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Posted at 2:58 PM ET, 03/10/2011

Wisconsin Dems ask district attorney to invalidate GOP maneuver

By Greg Sargent

Here's a copy of the legal complaint that Wisconsin Democrats are filing today: They are asking the district attorney who has juristiction to block last night's GOP legislative maneuver, on the grounds that it violated the state's open meeting law. You will find that law attached to the complaint.

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.

Readers -- especially lawyers among you -- please let me know what you think of the complaint's merits.

By Greg Sargent  | March 10, 2011; 2:58 PM ET
Categories:  Labor  
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For Conservatives, democratic simply means whatever it takes to get their policies passed. If the military came and took over the White House to form a junta with the purpose of eliminating the capital gains tax, they would call it democratic. In contrast, any method to pass laws they don't like is considered tyrannical. The PPACA was passed with a 60 vote supermajority and they still say it was forced down America's throat. They have no sense of irony when the Bush tax cuts are passed with reconciliation, but are against the repeal of the Cornhusker Kickback which was passed through the same procedure. No irony whatsoever.

Posted by: DDAWD | March 10, 2011 3:04 PM | Report abuse

The Wisconsin "Open Meetings Law" does not apply where it is inconsistent with a Senate Rule, for instance, Senate Rule 25(1)(b) "unless the committee on Senate organization determines that for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical."

Greg, look up the Stitt and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel cases, and then we can discuss further.

In the meantime, do you think the DEMOCRATIC Senators fleeing across State lines was "illegal" (see Senate Rule 84)?

Posted by: clawrence12 | March 10, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Looking at Rule 25(1)(b), as long as two hours notice was given, the Democrats will be very hard pressed to override the legislative4 discretion in ordering the bill.

Posted by: PALADIN7E | March 10, 2011 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Some analysis at two sites below:

Posted by: sbj3 | March 10, 2011 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Once again it is important to note that the Demcrats are now back on thier heels reacting to events rather than driving them. Time to do rope a dope and move in for a few significant blows for freedom and fiscal sanity.

My read is that the White House is now beset with significant issues. The Midwest is taking on a key Democrat money source as these states endeavor to bring their budgets into line.

The congress is grappling with federal spending and some significant changes in federal priorities are about to occur

The Middle east, a troublesome and strategically significant region, is boiling over.

Obama has his hands full, which is at it should be. In keeping with the tactics that were used against Bush, Obama's political opponents are engaged in a full-throated roar about his ineptitude.

Governing is far more difficult than criticizing.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | March 10, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

State Senate Democrats who fled to Illinois three weeks ago said that they're coming back.

State Sen. Jim Holperin said Thursday that he was on his way home to Conover and other Democrats were either on their way back or would be leaving soon.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | March 10, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

C Lawrence, Paladin:
Two hours notice was not given, based on all accounts we've seen.

Senate Rule 25 (1) (b)
(b) Except as provided in par. (d), public notice of every meeting of a committee shall be given at least 24 hours before the commencement of the meeting, unless the committee on senate organization determines that for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical. In no case may notice be provided less than 2 hours in advance of a meeting. A public notice may be amended at any time to delay the commencement of the meeting or to delete items from the agenda of the meeting.

I'm curious about whether there is any evidence this 'conference' committee meeting itself was (un)constitutional. Tthe Wisconsin State Journal is reporting a memo stating that the actual bill before the Assembly today contains no bid sales of state owned properties that were not in the summary given last night. Was there even a bill to confer upon?

Posted by: bc1976 | March 10, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

The Senate Chief Clerk advises that no two hour notice is required since the senate was operating in special session under rule 93:

"From the Senate Chief Clerk, Rob Marchant:

"FYI . . .

"There was some discussion today about the notice provided for the legislature's conference committee. In special session, under Senate Rule 93, no advance notice is required other than posting on the legislative bulletin board. Despite this rule, it was decided to provide a 2 hour notice by posting on the
bulletin board. My staff, as a courtesy, emailed a copy of the notice to all legislative offices at 4:10, which gave the impression that the notice may have been slightly less than 2 hours. Either way, the notice appears to have satisfied the requirements of the rules and statutes."

Posted by: sbj3 | March 10, 2011 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"Readers -- especially lawyers among you -- please let me know what you think of the complaint's merits."


