Wisconsin appellate court punts, says state supreme court must rule on collective bargaining bill

Remember, the law’s momentarily in limbo after a trial court judge issued a TRO blocking it on procedural grounds. Today was supposed to be the day the appellate court decided whether to uphold the order or lift it. Which hand would be left holding the hot potato?

Answer: Neither. They’re passing it up the chain.

A state appeals panel said Thursday a case over a new collective bargaining law should go directly to the state Supreme Court.

The move puts the issue squarely before the Supreme Court less than two weeks before Justice David Prosser faces re-election.

It is at the high court’s discretion on whether it takes the case. It is not clear how quickly the court will decide whether to take it and, if it does, how soon it would issue a ruling…

There are two significant issues for the court to address, the decision said. First, the Supreme Court must rule on whether courts can void a law if a committee of the Legislature violates the open meetings law. Second, the high court needs to say whether courts can prevent the secretary of state from publishing a law, thus preventing it from taking effect.

The key issue isn’t whether the legislature can take away collective bargaining from PEUs but rather whether the Republican senate didn’t provide enough advance notice to Democrats before calling the conference committee meeting that led to passage of the CB bill. Normally they’re supposed to announce a meeting 24 hours in advance; they can do it in less time if there’s “good cause” — a standard which, one might argue, would be met in this case given that Democrats had fled the state to avoid voting — but even under that more relaxed standard, they may still have moved too quickly. In theory, the whole problem could be solved by following William Jacobson’s advice and simply re-passing the bill with sufficient notice. Politically, though, it’s problematic: It’ll bring protesters back to the capitol right when things were starting to cool down; it’ll give the fleebaggers a chance to grandstand about the law on the senate floor to energize the left; and it’ll focus the spotlight even more intensely on that supreme court election two weeks from now, which liberals are eyeing as an opportunity to defeat the Republican Prosser and send a message about their strength. If the legislature re-passes the bill with proper procedure, it would render the current court challenge moot and spare Prosser from having to make a tough decision in the heat of a campaign. But by re-passing it, they’ll bring new heat on themselves by tacitly admitting that their first attempt at passing the bill was flawed. And given the political circumstances, they might not be in the mood for new heat.

Take it for what it’s worth, but grassroots Democrats in Wisconsin now say that they’re more than halfway towards getting the signatures they need for recall elections and are openly predicting that they’ll take back the senate. Exit question: Doesn’t that all but force Republicans in the legislature to take Jacobson’s advice and re-pass it? The nightmare scenario here is that they do nothing, the bill remains tied up in court for months, the Democrats win the recall elections, and then the bill is ultimately found unconstitutional on procedural grounds. In which case, with a newly Democratic senate, the GOP wouldn’t be able to re-pass it. Act while you still can.

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