  Labor  
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Next: Happy Hour Roundup

Comments

Related....from TPM


"AWOL Wisconsin Dem Beats The System, Gets His Paycheck Mailed To Him"

Wisconsin state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, one of the 14 Democrats who have fled the state in order to block budget quorum on Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union proposals, has just beaten the Republicans in one of their key efforts to force Dems back to the state - by collecting his legislative pay.

Senate Republicans last week passed a rule suspending the direct-deposit of absent legislators' pay, requiring them to show up in person at the Capitol -- in effect, to provide a quorum -- in order to receive a check.

However, as WisPolitics reports, Erpenbach found a workaround: He granted power-of-attorney to two members of his staff, thus authorizing them to conduct many important personal decisions and financial actions on his behalf -- such as picking up his paycheck.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 3, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

continuing from TPM above:

"Ultimately, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) put the check in the mail, instead of giving it to the staffers. Fitzgerald spokesman Andrew Welhouse told WisPolitics: "We confirmed with our attorneys and with the chief clerk that was proper."

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 3, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Walker will bend to the will of the people in time. He's weak.

On a side note,for anyone familiar with how press works.

Why is Gingrich getting an article a week from a large number of blogs, both conservative and progressive on his possible run for the GOP nomination? I swear, every week there is an article on TPM, Huffington Compost, Christian Science Monitor, AP, etc etc etc.

How does he manage to get the press so interested in him considering he has about a one in eleventy billion chance of winning?

Posted by: mikefromArlington | March 3, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

"Most law enforcement officers tend to be a little more conservative, but they know the difference between right and wrong,"

I am sure we all agree, whether or not they are a little more conservative does not matter. We have to support law enforcement when Republicans threaten the rule of law.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 3, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

mike: "How does he manage to get the press so interested in him considering he has about a one in eleventy billion chance of winning?"

Simple...the same way Sistah Sarah does...he says outrageous things.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 3, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

More WI GoPee overreach:

"TPM spoke Thursday with Wisconsin state Sen. Chris Larson, one of the 14 Democrats who have fled the state in order to block the budget quorum on Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union proposals, getting his reaction to another one of the Senate Republicans' efforts to pressure the Dems into coming back: Reassigning their staffers to work under GOP state senators.

State Senate Republicans passed the measure Wednesday, as another retaliatory move against the absentee Dems. WisPolitics reported: "Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the change is not intended to allow the Republican members to direct the activities of the Dem staffers. He said it is merely to give the staffers a point of contact with a senator who is in the building if concerns arise."

TPM got in touch with Dem. state Sen. Chris Larson, whose staff has been reassigned to Republican state Sen. Neal Kedzie. "Well it's a pretty dangerous thing that they're trying to do," said Larson, who has spent the last two weeks in Illinois. "They're basically putting different Senate districts that are independently elected by the constituents under the control of somebody who is not elected to represent that area. I don't know if it's that they're going on a binge with the power grab here or what. But they've already trampled on freedom of speech -- so why not take over people's districts?"

TPM asked Larson about Fitzgerald's statement, that the change was intended merely to give staffers a point of contact in the building.

"I would be very interested in letting Sen. Fitzgerald know about a new technology called the cellular telephone," Larson replied. "I thought he was aware of it. What it does, is it gives a senator the ability to keep in touch with his staff when he is not in that building. I would think he would know, this because most senators are not in the building on Mondays and Fridays, or days when we're not in session."

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 3, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse

@Mike

I agree with your observations about Gingrich getting way more press than he or his situation merit. But remember today we have very little journalism left..mostly outlets simply trying to get ratings/hits.

Gingrich is like that top 40 oldie that keeps getting played ad nauseum because of it's familiarity. Everybody "knows" Newt, therefore he is a safe topic.