This should be hilarious as can already be seen by our resident legal experts!

Where are the rest of our resident legal experts?

Posted by: mikefromArlington | March 10, 2011 3:44 PM | Report abuse

@Comrade skip-

Once again, IOKIYAR, eh? Where were you when Shrub was exploding the deficit with unfunded wars and deficits? Didn't think so...

Sounds almost like you relish Obama "failing" in the Middle East or are partly laying blame on him. Which is nonsense, of course.

"Governing is more difficult than criticizing" which doesn't stop you from doing the latter. Sure explains why the GOP couldn't muster a single vote for how many federal judgeships or HCR. I guess the "Greatest Generation" in the GOP who voted for Medicare and Voting Rights, were socialists, eh?

Careful, that hypocrisy slip is showing.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | March 10, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

This is a glimpse at how the "free" market with your net worth, your retirement money, the value of anything that can be attacked by these parasites.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 10, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I meant that the blog is reporting that what was actually in the summary of the bill changed overnight.

Not that the supposed 'conference committee meeting' attendees would have had the chance to peruse the summary. I'm guessing Greg is right that the court would defer to the exemption carved out for legislative bodies rules, in which case the rules mean whatever they want them to mean...

Posted by: bc1976 | March 10, 2011 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Jawjacking about this might be fun but ultimately the wheels of "justice" as it defined by WI law have to grind.

the momentum has shifted to the tax payers. The folks who pay the union members salaries are now represented by people who hold their values in high esteem.

I wonder why so much emphasis was placed on the WI situation when other states were enacting similar legislation.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | March 10, 2011 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Sounds almost like you relish Obama "failing" in the Middle East or are partly laying blame on him.
You can delete the word "almost". Skipsailing makes it clear that he relishes the failure of the U.S. in the Middle East if it can be blamed on one of skip's enemies. Skip is a totally resentment driven individual. Maybe skip was bullied as a kid.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | March 10, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

"Jawjacking about this might be fun but ultimately the wheels of "justice" as it defined by WI law have to grind."

Yeah, and if the WI courts rule against your side you'll be the first to cry "judicial activism."

Posted by: filmnoia | March 10, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

"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"

That statement is beyond belief and is hilariously hypocritical.

The fleebaggers are the original subverters of democracy because they went AWoL in order to subvert a democratic, legislative vote.

It's bizarro world logic we got here.

But par for the course in the Obamanation.

Posted by: battleground51 | March 10, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

As a practical matter, Greg, I'm not sure it matters. Once the Democratic Senators return, what is to keep the Republicans from just passing the Budget Bill, as previously written (i.e., with the anti-union provisions in it)? If they do that, then they will have effectively have passed the anti-union provisions twice, but the second time would resolve any issues with the first passage.

Posted by: spud3 | March 10, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

hey chuck, of course I'm going to criticize. So is everyone else. That's the way it is these days. The complaints about Bush were relentless and Obama took his shots when he had the chance. Now he's on the receiving end. Boo hoo.

Can you say "gitmo"? I thought so.

all the rest of your comment is garbled bluster. Sorry, but it is meaningless to me.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | March 10, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

OT: Florida Republicans plan to cannibalize up to 40 state parks to build more golf courses.

"But this is no joke. Sen. John Thrasher of St. Augustine (who is quickly making us regret endorsing him last year) and Rep. Pat Rooney of West Palm Beach have dropped bombshells that would let private developers build five golf courses on state parks throughout Florida. Plus hotels. Because what says natural Florida like 18 holes and room service?

And that's just for starters. The Thrasher-Rooney bills — each pitched as the Jack Nicklaus Golf Trail — have planet-size loopholes that would let Florida's Division of Recreation and Parks approve even more courses once the first five are up and running.",0,3873257.story

Posted by: kryptik1 | March 10, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Oh and chuck, you're reading your own meaning into my words. I am simply pointing out that the ME region is a source of concern for Obama who already is beset with challenges.

Try to remember back to those halcyon days when all you had to do was repeat silly slogans and hold up a sign about killing Bush. It was much easier then, wouldn't you say?

Now you have to defend the decisions of a president and that's far more challenging.

I make no judgement about Obama's performance relative to the ME. in my opinion it is a complex situation and probably far beyond the ability of America to influence significantly. Absent a military intervention, which is being hotly debated on the right, I don't see a whole bunch we can do directly.

