Living the Chinese Curse

Email date: 3/30/11

In this update:
1. Union busting saga gets weirder and weirder
2. State high court race enters final stretch
3. U.S. Supreme Court set to legislate from bench again in Arizona case

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Union busting saga gets weirder and weirder
The adage “may you live in interesting times” is said to be the Chinese curse. If so, Wisconsin is living that curse. Under the guise of budget-repair legislation Governor Scott Walker and his allies in the Legislature strip public workers of most of their collective bargaining rights and make it more difficult for them to unionize at all. In their haste to ram the bill through, they ignore the state’s open meetings law. A judge says not so fast and issues a temporary restraining order preventing the secretary of state from publishing the law, ordinarily the final step allowing a new law to take effect.

The Legislature could have just reconvened, provided the required public notice and voted again to pass the bill. But instead, the senate majority leader leans on another state agency to publish the law, which it does, even though a lead attorney with the agency made it clear this was not enough for the law to take effect. Nevertheless the Walker administration, with the blessing of Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, treats it as a done deal and begins moving forward with implementation of the law.

Yesterday the judge said hold your horses and threatens sanctions. Amazingly, a top assistant to Van Hollen says the law is “absolutely” still in effect. The Walker administration professes to be “confused.”

They ain’t the only ones.

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State high court race enters final stretch
With less than a week to go until the April 5 election, advertising campaigns are intensifying in the state Supreme Court race. A recent Big Money Blog focuses on one of the ads. Our latest update to the special section of our website devoted to interest group election spending focuses on the sponsor of another of the ads.

This year’s race is the first being run under Wisconsin’s new public financing law for Supreme Court elections. The new system prompted an uncharacteristically large number of candidates to throw their hats in the ring. Three of the four elected to take public financing, including the two who made it through the February primary election. They have been able to run their campaigns free of the need to raise large sums of special interest money that could compromise their ability to be seen as fair and impartial judges if elected to the bench.

What is the first race run under the Impartial Justice Act also could be the last because of a budget proposal by Governor Walker that eliminates a key funding source for the program. The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee started its work on the proposed budget this week. Please take a few minutes to contact members of the committee and urge them to maintain all existing funding sources for the Impartial Justice public financing program for state Supreme Court elections.

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U.S. Supreme Court set to legislate from bench again in Arizona case
Another threat to Wisconsin’s Supreme Court public financing law is impending action by the U.S. Supreme Court on an Arizona campaign finance law. Wisconsin’s system contains the same feature that is being challenged in the Arizona case. The court heard oral arguments this week and a ruling is expected by late June. Our latest blog post looks at the tea leaves and offers some thoughts on what the court’s majority is up to.

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