I agree with you it's sad but it's what is happening today in journalism. Several weeks ago when two police officers were murdered in my town I tuned to the two "news/talk" stations figuring they would interrupt their talk shows for an important news story. No it was more important for the wack jobs to get their daily cup of kool aid from Rush and Beck than to actually put a reporter in the field and report what was the LEAD story of the day/week/month. There is no local news on radio anymore.
Satellites have made everything national and so "local" news had virtually disappeared. I actually learned more about the shootings from two sports talk guys who WERE local than any other station on the dial. Talk about frustrating..and Tampa is the 13th market in the U.S.

Posted by: rukidding7 | March 3, 2011 5:07 PM | Report abuse

For those interested in history. This was 1934:

After former Governor Huey Long, shown here, sent state police into New Orleans to confront then-Mayor T. Semmes Walmsley who had put together a formidable political machine opposed to Long, lawmakers passed a law that prohibits State Police from enforcing laws within the City of New Orleans unless they are invited by the Mayor.
----------------------------------------
And yes I know Long was a Democrat. Thugs exist in both parties. Walker, join Huey Long in the halls of shame.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | March 3, 2011 5:14 PM | Report abuse

The WI Goopers are really looking desperate at this point. All the punitive actions they are taking are getting no results, but I'd bet they are solidifying support not only for the Senate Dems, but also for the unions. This is a huge FAIL for Walker. HUGE.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 3, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

What is wrong with this thread? Thirty-seven minutes old and nobody crazy has shown up.

Posted by: AllButCertain | March 3, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

The WI Goopers are really looking desperate at this point.
---------------------------------------------------
When you can't get the votes, then you get the guns. Wasn't that Sharron Angle's line?

How must it feel to have your own guys say "nope, don't think we will go after those Democrats for you". The next union the Governor will go after is the police.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | March 3, 2011 5:28 PM | Report abuse

From Greg's update:

"Some police — many of whom have marched alongside protesters against Walker's plan to effectively end collective bargaining for public workers — have already objected to the arrest resolution. Jim Palmer, head of the 11,000 member Wisconsin Professional Police Association, called it an "unreasonable abuse of police power."

"Due to the fact that Wisconsin officers lack any jurisdiction across state lines, does Sen. Fitzgerald intend to establish a lawmaker border patrol?" Palmer said. "The thought of using law enforcement officer to exercise force in order to achieve a political objective is insanely wrong and Wisconsin sorely needs reasonable solutions and not potentially dangerous political theatrics."

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 3, 2011 5:43 PM | Report abuse

"What is wrong with this thread? Thirty-seven minutes old and nobody crazy has shown up.

Posted by: AllButCertain"

Sorry, I just gout of class.

Good article on Merkley. Dems need to get behind him in solid force. Republicans have been playing a very cynical game for two years of depressing job growth. If they allow this to continue, they will be punished again no matter how many cute ads they make about shooting down cap and trade.

Posted by: DDAWD | March 3, 2011 5:49 PM | Report abuse

The GOP argument is that the state constitution allows each house of the legislature to "compel the attendance of absent members."
--------------------------------------------------------------
Then maybe the GOP senators, led by the Governor, ought to take up their guns, sneak across the border, surround the Holiday Inn Express, throw in tear gas, taser all the Democrats and throw them into cattlecars and haul them back to Madison. Now, if they could just get the Illinois law enforcement to go along with this idea of a vigilante posse from Wisconsin, they'd have a grand idea.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | March 3, 2011 5:57 PM | Report abuse

This seems clear cut: if the police can't compel the Dems to come back, the GOP Senators are going to have to do it themselves.

Come on WI GOP state senators, get off your duffs and get it done.

Yeah, that's what I thought you said.

Without muscle these folks got nothing.

Posted by: BGinCHI | March 3, 2011 6:12 PM | Report abuse

"Then maybe the GOP senators, led by the Governor, ought to take up their guns, sneak across the border, surround the Holiday Inn Express, throw in tear gas, taser all the Democrats and throw them into cattlecars and haul them back to Madison. Now, if they could just get the Illinois law enforcement to go along with this idea of a vigilante posse from Wisconsin, they'd have a grand idea.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain"

Heh, they are probably wondering why they exempted the cops in the first place if these guys won't behave as a GOP junta. But yeah, the GOP is all about guns and rugged individualism. That should be plenty to go out and snare a Dem or two.