But that won't stop Obama's opponents from hammering away at him. That's just the way it is right now. Every move he makes will be critiqued. We wear out our presidents, just look at how gray he's gotten. But hey, he wanted the job, now let him do it.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | March 10, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

OT but Sarah's circus is at it again...

"And according to his Facebook commentary, he thinks it's cool to call people "nigga" and laughs about having sex with overweight developmentally disabled women."!5780668/bristol-palins-boyfriend-likes-to-call-people-nigga-mock-kids-with-down-syndrome

Posted by: mikefromArlington | March 10, 2011 4:12 PM | Report abuse

It doesn't matter. GOP can do the same thing tomorrow with 24 hours notice. They can pass it over and over again.

Posted by: Truthteller12 | March 10, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

@ Clawrence12:
I'm an election attorney from Chicago who was born and raised in the great State of Wisconsin. (Attended public schools in Milwaukee, K-12, and then went to college at UW-Madison.)

Please let me know if there's any way I can contribue to the legal battles in Wisconsin...

Posted by: ElectionAttorney | March 10, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

"The fleebaggers are the original subverters of democracy because they went AWoL in order to subvert a democratic, legislative vote."

Both sides are pushing the boundaries. The question is which has pushed too far? There is no rule, of course, that a politician has to attend every vote. There is a rule that there must be a quorum in order to conduct certain business. That rule is designed to avoid the subversion of democracy where a couple legislators get together with friends & allies, and pass stuff that absent legislators would stop, if given the chance. Leaving the state in order to stop a quorum is therefore as much a prevention of the subversion of democracy as it is a subversion of democracy. Same goes for open meeting laws. The idea is to ensure that the people - particularly potential critics of legislation - are made aware of such meetings so their objections can be heard. Perhaps the repubs did not break the rules with the special session, lack of significant meeting notice & ramming through of the legislation. The voters, of course, have another tool with which to make their voices heard - the recall. At this point it appears dem efforts to recall some of the repubs may be fruitful. Or perhaps not. Either way, its just another aspect of our fun little democratic system.

Posted by: bsimon1 | March 10, 2011 4:28 PM | Report abuse

All, Adam Serwer's wrap up of the Pete King hearings:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | March 10, 2011 4:35 PM | Report abuse

This is hilarious. Once again because Greg is chugging liberal kool aid he frames the issue around the ability of the disgraceful democrats "kicking up as much noise" as possible to support the recall of republicans.

The republicans acted legally and executed their constitutional duties. The democrats ran away like the pissants they are.

But head cheerleader Greg hopes the public can be fooled so the recalls are successful.

What a turd.

Posted by: manbearpig4 | March 10, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse

It's Recall time for WI Teapublicans. Unlike the Dems who DID canpaign on Health Care Reform, the WI Repugs didn't campaign on getting rid of collective bargaining rights, and for good reason, they would have lost. No district in WI is hopeless, unfortunately for the Teapublicans WI is NOT Alabama.

Right now, the Dems have to be smart and the unions have to continue the drive to shame the Napoleon Walker and his WI Republican Teapublican court jesters. Keep the recall petitions going. And begin very publicly, the recall procedures and strategy to get WALKER OUT!

Walker's now going to try to make some shady deals with privatization and what's worse, HE IS GOING TO DO IT AS DICTATOR IN CHIEF WITH WI's ENERGY RESOURCES.

The oil billionaire Koch Brothers and Aliant energy are in the shadows waiting for the hype to calm before they start their pillaging of WI assets at the absolute whims of a single individual....Walker.


Posted by: DrainYou | March 10, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

let's see now…
Demos control United States Congress and Senate and pass:
– extraordinary spending bills
– 2500+page laws which have not been read by its members
– Obama care, which even the delusional ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi said" we have to pass it in order to see what's in it"
Pres. Barack says "we WON – elections have consequences"
country has doubled its debt to $14 trillion in less than two years – and all we have heard is "democracy in action – elections have consequences – we can do whatever we want (actual quote from a member of Congress to the press)"

?? So the children and vaguely informed in the Cheeseheads' state don't understand legislative process and democracy?
Legislators run away from their elected constitutional duties to another state?
They cry and moan about the "process and compromise"?
Where have these Nimrods been for the past four years (two with the big O in office) and the United States "democracy process" with the Democrats in charge?
this country is on a tilting edge all right –either we come to our senses, orwe will be a country of statist demagogues, controlling the masses –? And you don't think that you will be in the latter category?
There must be something in the air – or in the cheese – in Wisconsin…

Posted by: sdproffittwbhinet | March 10, 2011 6:03 PM | Report abuse

The case is likely to hinge on how a judge interprets the "good cause" exception to the law.

