Dane County Sues Wisconsin Over 'Non-Fiscal' Budget Repair Bill
MADISON, Wisc. (CN) - In what may be a case of closing the barn door after the cows have gone, Dane County has sued Wisconsin, saying Gov. Scott Walker falsely introduced his anti-union Budget Repair Bill, which was passed last week in special session, by claiming the bill had been stripped "of any fiscal impacts on the State of Wisconsin" - an obvious non sequitur. The county claims it will suffer irreparable harm "because of certain fiscal portions of the bill that become effective upon publication."
Secretary of State Doug La Follette, a defendant and a Democrat, said the law cannot take effect until he publishes it, and he does not plan to do so until the full 10 days he is granted by Wisconsin law have passed, due to the pending lawsuit.
Dane County Judge Amy Smith on Friday denied an emergency request for injunction to prevent publication of the law, but said she will hear arguments this week for consideration on a non-emergency basis.
In the complaint, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk says the Legislature's Committee of Conference pushed the bill through illegally by claiming it did not require a quorum of three-fifths of the state's senators.
Falk and Dane County seek a declaration that the bill "is void because the legislative defendants advanced it without fiscal estimates that are required by statute."
Though it never uses the word "irony," Dane County's 51-page filing is grounded on the difficulty of claiming, with a straight face, that a Budget Repair Bill will have no "fiscal impacts on the state." The bill stripped state employees of their right to collective bargaining, except for salary. Fourteen Democratic senators left the state for 3 weeks to try to stop a vote on it.
Falk and Dane County point out that the bill, which contains 137 of its original 144 pages, clearly still contains numerous fiscal provisions.
They ask the court to determine whether a fiscal bill can become nonfiscal though it remains "largely intact."
During the nationwide brouhaha over the bill, Gov. Walker repeatedly referred to it as a "fiscal repair bill" and continued to do so after he signed it on Friday.
"For us, we're doing this to lead the way in our own state, to get Wisconsin working again," Walker told reporters. "But if along the way we help lead a movement across the state to pass true fiscal reform, true budgetary reform, to ultimately inspire others across this country, state by state, and in our federal government ... I think that's a good thing and a thing we're willing to accept as part of our legacy."
Dane County claims it's simply a sham to claim that fiscal items had been removed from the bill - the claim that was necessary to sneak it past the quorum requirement. And it claims the bill's introduction also violated the state's Open Meetings law.
Dane County claims the bill was not advertised with "sufficient notice prior to the meeting," and that the meeting was held "at a place which was not reasonably accessible to the public" - in the small Senate Parlor.
Dane County's Corporation Counsel Marcia MacKenzie represents the County, Falk, and Dane County Board Chairman Scott McDonell.