Posted by: DDAWD | March 3, 2011 6:16 PM | Report abuse

I really liked this statement from the head of the Police Association:

""Due to the fact that Wisconsin officers lack any jurisdiction across state lines, does Sen. Fitzgerald intend to establish a lawmaker border patrol?"

LOL

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 3, 2011 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Oops, missed 12bar's post just on top of mine. GMTA.

Posted by: BGinCHI | March 3, 2011 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Americans for Prosperity bussed in a bus full of people to small cities in Wisconsin reports Wisconisn Public Radio. A few Walker supporters came out to join them, but of course, more counter protesters showed up yelling "Kill the Bill".

Maybe the reason no crazies are on this post is that the story is crazy enough. The sad thing is, it is true.

Posted by: georgia198305 | March 3, 2011 6:23 PM | Report abuse

"Maybe the reason no crazies are on this post is that the story is crazy enough. "

Reporting for duty!

Posted by: TrollMcWingnut | March 3, 2011 6:29 PM | Report abuse

I read that GOP Sen. Fitzgerald has asked citizens to report if they see any of the Democratic senators. Report them to the police. Bwahahahaha!!!!

Can you imagine the number of pranks that will come out of this. First, there will be the GOP faithful who will be peeking into their neighbors bedrooms hoping to see a Democrat. Then, there will be the Democrat supporters who will be turning in their GOP neighbors. This is probably the payback to the police union for not going along with the "arrest a Democrat" plan.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | March 3, 2011 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Wisconsin Layoff Notices Will Come Friday, Scott Walker Says


MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Thursday that he will issue layoff notices to 1,500 state workers on Friday if his proposal forcing them to pay more for benefits and taking away nearly all their collective bargaining rights isn't passed by then.

Walker also said in an interview with The Associated Press that he is negotiating with Democrats who stymied passage of the bill by leaving the state for changes to the proposal that would get them to return. Walker said he won't compromise on the collective bargaining issue or anything that saves the state money.

"I can't take any of that off the table," he said.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/03/wisconsin-layoff-notices-friday-scott-walker_n_831087.html

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 3, 2011 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Here is a ballad written by a local folksinger:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGc46S7el3U

Posted by: georgia198305 | March 3, 2011 6:36 PM | Report abuse

12bb: "Can you imagine the number of pranks that will come out of this. "

Which is just going to make the cops that much angrier...

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 3, 2011 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Happy Hour Roundup posted:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2011/03/happy_hour_roundup_198.html

Posted by: sargegreg | March 3, 2011 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Corporate is bent to the task of abandoning the American worker. As well aged conservatives attack the Euros and socialists in general, they buy things like the New York Stock Exchange for its derivatives casino.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 3, 2011 6:50 PM | Report abuse

There is something about the logic (?) of the republican response that troubles me. They seem to think that being allowed to make their own rules means they can run roughshod over the rules that were already in the WI state constitution. It doesn't work that way.

The other thing is their argument that the Democrats should be "working." The job of an elected official is to govern in the interests of the people, not the corporations, and if governing for the people requires that the official be absent from the state, as is the case here, then they are morally required to be absent.

Posted by: dkmjr | March 3, 2011 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Why do the Republicans hate the Constitution?

Posted by: somnamblst1 | March 3, 2011 9:13 PM | Report abuse

The Chief is right. One cannot jail a sitting congressman and under that doctrine, the courts have held that state legislators are similarly free from imprisonment !

Posted by: Blueboyo | March 4, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Gov. Walker, "Constitution, we don't need no stinking Constitution."

Posted by: pjohn3 | March 4, 2011 5:06 PM | Report abuse

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