The timing issue is interesting, but I also wonder if the bill could be thrown out on the basis that it contains budgetary provisions.

e.g. beyond collective bargaining, it attaches a dollar value to the adjustments in health care and pension contributions for public employees. How are those changes NOT budgetary in nature?

Posted by: JPRS | March 10, 2011 6:16 PM | Report abuse

"Maybe skip was bullied as a kid. "

Here, let's fix that. Skippy was a bully as a kid and still is.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 10, 2011 6:16 PM | Report abuse


Deficits are a function of spending and revenue. Federal spending has not doubled since 2008. On the other hand, revenue has collapsed substantially as a direct consequence of the Bush-GOP recession. Additionally, a large share of the deficit drivers in the current law are GOP-hold-over provisions that were never funded in the first place (e.g. Medicare Part D, Bush tax cuts, wars, interest payments on those spending priorities).

This whole issue though is largely a smoke-screen.

In 2008 Obama campaigned on health care reform and elements of the 2009 stimulus bill.

Walker and his GOP cronies did not campaign on the elimination of collective bargaining rights.

If you want to claim a public mandate, campaign on the policy issues that you favor. That's one of the lessons here. Cons may hate the policies that Obama enacted, but unlike Walker he didn't lie about his intentions during the political campaign.

Posted by: JPRS | March 10, 2011 6:25 PM | Report abuse

All, Happy Hour Roundup posted:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | March 10, 2011 6:31 PM | Report abuse

I am a nurse at UW hospital in Madison, Wi. One little known part of this bill eliminates completely the bargaining rights for our union, despite the fact that we do not work for the state but under a "Board Authority". Our contract has no effect on state budgets, we are only connected to the state pension through our employer's funding of our portion, again a point we've negotiated in bargaining. The legalities of this particular action are obviously being investigated by our union.
Amazingly the Gov. and this bill have energized the union movement and raised a groundswell of grassroots support for our cause. Do not doubt this movement is going nation-wide. Do not forget to watch as we defeat (in recall) up to 8 republican senators who voted for this bill, in spirit at least violating their oath. People of all political stripes are deeply upset by the way this has been done. Any thoughts on the legality of this clause of the bill are appreciated.

Posted by: trswanson | March 10, 2011 10:03 PM | Report abuse

1. Wisconsin open meetings law states: notice is 24 hours in advance and for good cause may be no less than 2 hours. However, Section 19.87 of Wisconsin open meetings law states it "does not apply where it conflicts with a rule of the Legislatur­e, senate or assembly."

2. Senate Rule 93(2) provides: "(2) No notice of hearing before a committee shall be required other than posting on the legislativ­e bulletin board, and no bulletin of committee hearings shall be published.­"

3. Senate Rule 93(2) only requires the notice to be placed on the legislativ­e bulletin board "befo­re" the meeting. So, Wisconsin open meetings law conflicts with Senate Rule 93(2) as the Wisconsin open meetings law mandates a minimum advance notice of 2 hours; whereas Senate Rule 93(2) allows a posting on the legislativ­e bulletin board "before" the meeting (which could be 1 minute before).

4. As such, the Wisconsin open meetings law conflicts with Senate Rule 93(2) and is therefore irrelevant and a nullity as to the senate committee meeting, provided the notice was posted on the on the board "before" the committee meeting. Yes, the notice was placed on the bulletin board well "before" the committee meeting i.e., 2 hours before and was fully compliant with Senate Rule 93(2).

Posted by: bywhatright2 | March 11, 2011 1:39 AM | Report abuse


The Democrats in Wisconsin who left the state are cowards, and are just Anti-American. Their latest video rants on YouTube are like something Charlie Sheen would say:

And why are the all so touchy feely? It gives me the creeps!

Posted by: webcontent2011 | March 11, 2011 4:18 AM | Report abuse

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